Technology

The outdated tv set interfered with the village's DSL web day-after-day for 18 months

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Enlarge /. An old television.

Getty Images | Jeffrey Coolidge

In a village of 400 in Wales, there were 18 months of DSL internet outages every morning until the perpetrator was identified as electrical interference from an old television set.

The residents of Aberhosan experienced the outages mysteriously every morning at 7 a.m. Openreach, a BT subsidiary that provides internet services in the UK, replaced old cables in the village to stop the outages.

"Unfortunately, that didn't solve the problem, so they started looking for electromagnetic interference using a spectrum analyzer," says an article in ISPreview today. The article includes a long quote from Openreach engineer Michael Jones, who said, "Since we couldn't solve the bug for our customers, we felt frustrated and depressed, but we were determined to get to the bottom of it." Jones explained what happened next:

After exhausting all other options, we wanted to do one final test to see if the failure was caused by a phenomenon called SHINE (Single High-Level Impulse Noise), where electrical interference comes from a device and then has an impact can broadband connection.

Using a device called a Spectrum Analyzer, we paced the village up and down in the pouring rain at 6am to see if we could find any "electrical noise" that supports our theory. And at 7 a.m. it happened like clockwork! Our device detected a large electric surge in the village.

The source of the "electrical noise" has been traced back to a plot of land in the village. It found that residents turned on their old TV at 7 a.m. each morning, which in turn turned off broadband for the entire village.

As you can imagine, when we pointed this out to the resident, they were ashamed that their old used TV was the cause of an entire village's broadband problems and they immediately agreed to turn it off and not use it again.

DSL prone to failure

The resident's promise not to use this television anymore has normalized the village's broadband network. It's not clear how long each morning's outage lasted or why the disruption spread across the village instead of just affecting the TV owner's home. We contacted Openreach today with some questions and will update this article if we get a response.

DSL lines are susceptible to electromagnetic interference from CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions and other devices, as the US ISP Sonic notes in a help article. In contrast, fiber optic cables deliver data traffic using light instead of electrical signals. OpenReach is reportedly planning to connect Aberhosan to fiber later this year, which could help prevent future outages. However, copper DSL lines in homes could remain if it wasn't a full upgrade from fiber optic at home.

The residents are understandably relieved that the immediate problem has been resolved. "We had engineers visiting all the time and no one seemed to know what the problem was," a man told the Daily Mail.

"We don't know who that person with the television is, but I'll find out," a woman told the newspaper.

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Steven Gregory