It’s Monday morning. You get up, have breakfast, and – if you work from home – you turn on your computer to start your job. Except you can’t, because the Internet is down again. Or, maybe you’re a retiree, or someone who’s housebound and depends on the ability to order groceries and merchandise over the Internet for delivery to your home. Check with your neighbors: yep, their connection is down too, and your neighbor’s neighbors as well. In fact, everyone in your little village of 400 residents have no access, and this has been going on most days for a year and a half!
From early 2019 through the end of Summer 2020 – about 18 months – the idyllic rural village of Aberhosan in Wales, UK, endured this inconvenience (for some), and hardship (for others). Sources describe the Internet service there as broadband, but don’t say what type. It could be as rudimentary as DSL, or running on coaxial cable, or it could be wireless (Wi-Fi). Fiber optic cable seems unlikely, as does satellite broadband. British Telecom (BT) had sent locally-based repair technicians and engineers out to troubleshoot the problem dozens and dozens of times without success. They’d replaced cables and equipment to no avail. They were stumped. What was known, was that the problem always started at approximately 7am on most days.
Finally, BT sent a team of specialists from headquarters to investigate. Equipped with a spectrum analyzer (an instrument designed to detect Radio Frequency (RF) signals), they set about searching for the cause of the interference. It was raining hard that morning at 6am, as the engineers walked the lanes of the village with their analyzer, hunting for an unknown source of RF that could be interfering with broadband Internet. Right on cue at 7am, the spectrum analyzer spotted a rogue signal that suddenly appeared. Simultaneously, Internet service went down. All they had to do now was find the location of the misbehaving radio signal. By 8am, they’d identified the house it originated from. A knock on the door, and after just a few minutes conversation with the owner, determined that an old television set that had been purchased used for £30 was blasting out a stray signal that interfered with the entire village’s broadband. The owner, who habitually turned it on at 7am every day, was said to be “mortified” to learn that he’d been the cause of the problem all these months and requested anonymity, lest the wrath of angry villagers befall him. Naturally he agreed never to use the TV again, and get rid if it.
RF interference is actually quite common, and plays havoc with television reception, especially digital HDTV, ironically enough.
It’s only Monday. Can you imagine having to deal with Internet connectivity issues for the remainder of the week… or year?