Tag Archives: BT

Salem’s Lot – British Telecom (BT) tells Welsh village pensioner she can have broadband… for £150,000

With its social networking websites, email and blogs, the Internet appears to have brought the world closer together. Unless, it seems, you happen to live in the Welsh village of Salem. For 71-year-old resident Beverley McCartney has been told that to install broadband at her home would cost her more than £150,000

The sum does not include a monthly subscription and would have to be paid prior to any online shopping occurred. Yesterday Mrs McCartney said it was unacceptable that she should be denied broadband access just because she lives in a small village. Just days after BT announced huge profits, it emerged that the company told the pensioner it would cost her £129,613.54 plus VAT to connect her house near Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire.

The pensioner said today: ‘I’m not on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere – it’s rural, but not a wilderness. ‘It’s outrageous. I thought it was ludicrous in view of their profits. I can only laugh otherwise I’d probably burst into tears.’ BT had previously told Mrs McCartney the firm was unable to connect broadband – but wrote to her last week saying it could. The company said in ‘very rare’ cases exceptional charges would be imposed.

Mrs McCartney said: ‘I phoned BT and said surely this is a typing error and the girl said: “No, there’s been no mistake, other people have had bills for much more than this.” ‘I live three miles out of Llandeilo but there’s 50 odd houses in Salem and I’m quite sure they’d like broadband too. But I couldn’t afford £2,000, let alone £150,000.’ Last year Prince Charles warned that homes and business in the countryside risked being left in ‘broadband deserts’.

An estimated two million people are unable to access a fast internet connection and the Prince said isolated communities, which already struggle to make a living, face an ‘immense handicap’ without the ability to promote their goods or download information through websites and email. Schools, doctors’ surgeries and other essential services are also suffering after being left in the internet ‘slow lane’, he said, and if the rural economy fails as a result, Britain’s countryside will be full of ‘ghost communities, populated by little more than second-home owners’.

Last week David Cameron appointed Ed Vaizey to be the minister in charge of the Digital Economy Act, which was passed just before the General Election. The controversial Bill seeks to curb online piracy, among several other major policies, all with the aim of stimulating the UK’s digital economy Yesterday a BT spokesman insisted it was fair to charge Mrs McCartney the vast sum for broadband. He said: ‘If it’s just one individual person and it requires upgrading the network for one person, no company would cover that.

‘There can be very rare cases where additional charges need to be applied because of an exceptional amount of work required to the network in order to provide service. ‘These charges reflect the additional line plant and equipment needed to provide broadband to a particular location.’ He added: ‘BT is making a multi-billion pound investment in its UK network and is continuing to work with the Welsh Assembly to find solutions for the relatively few areas in Wales still unable to access a broadband service.’

He said the company worked to connect previous ‘not-spots’, helping residents get online – but added Salem was not classified as not-spot. He said: ‘We’ve been working on broadband ‘not-spots’ but it requires huge amounts of engineering work.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1281932/BT-tells-village-pensioner-broadband–150-000.html?ito=feeds-newsxml#ixzz0pAEIJ817

U.K. Antitrust Body Won’t Investigate Project Canvas

The U.K. Office of Fair Trading won’t investigate Project Canvas, the joint venture to bring Internet content and new video-on-demand services to television. The OFT has decided that it doesn’t have jurisdiction to review Project Canvas under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 as none of the partners, including the British Broadcasting Corp., contributes an existing business to the venture.

The BBC started the project, contributing only existing research and development rather than a separate business unit. The contributions of the other joint venture partners will be primarily financial. Project Canvas is a joint venture between the BBC, ITV PLC, BT Group PLC, RTL Group SA’s Five, Channel 4, TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC and Arqiva Ltd. The partners plan to launch the project around Christmas.

Under the Enterprise Act 2002, a relevant merger situation is created if two or more enterprises cease to be distinct and if the value of U.K. revenue of the business being taken over exceeds £70 million. It also applies if a 25% share of supply in the U.K. is created as a result of a transaction. The project, which will allow U.K. viewers to watch free-to-air broadcasts and Internet content on television, will help traditional broadcasters attract new audiences while retaining existing viewers who have turned to the Internet for entertainment.

