Home Opinion Internet: Just how much do we all rely on our broadband

Internet: Just how much do we all rely on our broadband


It isn’t until the broadband service fails that we realise just how much we rely on having a permanent connection to the internet. This morning, since I had to wait in for builders, I decided to spend the morning writing and putting together a couple of articles for Macfilos. Then I discovered we had a complete outage. This is the second time in two months that Virgin Media has let us down in my local area (and, from what I read, further afield too). I know from past experience it’s pointless calling them because — even in the unlikely event of being able to speak to a human — they never accept responsibility and blame something at my end. I decided to check the various outage sites, in this case Down Detector, and got a report on North Africa. I really didn’t know that Virgin operate in Burkina Faso, but I hope they are doing a better job than they are in London. 


This would be amusing if it weren’t so annoying. It brings me back to our reliance on an internet connection. Even the ever-faithful Alexa is nonplussed and won’t even switch on the lights in my office. Fortunately, Vodafone is still working and I’m writing this on my iPad. Everyone is now so dependent on the internet that we should worry about the effects of malicious attacks, perhaps from an unfriendly country. A long disconnection from services would bring any modern country to its knees in days. Previous generations were much more equipped to deal with emergencies. I wonder what would have happened during the dark days of the Second World War if we had needed Amazon, Apple and Virgin Media to keep us alive? 


  1. I’m in Greece, where the local taverna is supplying our connection, but I do remember that before leaving London I had an email from Virgin Media to say that our internet connection would be interrupted on the 16th (..that’s yesterday..) for maintenance, or for upgrading, or some such.

    Maybe they also sent you an email a while ago, Michael, and could it have got lost in your daily influx of email?

    • David,

      Thanks for the crumb of comfort. You could well be right, although I don’t recollect the email. But, you would think that such maintenance outages would be worthy of a notice on the status site. At the moment it is still saying “No issues with Broadband” when, clearly, there are local issues all over the country judging by the comments on the various forums.

      On another subject, decision day on the C-Lux/RX100VI looms since I’m off to the Far EST in a couple of weeks and want to travel light. How are you getting on with the Sony? I am still very much undecided — mainly because of your comments on sharpness in the Panasonic lens (which is also mentioned by DPReview).

      • Sorry for the delay; just moved from the taverna to the beach..

        I do miss the wider aperture – thus better low light performance – of the previous RX100mkV and earlier models ..though not here, where it’s blazing sunshine all day! I brought both versions for my photo course (..plus a dozen other cameras!..) and still prefer the Sonys to the Pannys: sharper, clearer, contrastier, with more detail. Course now over, thus on the beach!

        • (..Grr, I’ll have to write this quickly, as if I dawdle I get ‘Log Into SquareSpace’ and all my writing’s lost!..)

          ..Where was I? ..I didn’t mention that it has ‘Eye-Focus’, or whatever it’s called: press a button on the back while you squeeze the shutter button, and it focuses on the nearest eye – great for pictures of people you love. On the other hand, if you don’t take those kind of pictures, you may not need, or want, it.

          On my course I explain that we’re going to take pictures of what’s not there: of things which don’t exist ..and off they go to take pictures of intangibles; Joy, Uncertainty, Fulfilment, etc.

          I used the super slo-mo yesterday to make a movie of water’s reflections on the Coastguard’s hull ..a bit like Ridley Scott. But then again, if you don’t do that sort of thing, you won’t need it.

          All the best with your choice!

          • Thanks for the additional information, David. I’d noticed the Eye Focus thingummy and wondered if it would be useful. I suspect it might. All the factors appear to be in favour of the RX100, except its slipperiness and lack of grip relative to the Panasonic/Leica. The extended zoom to 360mm isn’t a big factor. I will need to go and have a good play with both cameras.

          • "..slipperiness and lack of grip.." ..I haven’t noticed that. The camera’s very light, so it doesn’t feel as if it’s going to fall out of my hand at any moment, and there is a rubbery thumb grip at the back, just where your thumb sits, just to the right of the rear screen.

            None of the versions has ever felt as if it’s too "slippery", or as if it’s going to drop out of my fingers at any moment ..for me, anyway!

