Sitting in a sleepy corner of picturesque North Yorkshire, the village of Rathmell is a far cry from the world of high technology and innovation. There are no pavements or street lights, and the pub and shop have both closed in the last 10 years.
For many of the 305 residents, a £5 Sunday lunch at what used to be the village school is the weekly social event in this out of the way backwater. While the 100-year-old reading room has been the hub of communication, daily newspapers are still delivered to a box at the back of the historic building.
But now Rathmell, surrounded by the soul-soothing countryside of the Ribble Valley, has more in common with California’s Silicon Valley, thanks to semi-retired telecoms guru Keith Mothersdale, who can proudly boast he has the UK’s fastest internet speed.
While the rest of us struggle to get a download speed of between 20 and 60 megabits per second from Britain’s main broadband providers, Keith’s lightning-fast connection is just under 10,000 megabits per second.
This means he can download a UHD movie in 5.6 seconds compared to between the 31 and 93 minutes it takes most households in Britain.
‘I’ve definitely got the best bragging rights in the country. With 10 gigs I have the fastest broadband in the country,’ says Keith, 62.
His lightning-fast connection was so quick that when he first tried it out in his home office, smoke started coming out of the hard drive and was so hot to touch he burned his hand.
‘I’ve never seen anything heat up so quick. I saw smoke rising and I had visions of the whole place going up in smoke. Luckily I managed to lift it outside and a large scorch mark on my desk was the only evidence,’ laughs Keith.
Back to the drawing board, and a week later, with help from some parts he ordered on Amazon – including a liquid-cooled processor – he built a bespoke £2,000 gaming computer able to cope with the speed.
He upgraded his router to one capable of coping with 10G.
‘I had to look through 40 broadband providers before I found one with a server big enough to test it. I had to get up in the middle of the night when no one else was using the network so that I could trial it accurately and got just under 10,000 megabits per second.
‘Only city traders who are making multiple deals every second have anything as fast as that’.
Now emails disappear in a fraction of a second, it takes just a few seconds more to download large files of HD photos and wife Kathy, 55, has cut hours off her job as a bookkeeper and running a holiday let business.
‘She loves it because spreadsheets, email, everything is sent so quickly. We don’t have to sit for hours waiting for downloads or to upload information.
‘When I first moved to the village 10 years ago, my broadband was so slow it was actually quicker for me to put design files on a USB stick and send them by courier.
Keith, who was Technology Director for Finnish Telecomms company Teleste before semi-retiring and working part-time for US blue-chip company Amphenol, has used his skills to help the rest of the village get 1G (1,000 megabits per second).
The village raised £85,000 in two weeks to work with a small broadband company that helps rural communities and get broadband connections to the boundaries of each home. The community then worked together over the next two years to dig trenches across their gardens to get the connection into their houses – saving them hundreds of thousands of pounds of additional costs.
‘We might be in the Ribble Valley, not Silicon Valley but we’re a tech hub that is providing a fantastic example of what we could have all across the UK,’ says Keith.