Originally published: September 16, 2010
Last updated: September 16, 2010 - 2:55pm
Trefor Davies isn't disguising the fact that the carrier pigeons—named Rory and Tref—are anything more than a rank publicity stunt. Not only that, but it's a derivative publicity stunt, having already been run once in South Africa. But that's fine, because it nicely illustrates Davies' complaints about the state of rural broadband in the UK.
The idea was simple enough: Rory and Tref would be tagged with RFID chips, fitted with microSD memory cards containing several hundred megabytes of video, then released from a Yorkshire farm. The pigeons would fly about 60 miles with the memory cards, while the farm's Internet connection would be used to upload the same video to YouTube. Would the pigeons carry their data back to their loft before the farmer could upload the clip? The stunt was designed to have the pigeons win, of course, just as it was in South Africa.
On his personal website, Davies said this week that he was "expecting a convincing avian victory." Davies isn't just a concerned citizen; he's also the chief technical officer of a UK ISP called Timico, and he's upset about the state of UK broadband outside of urban areas, especially when it comes to upload speeds. He said that "the farm we are using has a connection of around 100 to 200 Kbps (kilobits per second)... The kids need to do school work and the farmer has to submit online forms but the connection is not fit for purpose." The test doesn't show much -- why not have the pigeons fly to YouTube's servers for a more accurate comparison? -- but pedantic questioning misses the point, which is clearly that slow upload speeds can easily keep people from anything like full participation in online social life and that rural users are on the wrong side of a digital divide.
The pigeons won, of course.
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