  2. We are so IT reliant at work, and have an IT system that operates over the cloud (never ever consider doing this regardless) – that whenever there is a local connection issue, or a national server issues, it actually brings us to a total halt on many fronts. Worse still clear desk policies, and encouragement to operate in paperless system bring the entire organisation to its knees in literally hours. After all, our policies, notices etc etc are all in the cloud, or clouds quite literally.

    In terms of my home broadband, while I accept that BT never give me the same speeds as my daughters Virgin connection, I do feel I have less issues than my Virgin counterparts – in the last year I can touch wood only think of a single outage for my local area on the BT side of things. Whereas I can recall it getting warm last year and the entire Virgin network in Rochester going down, I sat using my BT service while watching Virgin engineers drilling vents in to the road side exchange boxes, which I assume reduced the temperature inside them and thus fixed the service.

    The price of modern living me thinks.

    Mind you I agree with David, as I sent you an email recently after having my mac looked at – and for the first time ever you never answered it, I think they fixed the email showing up as Macbook Pro from my account, to actually show as my name (something in the settings changed itself a year or so back). Which may have tossed in to your junk pile.

    • Sorry if I didn’t reply to an email — I can’t recollect ignoring anything but it could have happened because I’ve had my eye off the ball for various reasons over the past few weeks. I should be back to normal soon.

      • I did think there was a rationale reason, but also know my mac has been a pain in the derriere with how my mailbox names my names outgoing – and was a bit worried if all was okay in chateau Evans. I will look forward to normal service resuming – I might have another article or two done by then – plus I will have fixed the one that is currently vexing me – I think I have a way forward with it – I will update dropbox before I depart for North Yorkshire at the end of next week.

        Enjoy the Far East – my advice, as Wayne rightly points out, throw that old X1 in there and show us what it captures, you may be very surprised – take the CL as well, after all both would fit in my Hadley small.


    • The brave new paperless, cloud based world is leaving us all quite vulnerable. Nothing works without always on connectivity and the hackers and disruptors are always two steps ahead of the regulators and others entrusted with our online safety. Meanwhile it is in the interests of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Amazon and others to sell all of us more and more cloud ‘real estate’. The vulnerability of telecoms systems which suffer outages on a regular basis just add to this situation. Governments seem to have little oversight of or even a clear view of the developing situation.


  3. Virgin Media has little or nothing to do with Richard Branson other than the owners have bought the right to use the Virgin branding. The ultimate owners are Liberty Media owned by John Malone. They also own Formula One and many other telecommunications and media companies. I used to work for part of that empire before going to the Middle East. The service here in Ireland is pretty good, particularly in Dublin where a lot of the services are fibre based. Where I live most people take their TV service from Virgin rather than Sky.

    Vodafone recently paid Liberty Media $21.8 billion for their German networks. I am also a Vodafone customer and I use a Vodafone SIM in a Huawei device to provide online services in my car. Should the Virgin service ever go down I can either use this or a link with my iPhone to continue the broadband service to my iMac. It seems that backups are essential to life nowadays. It does, however, point out an issue with cloud computing where always on connectivity is essential.


    • Thanks for the background, William. Unfortunately Virgin has a near monopoly in this country for cable — most other suppliers seem to rely on BT for their connections, I did find a small outfit who have a good reputation (name escapes me at the moment) but they currently don’t offer a service in this part of London.

      Yesterday I finally to a human after three hours of back and forth and endless listening to music. The human was in India, I judge, but I was nevertheless delighted to unburden myself. He arranged a service call. Then they put that on hold while they worked on problems in the area. This morning came another text message to say all had been fixed — only it hadn’t. Still waiting.

  4. Hello Michael.
    Agree completely with your concerns about our reliance on the internet. And why cyber attacks are such a threat in any future conflicts that none of us ever want.
    However, in regard to your comment that you are considering taking a C Lux to the Far EST ( = Far East ? Am I missing something?), what chance that you might take your retrieved heritage X1 as a backup? Use it for just one 24 hour period. You won’t be disappointed. And please do share the outcome upon your return. // Travel well.

    • It crossed my mind to take the X1 and, indeed, I took it out for a spin yesterday. However, I find the screen almost unviewable in strong sunlight and I feel the CL would be a better choice. But a lot can change in two weeks….


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