When a steady current flows through a conductor, the electrons in it move with a certain average ‘drift speed’. One can calculate this drift speed of electrons for a typical copper wire carrying a small current, and it is found to be actually very small, of the order of 1 mm s-1. How is it then that an electric bulb lights up as soon as we turn the switch on? It cannot be that a current starts only when an electron from one terminal of the electric supply physically reaches the other terminal through the bulb, because the physical drift of electrons in the conducting wires is a very slow process.
What is the exact mechanism of the current flow, which takes place with a speed close to the speed of light ?