A rural village in Wales has been suffering through internet outages and slowdowns for 18 months. The situation baffled technicians until they realized that turning off one man’s TV solved everything.
On Tuesday, U.K.-based broadband provider Openreach explained in a release that every morning, around 7 a.m., residents of the Aberhosan village found themselves experiencing issues connecting to the internet, and when they could log on, loading times slowed to a crawl. According to the provider, engineers were deployed to the area on multiple occasions only to find the network was functioning normally. The company went as far as replacing some cable, but its efforts were fruitless.
Openreach engineer Michael Jones explained that “as a final resort” a team visited the village to test for electrical interference. “By using a device called a Spectrum Analyser we walked up and down the village in the torrential rain at 6 a.m. to see if we could find an ‘electrical noise’ to support our theory,” Jones said. “And at 7 a.m., like clockwork, it happened! Our device picked up a large burst of electrical interference in the village.”
The team was able to trace the signal to a residence and found that the occupant had an aging TV that was producing electrical interference known as SHINE (Single High-level Impulse Noise). The TV’s owner had a habit of switching it on every morning at 7 a.m. as they started their day. “As you can imagine when we pointed this out to the resident, they were mortified that their old second-hand TV was the cause of an entire village’s broadband problems, and they immediately agreed to switch it off and not use again,” Jones said.
Openreach’s network is still on the outdated ADSL Broadband standard with plans to deploy fiber later this year. SHINE is a type of interference that screws with the frequencies that ADSL utilizes. When a device is powered on, a burst of frequencies is emitted that can knock devices offline or cause reduced speeds as a result of line errors. While SHINE is a single event that occurs when turning a device off and on, it can result in DSL circuits failing and losing sync. UK telecom Zen has some tips from identifying SHINE on your own using an AM radio.
“Anything with electric components—from outdoor lights to microwaves to CCTV cameras—can potentially have an impact on your broadband connection,” Suzanne Rutherford, Openreach chief engineer’s lead for Wales, explained.
And while it’s unusual to hear about a whole village’s internet being impacted, we’ve seen similar cases of big problems being caused by little devices in the past. In 2004, operators of a radio telescope in West Virginia traced broadband interference to a faulty heating pad. In 2015, a different telescope in the Netherlands was found to be suffering from interference produced when the door of a microwave oven was opened before the magnetron was automatically turned off by the timer.