the digital age

Many will groan at this, but like it or not, mobile phones and the internet are here to stay and will become increasingly more important to us as time goes by.

I don’t care what others think; I like to be able to keep in touch while I’m away. I see no point in having access to such modern wonders as wi-fi, mobile broadband and good phone signals if we’re not prepared to use them. Not everyone agrees, of course, and that’s fine; each to his or her own. But I refuse to feel guilty because I want to send a few e-mails when I’m away.

Camp sites seem to be very reluctant to keep pace with what’s happening around them. A few have installed wi-fi networks and allow free access to the web. Most of them charge for it and some are downright exorbitant, such as the Caravan Club. A lot of campsites still look askance if I ask them whether they can offer wi-fi connection from the pitch. They give me one of those old-fashioned looks as if to say “You’re on holiday!” Yes – but the fact that I’m holiday doesn’t mean I want to revert to the 19th century.

Of those sites which have installed wi-fi, some haven’t bothered to ensure the range covers all pitches. One warden even sold me a voucher and then admitted that it probably wouldn’t work where I was camping. I changed my pitch to get within range.

We all know that quality of mobile phone signals can be patchy at best. In this day and age, an effective service should cover the whole of Europe, if not beyond. If you look at published coverage maps, you’ll be led to believe that the whole of Britain can readily receive a digital phone signal. Inevitably, however, service providers omit the thousands of dead spots dotted all over the land, most of which are on camp sites we want to visit. Why? Transmitter masts are relatively inexpensive to erect these days. By now, dead spots should have been vanquished once and for all.

Recently I stayed on a camp site with no mobile signal at all. It was in middle-England, a couple of miles from a large town. Even wandering along the lane, climbing a tree and hanging over a precipice wouldn’t allow me to make contact. Yet in the Highlands of Scotland I obtained a signal at every single camp site and in nearly all remote places we visited (and some were well off the beaten track). The same in southern Eire a couple of years ago – nowhere did I fail to get on line or make a mobile call. Is there something about radio waves that make them disintegrate and falter in England – or are we the poor relations of Europe as far as the large providers are concerned?

I don’t expect a camp site to advertise “no phone signals.” But it would be useful if those with good signals on certain services could start to include the fact in their information, so we know in advance. Then we can avoid the ones without a signal, or at least make other arrangements beforehand.

The next issue will be digital TV. Parts of England have already switched on digital. Analogue signals are being closed down. Soon we will all be solely digital. Yet so many areas are unable to deliver suitable signals. And when the rains come, the image pixelates and starts to freeze.

If we all moaned more, something would be done. We’re all too tolerant of whatever these organisations want to dish out to us. Instead of shrugging and being mildly amused or charmed by the poor service we receive, we could be complaining and maybe things would start to improve. Grumpy old people could be the saviours of our nation.


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