Project Canvas partners welcomed the OFT decision, noting the joint venture wouldn’t own, control or aggregate any content. “Project Canvas aims to create an open platform that delivers a connected future for free-to-air TV and a competitive market for internet-connected TV services in the U.K. The Project Canvas partners are committed to achieving that aim,” Project Canvas director Richard Halton said in a statement.

In December last year, the BBC’s controlling trust provisionally approved the corporation’s involvement in Project Canvas, saying that “the likely public value of the proposal justifies any potential negative market impact.” Watching TV programs online has increased in popularity, aided by the BBC’s on-demand Internet-TV service, iPlayer. Commercial broadcasters are exploring ways to distribute their programs to boost advertising. Project Canvas has faced criticism from pay-TV companies, particularly British Sky Broadcasting PLC, which cites a lack of independent scrutiny for the project. News Corp., the owner of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., holds about a 39% stake in BSkyB.


BT opens up its ducts to broadband fibre rivals

BT has said it will allow rival broadband companies to use its tunnels to lay their own superfast fibre network

All broadband suppliers will be allowed to lay their own fibre cables in BT’s tunnels, the company has said. Opening up its “ducts” could potentially encourage the development of a superfast broadband network and save rivals billions of pounds that would have been needed to dig up the nation’s pavements.

It is also in line with calls from the Conservative Party, rivals such as TalkTalk and BSkyB and also with European movements to encourage free access.

Jeremy Hunt, shadow minister for Culture, Media and Sport, had said that a Conservative government would break BT’s monopoly on the network to promote a nationwide broadband target speed of 100mbps, and agreed with TalkTalk and Sky that access to ducts would allow a more effective market to operate.

BT, however, has denied that it has simply caved in to political pressure: “We told [industry regulator] Ofcom last year we’re willing to provide open access to our ducts and poles and we are working with them on how to achieve it. Other companies already have access to our exchanges so we’re relaxed about providing them with another form of access as well,” said the company’s chief executive Ian Livingstone.

Questions, however, remain over the extent to which BT’s rivals will really want to lay their own cables , even in BT ducts; while urban areas may appear commercially attractive, BT is itself laying down some fibre which other companies are allowed to use themselves. In rural areas, there is unlikely to be an appetite from new companies because there will be an insufficient return on the substantial investment required. TalkTalk issued a statement saying that “We’re at the forefront of the debate about how best to provide super fast broadband to our customers. We’re talking to BT and Ofcom and we’re considering a range of options including our own fibre trial.”

The Conservative Party has said that it would use any underspend from the part of the BBC’s licence fee that is currently earmarked to help fund digital switchover. When that is completed after 2012, the Party would consider matched funding or loans to try to encourage a more widespread high-speed broadband network


Conservatives pledge “100mbps by 2017” and to “break up BT monopoly” on Andrew Marr show

This morning, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne promised that a Conservative government would deliver 100Mbps broadband services to the ‘majority’ of homes by 2017. In an interview for the Andrew Marr show, he also suggested that where the private sector was unable to deliver a solution, such as in some rural areas, the BBC license fee might be used to fund this.

The suggestion is that the BBC continues to set aside the 3.5% of the license fee that is currently being used to fund the digital switchover but for this money to be diverted to fund broadband expansion. Exactly what constitutes a ‘majority’ of UK homes having access to 100Mbps by 2017 is unclear, so we hope this is clarified if it forms part of an election manifesto.

“In the 19th century we built the railways. In the 20th century we built the motorways. In the 21st century, let’s build the super-fast broadband network that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs for Britain.”

