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notspot also not-spot or not spot

noun countable informal

an area that has no broadband Internet or 3G mobile phone coverage, or where this is very slow and unreliable

'There are still significant notspots when it comes to 3G mobile coverage in the UK, regulator Ofcom has revealed …' '

BBC News 9th July 2009

'The Scottish government is subsidising the cost of installation of the satellite equipment after running its own notspot campaign, which asked residents to identify themselves if they couldn't get broadband via conventional means.'

BBC News 15th June 2009

Just because you live in a rural idyll, and would think nothing of having to drive several miles to buy a pint of milk, doesn't mean that you want to be cut off from the rest of the online community. In today's society, always-on, wireless communication is the name of the game, so it's logical that we need a way of identifying places where technology isn't quite up to scratch – enter the term notspot, which describes an area suffering from a dearth of connectivity.

surprisingly, notspots are not confined to remote rural areas, but pop up at random urban and suburban locations

Access to the Internet is now essential, not just in commerce, but in everyday life (how many kids do you know that still trundle off to the library to research school projects? And how many purchases over £100 would you make without first checking the price on websites like Amazon?). Mobile phone coverage too, seems to be a prerequisite for communicating when out and about, as our once-treasured public phone boxes gradually dwindle into extinction. Yes, being able to use the Internet and wireless devices is no longer a novelty, but a default expectation – all the more reason then to be particularly frustrated when we find ourselves in a notspot, an area where technology is lagging behind. And, surprisingly, notspots are not confined to remote rural areas, but pop up at random urban and suburban locations. For those living in a notspot, using the Internet can be a very different experience to that had by people living in areas with better connections. They may find themselves unable to shop online, view video material or use social networking services like Facebook and Twitter.

In the UK, a recent survey commissioned by the BBC and undertaken by the broadband resource site www.samknows.com set out to map the country's notspots, revealing that about three million homes have broadband speeds of less than 2 megabits per second (2Mbps). This level of broadband access is the threshold set by the UK government in its Digital Britain report, which promised to provide all homes in Britain with speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2012.

Background – from a wireless hotspot to a notspot

Notspot is a clever play on the term hotspot, (also hot spot), which has been used since the late nineties to refer to a physical location in which wireless Internet access is available. A hotspot is essentially a publicly available wireless LAN (local area network), typically found in cafes, hotels, train stations, airports, libraries and colleges.

Notspot can refer either to an area where there is slow Internet access, or to somewhere where there is no connection at all. In its former sense, there is also some evidence for a related expression slow-spot, which refers to an area where the only available broadband service is at a speed of below 2 Mbps.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 12th August 2009.

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