Forget fiber: Engineers made a broadband connection using wet string

Thanks to the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality provisions this morning, you’re even more in thrall to your local cable monopoly than you were yesterday. Starting your own internet service provider is difficult and expensive, but what if you could sub in wet string instead of copper cabling? That’s not going to happen any time soon, but one small British ISP did manage to achieve a 3.5Mbps connection over six feet of wet cotton string.

According to the BBC[1], an engineer from Andrews and Arnold achieved a 3.5Mbps ADSL connection using two meters of wet string. There’s no practical application for sending signals over that short of a distance; it’s more an answer to the question of what happens if you give an engineer a testing lab and too much time. “To be honest it was a bit of fun, which one of our techies decided to try out – we have equipment we could test in the office, and why not?” Adrian Kennard, the internet provider’s director, told the BBC. “There is no commercial potential that we are aware of.

What it does show, though, is how adaptive ADSL really is. This can be important when it comes to faulty lines with bad (or even disconnected) joints still providing some level of broadband service.” ADSL is the protocol used to sent packets of data over old-school copper telephone lines.

It was the protocol that first enabled broadband to be rolled out around the world, but it has a number of technical limitations that has seen it usurped by coaxial cable and the DOCSIS standard.

ADSL can’t manage the gigabit speeds that DOCSIS can achieve, and it’s limited by geography to only work within a few miles of a telephone exchange.

References

  1. ^ According to the BBC (www.bbc.com)

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