George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor

The current government has promised a Universal Service Commitment (USC) of 2Mbps by 2012 and has also planned a 50p/month levy (the ‘broadband tax’) which will be used to fund ‘next generation broadband’ for areas where the market is unlikely to deliver. This levy is expected to raise between £1-1.5bn by 2017 to pay for the ‘final third’ project to connect the most rural of areas resulting in 90% next-generation broadband coverage. It is not quite clear exactly what ‘next generation’ means in this context, however we expect this is referring to services in the 25Mbps+ range.

Mr Osborne goes on to compare the Labour government’s 2Mbps USC with the promises by South Korea for 1Gbps, although he did not expand on the Conservative policy for delivering basic broadband services in a shorter timescale which may be of concern to those who can’t get broadband at the moment. He also proposes the break up of BT to enable LLU operators and cable operator Virgin Media to deliver better services:

“If there are some parts of the country where the market can’t get to; because I think the best way to deliver this is by breaking up the British Telecom monopoly at the moment which holds back companies like Carphone Warehouse or Virgin. If we find the market can’t do that, then use the BBC license fee, the digital switchover money in the license fee, to get broadband out to the rest of the country, but let’s see first of all if we can have the market delivering that super-fast broadband.”

George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor

The license fee is currently £142.50 per year, so 3.5% would amount to about £5/year per household. This amount is not too dissimilar to the £6/year levy (50 pence per month for every phone line; although we note that businesses would also be caught in the levy being planned by the government) particularly after factoring in any increases in the license fee. We are therefore seeing a shift from one type of tax to another


Project Canvas kicks off advertising pitch

Project Canvas, the proposed on-demand web TV venture, is looking for an agency to handle its UK advertising account.  The service, which is backed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, BT and TalkTalk, is planning to approach agencies with a view to holding a pitch for the business.

The successful agency will be responsible for handling all of Project Canvas’ ad campaigns, with the venture due to spend almost £50 million on marketing and brand development in its first four years. Project Canvas is due to launch its set-top boxes later this year, which will allow consumers to access each of the participating broadcasters’ video-on-demand offerings, as well as giving people access to internet content on their TV screens. Research conducted last year predicts that, by 2014, Project Canvas could reach up to 3.5 million homes.

However, the venture still faces problems, such as keeping set-top box costs down and finding a way around bandwidth bottlenecks.
News of the advertising pitch comes a month after the BBC Trust, the governing body of the BBC, gave its provisional approval to the organisation’s involvement in the project


BT launches super-fast broadband

BT is launching its next-generation super-fast broadband service next week with a claim to have undercut Virgin Media’s prices, sparking a war of words with its bitter rival.

The next generation of super-fast internet connections are more than five times faster than the basic 8Mb connections enjoyed by most people today and enable whole music albums to be downloaded in seconds and HD movies in just a few minutes.

BT is spending £1.5bn putting a new fibre network within the reach of 10m homes by the time of the Olympics in 2012. It will have 500,000 homes connected by the end of next month and 4m by the end of this year. Virgin Media, meanwhile, has already upgraded its existing cable network, which passes 12.5m addresses, and launched its own ultra-high speed offering.

From 25 January, BT will start selling its super-fast broadband service, called BT Infinity, to customers who have already had their lines upgraded, starting at £19.99 a month plus £11.54 line rental. That is less than the basic £28 a month – plus £11 line rental – charged by Virgin Media.

The cable firm, however, hit back at BT’s pricing, accusing the company of misleading consumers because Virgin Media’s service is actually faster. BT’s service runs at 40Mb per second while Virgin Media’s is 50Mb per second.

“We’re not sure why people in the UK would want to wait for BT’s 40Mb service which hasn’t launched yet, when they can already get Virgin Media’s great value 50Mb service,” said a spokeswoman. “Last summer we completed the roll-out of our next-generation service to 12.5m homes and people throughout the country are already enjoying all the fantastic things you can do online with the UK’s fastest broadband service.”

Virgin Media also pointed out that the £19.99 basic version of BT Infinity comes with a 20GB a month usage cap. That is lower than the fair usage policy of many residential broadband providers offering services at much lower speeds – who typically restrict users to downloading no more than 40GB a month. It could also seriously impinge on broadband users as 20GB is only about 50 hours of on-demand television while a single HD movie is about 5GB. Virgin Media does not have a monthly usage cap on its 50Mb service.

