Wet string delivers faster broadband than AT&T or Frontier for 1 million Californians

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The best broadband that AT&T and Frontier Communications offers to more than one million Californians is advertised at a download speed of 3 Mbps or less, if it’s available at all. That’s slower than the 3.5 Mbps that a British techie achieved using a couple of pieces of wet string and some ADSL gear.

He was sitting around the office one day and decided to give it a go. That earned him serious geek cred with his boss, Adrian Kennard, who runs Andrews and Arnold, an ISP in the U.K. As Kennard describes in his blog

It turns out he needed salty water to get anywhere. A 2m length…

And the result – it works!!! Not even that slow (3½Mb/s down) though slow uplink. Don’t dare touch the string though…

So, there you go, ADSL over 2m of literal “wet string”. Well done all for testing this. It shows the importance of handling faults that seem to just be “low speed”.

As a bonus, fit tin cans to both ends and you get voice as well as broadband on the same wet string!

According to the most recent California Public Utilities Commission data available, 709,000 Californians live in census blocks where the fastest download speed advertised (but not necessarily delivered) by AT&T and Frontier Communications ranges from 768 Kbps to 3 Mbps. Another 367,000 are in census blocks where Frontier and AT&T claimed federal broadband subsidies and offer no service, at any speed.

Although “it was a bit of fun”, the hack highlighted the capabilities of the core technology that delivers broadband over copper-based telco infrastructure. The CPUC should take note as it listens to Frontier and AT&T tell half-truths about wireline problems and magic radio solutions. The potential of rural copper-based networks is higher than AT&T’s and Frontier’s current service levels, and higher than their intended wireless replacements.

It’s even higher than wet string.