Building their IT Support and Consultancy business is more than a full time job for Worth Valley residents Ms. T and Mr. H.
Some tasks are better addressed outside ‘normal office hours’, so full attention can be given. Remote access to the office systems at evenings, weekends and even during holidays is necessary in order to keep on top of admin and systems management for the company itself, as well as to provide backup to office based support and sales staff.
Ms T’s home is only 1.7 miles from the nearest telephone exchange, yet during office hours her ADSL broadband connection from her home, at between 2 & 4 mbps download speed is only just adequate for remote access tasks. As the speed has a tendency to fluctuate significantly even during these ‘off peak’ hours this connection is not reliable enough for streaming video or voice data, so video conferencing and VoIP, whilst desirable, are not feasible.
Outside office hours, when many other residents in her area of Oakworth, including her own children, are using the internet for homework, online gaming, shopping, music and video downloads and TV on demand etc.), there is so much contention that the connection often slows to below 0.5mbps download speed. Uploading data to the office systems becomes impossible at these times as the VPN connection drops when the transfer rate is too slow. Remote control of office machines is not feasible at such slow speeds either.
Some ISPs limit the amount of data each user can transfer (bandwidth throttling) at peak times in order to ‘share out’ the bandwidth, but this means that everyone gets a slower than desirable connection. For those users on the busiest stretches of cable, and especially those more than a mile or so away from the exchange, the service is poor, unusable or even unavailable.
Mr H. is on the same tariff, with the same ISP as Ms T. He lives about 1 mile from Haworth exchange on a seemingly quieter stretch of cable. He is only 0.7 of a mile closer to the exchange than Ms T, yet for the same monthly fee he receives between 2 and 6 times the download speed Ms T gets, even at peak times.
Both Ms T and Mr H found that during the snowy periods last winter there were times when it was safer to work from home, rather than attempting to drive 2 to 3 miles to the office in Keighley. Mr H had the bandwidth to be much more productive than Ms T.
In theory the internet provides the means for people such as Ms T and Mr H to improve their work life balance and reduce their car usage through working at home whenever possible, or by even running an entire business from home should they choose to do so. The reality is that the rural residents and businesses, who, arguably, could benefit most from increased internet usage, find that without a reliable connection and good data transfer speeds the internet is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Ms T and Mr H would both prefer to live further up the Worth Valley to further improve their respective lifestyles through living in a calm and quiet environment, and to reduce their car usage still further by increasing the proportion of work they are able to do from home via the internet. Without reliable internet connectivity in the upper Worth Valley this can never be anything but a (‘fat’) ‘pipe dream’.