Much of modern life depends on signals. Those received by mobile phones, Internet modems, Wi-Fi, 4G, and via satellites. As well as things like Internet surfing, receiving and sending texts, or using satellite navigation systems, we also depend on them to be able to watch television.
Living in Norfolk, you might expect that we wouldn’t have issues with signals of any kind. It is one of the flattest places in Europe, and outside of the two cities of Norwich and Kings Lynn, few buildings exist that can obstruct the passage of any signal. I certainly made that assumption, before I moved here. And I was wrong.
Despite the flat landscape, and absence of high buildings, this county is a notorious black spot for signals of all kinds. After years of getting ‘Emergency Only’ mobile phone signals, we had to threaten to leave our provider until they gave us a booster that enhances that signal. But that only works in the immediate area around the house. Make a short journey, and you will soon see the annoying ‘no bars’ appear on the screen of your phone. And you can forget about going online when out and about. The signal is rarely ever strong enough to connect to the Internet, when using a smartphone.
It used to be the same with the home broadband connection. Erratic at best, too slow at worst. I am relatively lucky, as my PC is connected via a direct cable into the modem. But using laptops or tablets on Wi-Fi was a cause of constant frustration. Then we got a fibre broadband connection. Speeds almost doubled, and the Wi-Fi was more stable, except at the times of peak usage. That meant we could connect the TV to the Internet, albeit through a monthly-fee smart box, from Now TV. Slowly but surely, Norfolk seemed to be dragging itself into the 21st century.
My idea that the flat landscape and small buildings helped proved to be well off the mark. All these signals depend on powerful transmitters, and booster masts that have to be close to the equipment you want to use. Because of the relatively small population of Norfolk, investment in such infrastructure has been sadly lacking. Some parts of the region still have 56 kps dial-up connections, and many more remote areas have no connections at all. Imagine that. Life in 2018 with no Internet, and an unusable mobile phone. They tell us things are improving. Churches are being paid to site masts on high spires, and new-build estates have underground cables already laid. But any retro-fitting is difficult, and no new transmitter towers are being built in the foreseeable future.
This has now begun to disrupt our TV signal. Often previously affected by the weather, and interfered with by short power cuts, it is unable to cope with the number of new channels arriving all the time, and the constantly changing frequencies sold off by a greedy government. Some of these frequencies are so close together, the TV receiver cannot differentiate between them, so picture break-up and interference is a daily part of our viewing (or not viewing) experience. We frequently have to resort to using online ‘catch-up’ services to watch anything, with the irony that the TV box connected to the Internet is one of the reasons why the picture breaks up in the first place, as signals clash, and fight each other for the dwindling space available.
Isn’t progress wonderful?