Broadband not working? Could be a technical fault, could be due to a cat
From felines and flooding to robbers and rats, your provider is not necessarily telling tall stories when it gives an outlandish reason for your broadband being so slow...
BT's announcement yesterday that it is launching a new burglar alarm to help it combat cable theft is a sign of how serious the problem of the copper cable used to deliver telephone calls and broadband being stolen and sold as scrap metal is becoming.
Not only does cable theft cost BT and, subsequently, its customers millions of pounds a year, but in the past it has often led to the disruption of telephone and broadband services, sometimes leaving users without either service for days at a time.
However, it also serves as a reminder that sometimes, when you're having to put up with broadband speeds which make you feel like it would be quicker to remake Senna using a Vauxhall Nova than watch it online, it isn't always for a reason your broadband provider can reasonably be expected to anticipate.
Read on as Broadbandchoices.co.uk takes a look at some of the more outlandish explanations for internet outages, and remember, the next time you complain to your provider about slow broadband and are told it is due to "unforeseen circumstances", there's a good chance it's the truth...
According to BT, the number of arrests related to theft of BT cable is continuing to rise - the average number per month is up almost 80% on last year, with the 480 arrested over the last 11 months up from 446 in total in 2010.
A prime example of the impact this has on both broadband providers and users came in January, when 300 homes in Oxfordshire were left without telephone and internet for days after light-fingered blaggards plundered copper cable from the BT exchange in the village of Steeple Aston.
Over 1km of cable was purloined, leaving some residents of neighbouring villages Middle Barton and Tackley incommunicado for almost a week as BT had to reconnect each line individually. Here's hoping RABIT gets a jump on these broadband-bothering bounders the next time they strike.
In early February this year, BE broadband (www.Bethere.co.uk) users began to complain that they couldn't get onto a number of websites, including BBC iPlayer. Many of those that could use the broadcasters' catch-up TV service found programmes were so slow to load and repeatedly paused to buffer once they had done so it was about as watchable as the fictional documentary Telegraph Poles - A Complete History.
So, what was preventing BE broadband's users from getting their fill of Being Human and The Tube via the iPlayer? Er, it turns out it was the iPlayer - more and more of the provider's customers wanted to watch TV programmes online via the Beeb's streaming service, leading to the link BE broadband uses to connect to it to reach capacity.
BE broadband's marketing head honcho Mark Nichols told technology news website The Register that the provider will upgrade its iPlayer link at the end of next month, proving that the influence of Ian Beale and his brethren stretches far beyond Walford.
Flooding and fire
However, sometimes when your broadband is on the blink it's because of circumstances that even a multimillion-pound telecommunications company can't control. It's fair to say that when BT customers saw their broadband, telephones and even mobiles go belly-up in March 2010, the circumstances were beyond the telecom giant's control.
Early one morning an electrical fault at a BT telephone exchange in Paddington, London, causing not only a major flood, but a fire as well. How many broadband users can be troubled by a flood and fire at just one of the country's 5,600 exchanges? Tens of thousands as it turns out - the majority of west and north London were affected, as were customers as far away as Hertfordshire and Nottingham.
And it wasn't just those using BT broadband that found themselves unable to get online - TalkTalk (www.Talktalk.co.uk) customers were also hit as their provider, like many others, use BT's network to provide broadband via local loop unbundling.
Broadband, then, is a dish best served cold. And with armbands.
Virgin Media customers in the towns of Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy and Leven in Fife, including Fife Council, were left without broadband, phone and digital TV after roguish rodents took their teeth to the provider's underground cabling.
Engineers repaired what they referred to as "rodent damage" only for the irrepressible omnivores to return days later and again fill up on pure glass fibre, forcing Virgin Media to "put additional measures in place" in case the muroid mischief makers returned for dessert.
So just why did Roland and friends tuck into Virgin Media's network? Well, according to the provider's own "10 things you never knew about rats" guide, rats can and, evidently, do chew through anything...
Here at Broadbandchoices.co.uk, we always advise you to look at ways you can boost your internet speed before you consider switching provider. However, until now we've never felt the need to warn you to look into "feline interference" as a possible reason for substandard broadband.
This heinous and, apparently, longstanding issue was brought to the attention of broadband provider information website ISPreview by BE earlier this month.
Feline interference is caused by broadband users' cats sleeping on their routers, having been attracted to them by the heat they generate, and knocking about the router aerials thus breaking the wireless broadband signal.
How to stop the blight brought upon us by, as BE broadband describes them, "feline aggressors"? Well we have BE tech supervisor Iana Nikolova to thank for this one - ask your provider for another router, plug both in and switch them on, see which one said aggressor is attracted to and then plug your ethernet cable into the router that doesn't take the feline's fancy.
All hail Iana for saving us from this scourge upon our online activities.
Late last month a ship waiting to enter a Kenyan port damaged a 2,700 mile-long underwater fibre optic cable with its anchor, causing slow broadband speeds in SIX countries - Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Tanzania, the BBC reported.
Internet users in those nations saw the speed of their connections drop by up to 20% for two or three weeks while repairs were carried out, making even watching a YouTube clip little more than a pipe dream (pun totally intended).