But the head of BT’s consumer business, John Petter, responded that super-fast broadband is not just for people who download a lot of data – such as computer game players or film fans – it will also appeal to people who just want to continue to use the web as they do now, but have much faster access. “There will be a group of customers out there who just want their existing broadband usage to be seamless,” he said.

BT has removed its monthly usage cap for people willing to pay £24.99 a month for super-fast broadband. Customers on this version of BT Infinity will also benefit from upload speeds of 10Mb a second – meaning they will be able to send large files to other people quickly. In stark contrast, Virgin Media’s upload speed – even on its 50Mb service – is 1.5Mb, though it is currently testing 10Mb.

Petter refused to give any prediction for how many people the company expects to sign up to its super-fast service but stressed “we expect this to be extremely successful”.

BT Infinity currently relies upon Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology – essentially running a new fibreoptic network to the green roadside cabinets that dot the country and then using traditional copper lines to connect individual houses. But BT is also testing fibre to the premise (FTTP) technology which is capable of speeds of more than 100Mb. BT reckons 75% of its target of 10m homes and businesses by mid 2012 will use FTTC, with the remaining 25% having access through FTTP


BT aims to undercut Sky on TV sport viewing packages

BT says it is ready to enter a price war with Sky over the price charged for fans to watch premium sports events, including football and cricket, on TV.

The telecoms firm is awaiting the outcome of an Ofcom probe, examining whether Sky must drop the wholesale price it charges rivals for content. BT Vision would aim to charge about £15 a month for Sky Sports 1, about £10 cheaper than Sky currently charges. The outcome of the investigation by the regulator will be known in March. A spokesman for BT told the BBC that there would be a benefit to the viewing public as they would be getting more choice.

‘Effective competition’

The Ofcom inquiry into pay TV is also looking at the price Sky charges rivals for access to Sky Movies. If Ofcom rules that Sky must cut its wholesale prices it means that the likes of BT and Virgin Media could pass on to any price cuts to their customers. BT would look to introduce a new price structure from the start of the 2010/11 football season.

When it launched its investigation in June, Ofcom said it believed “requiring Sky to make its premium channels available to other retailers on a wholesale basis is the most appropriate way of ensuring fair and effective competition”. BT and Virgin have struggled to make a dent in Sky’s viewing figures. Sky has 9.5m subscribers, Virgin has 3.7m and BT Vision has 436,000.

Loss on packages

Virgin Media currently charges between £16.50 and £24 per month for Sky Sports 1 depending on a customer’s TV package. The firm – formerly known as NTL – said it made a loss on every sports package sold because of Sky’s wholesale prices and also the need to remain competitive. “Ofcom’s proposals to cut wholesale prices for Sky Sports aren’t about subsidising Sky’s competitors,” Neil Berkett, chief executive of Virgin Media, told the BBC.

He said it was more about “creating a competitive market”, and that Ofcom had the means to “bring premium film and sport to millions more people at much lower prices”.


100Mb synchronous fibre optic network for Manchester – uploading shortly

A project by the North West Development Agency will provide Manchester with a synchronous 100Mbps fibre optic network – and could serve to show how important a decent infrastructure could be to the UK.

The publicly funded £1m project will serve 1,000 homes and 500 businesses, and will offer an insight into how future networks will operate.

“It will allow home working, telemedicine, video calling and net-based services on TV,” explained Chris Smedley, Chief Executive of Geo, the company appointed to build the network.


The real headline grabber is the speed of uploads – with even Virgin Media’s excellent 50Mbps service not offering anything like a synchronous upload speed that will offer uploads as fast as downloads.

Virgin Media is testing a 200Mbps service at the current time, although Shaun Fenson, an advisor to the Manchester Digital Agency, rather curiously told the BBC that neither this nor BT’s super-fast fibre optic offering constituted “true next generation services”.

“The hope is that networks such as this will successfully spread. BT will lay fibre in some places and communities in others,” said Fenson.

“The job then is to make sure that all the networks are interoperable.”

It’s not hard to see how a fibre-optic infrastructure is critical to the UK’s industry, so this kind of project can only help bring about the next generation of connectivity – especially with the news that Britain is only 26th in global average broadband speeds.


BT Threatens To Sue British Government Over Digital Britain Plans

The British government’s plans for providing fast broadband internet connection to each and every British household by 2012 have run into a major roadblock. Britain’s telecom giant, BT, has threatened to take legal action against the government if it goes ahead with its plans to liberalise the country’s mobile phone spectrum.

According to the plans under the “Digital Britain” scheme, the government plans to provide universal broadband access of at least 2mbps to every household by the time the London Olympics begin. However, in order to provide universal access, changes have to be made in the way UK’s five major mobile networks distribute the airwaves between themselves, so that they are able to offer mobile broadband services in rural areas where fixed line broadband is extremely slow. 

The universal access will also require the sale of new space on the spectrum that will available when the analogue-TV network is switched off in 2012. BT has sent a “letter before action” to the business secretary Lord Mandelson in which the company has asked the government not to use the soon-to-be-available spectrum for to serve this purpose and has threatened to take legal action if the government goes ahead with these plans. The company believes that the government is granting unreasonable subsidies to the mobile phone companies because if these plans go-ahead, they will have their 3G licenses extended indefinitely.

Read more: http://www.itproportal.com/portal/news/article/2009/12/29/bt-threatens-sue-british-government-over-digital-britain-plans/#ixzz0bAQuxYfY

Silent majority risk worse customer service as companies monitor Twitter, Facebook

Consumers who complain by letter or phone risk getting worse service as companies protect their image by concentrating on higher-profile online gripes, a watchdog warns.

Consumer Focus said a silent majority of ordinary customers who complaint by letter or by phone might be left behind as firms switch to monitoring internet postings to protect their corporate image. Recent research by information management firm Convergys found that a negative review or comment by a frustrated customer on the Twitter, Facebook or YouTube web sites can lose companies as many as 30 other customers.

Comments by popular bloggers or Twitterers such as Stephen Fry, who has more than one million followers, can have an even more damaging effect. In 2007, furious Patrick Askins became so angry with BT that he posted a YouTube video about his experiences that was viewed thousands of times, shaming the company into a response.

BT now has its own Twitter feed where it contacts users who ‘Tweet’ negative comments about its products and services, but other companies have been warned not to neglect “ordinary customers” who still have to raise complaints in person or through call centres. Christopher Rawlings, head of strategy at Consumer Focus, said greater use of social media to solve problems was to be welcomed but warned firms not to neglect consumers who “cannot access, or are simply not interested in using, the likes of Twitter or Facebook”.

He said: “There is a risk that too much attention is paid to customers those who have online influence and it is important that the traditional ways of getting problems resolved remain open. “We are conducting researching into ways consumers can benefit from social media. Equally, we recognise that there are those who do not have online access or do not want to share their personal information over the internet.”

The Convergys research, published last month, found one in three of those affected by bad customer service share their problems on the internet. It also found that each post on a social media site reaches, on average, 45 users and over 62 per cent of those who took part in the research said they would stop doing business with companies they had heard bad things about.

Among those who have taken the online route is musician Dave Carroll, whose song about how United Airlines broke his guitar notched up almost four million hits. The Consumer Focus warning came as a retail consultant predicted shoppers would be less tolerant of poor service this Christmas.

Derek Bishop, managing director of Abeo Consulting, said: “Customers simply don’t have the time, money or inclination to deal with poor levels of service this year. “It has been a difficult few months for many and the last thing they will want to deal with at Christmas is unnecessary stress on the High Street.”

He said firms that have “a good reputation and word of mouth advocacy from customers, particularly during the pre-Christmas rush” would be the most successful.