True, but could be truer
"The company said that the complaints were nothing new "
The didn't need the definite article in that sentence.
Blighty's broadband providers are once again at Ofcom to do something about the alleged monopoly they believe former national telco BT maintains in the business broadband sector. Sky, TalkTalk, EE, Virgin Media and Vodafone are all part of the UK Competitive Telecommunications Association (UKCTA), which is pressuring Ofcom to …
I was recently "upgraded" to Superfast as BT had enabled the local cabinet serving our village. Speeds are lower than before the upgrade.
According to the Ofcom web site I have to complain to my ISP, but they have no control over the infrastructure as it's all provided by Openreach. Why should I have to open a formal complaint with my ISP when they have done everything within their power to resolve the issue and the fault is completely beyond their control?
Looks like the regulator wants to hit the ISPs rather than confront the cause of the problem.
I have to complain to my ISP, but they have no control over the infrastructure as it's all provided by Openreach.
It isn't so much "provided" by Openreach, as they buy it from Openreach. If they don't get what they need then they certainly do have control, and can start legal proceedings against Openreach if they want.
Why should I have to open a formal complaint with my ISP
Because your contract is with your ISP. Bang on them until they fix it or "downgrade" you back to where you were before.
Sure my contract is with my ISP, and they have offered to put me back onto ADSL.
However, I want (and they want to provide) what the Openreach system said was available in the area for them to sell to me. Same for a load of others in the village who are going through the same bother with other ISPs (including BT).
If you were given an estimate of speed when you bought it and your speed is a lot slower then either there is a problem with the line causing the slow speed or the line is working correctly but the estimate was optimistic. So before going back to ADSL I'd suggest trying to work out which it is.
Ah, yes. Happened to someone I know that, courtesy of BT themselves.
Their "engineer" had left the new openretch modem in its box and plugged the new router directly into the same extension socket where the old one was. 6Mbps and as unreliable as fuck, how quaint.
It was left to me to sort out the rat's nest of unmarked cabling accumulated since the 1950s at the main incomer, replace the good, old fashioned, GPO termination with a 2nd generation NTE, punch the extension wiring onto that, plug in the new modem and attach the router to it. I guess this slightly important part of the process was on the "too hard" pile for their useless on site types.
Getting a nice 30 there now.
Anon, 'cos we're not supposed to do this sort of thing, but instead pay BT to do what they should have done in the first bloody place as part of the installation.
The problem is that a lot of the FTTC installation work is being subbed out to Openreach subcontractors (basically Kelly communications and M J Quinn). These contractors aren't on salary/hourly rates like proper openreach chaps, but are rather paid per connection/per job. Therefore if they can "sort of" get it working quickly they can do more jobs in a day and make more money.
The problem with this is that you end up with rushed jobs (can't find the address within 5mins? Cancel the job) Or customers being presuaded/misinformed to make a job easier (I'm sorry, I can only put the new master socket in the hall where the line comes in, you'll have to run your own extension to where you actually want it).
I've had my run-ins and issues with openreach guys in the past (no IT pro hasn't), but they're still a country mile better than the subbies.
"These contractors aren't on salary/hourly rates like proper openreach chaps, but are rather paid per connection/per job."
"I've had my run-ins and issues with openreach guys in the past (no IT pro hasn't), but they're still a country mile better than the subbies."
The issue here is that BT's guys are given enough time to do a proper job but the subcontractors aren't, so you can't really complain (other than to BT who are in control of this) that some contractors want to save time on the installation.
My Infinity 2 connection was installed by a subcontractor from Quinn, and he was happy enough to reroute the Master Socket from its original position in my hall (no use to me there) up to my office via the existing extension wiring.
Had a similar one, but my engineer was quite good. There had been some dodgy rewiring by either a previous engineer or the previous home owner, either way it wasn't going to work. He agreed to rip out the old crap, knackering the multiple extensions upstairs, but leaving me with a decent master box downstairs.
So in my case BT were pretty good.
When I refer to "Openreach" I mean the company, not the engineers.
The engineers who have been sent out to "fix" my connection have all been great and have done as much as they can to help. The problem is they know it'll never work and shouldn't be sold in the area, but did anyone ask them for their local knowledge of the infrastructure during planning or before it was "enabled'?
I feel for these guys because they're the ones that get to tell the customer they are on a road to nowhere.
"Anon, 'cos we're not supposed to do this sort of thing, but instead pay BT to do what they should have done in the first bloody place as part of the installation."
To be honest, most phone engineers are grateful for someone to tidy up the clag that accumulated over the years.
I took it back to where the O/H feed comes in and moved that box to somewhere more easy to get at for all. Never had any issues with engineers - I were one, once, so they get a cuppa as well as not having to work in crap conditions.
".....so they get a cuppa....." I find offering a cuppa and biccies and not approaching the techie/engineer with the attitude "you're just some cretin with a screwdriver sent to screw me over" does wonders, whether it be IT installers or washing-machine repairmen.
> I find offering a cuppa and biccies and not approaching the techie/engineer with the attitude "you're just some cretin with a screwdriver sent to screw me over"
After 14 failed visits from Openreach to install my VDSL(*) I'd just like to know who I can send the bill to, given my ISP refused to cough up and pointed to clauses in their contract saying they can charge but the enduser can't(**)
(*)1-12 failed to show up, 13 showed up to "fix your broadband" and sulked in his van in for 2 hours when told he was there to install VDSL, which apparently he wasn't trained to do
(**) At that point I changed away from TalkTalk (who insisted on 11-14 day delays between each "attempted" visit)
(***) #14? He didn't show either, but the new ISP (http://thephone.coop) was onto Openreach as soon as the appointment time was breached and had an installer out 4 hours later - an old school BT-trained subbie who took pride in the job and made it work in less than 45 minutes with as little faffing about as possible(****)
(****) As I only have one phone socket, there's not a lot they _can_ faff about with.
Should it really take more than 6 months for Openreach to complete a simple VDSL installation?
Or 7 years to actually admit a 6 pair cable is faulty and another 8 months to actually get around to replacing it?
(+) On at least 3 occasions the installers parked outside, didn't get out of the van and drove off 10-15 minutes later, never to be seen again. The failure to show was usually recorded as "Customer didn't answer the door" - which I countered each time with an offer to supply CCTV footage showing the cablemonkey had lied.
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It's standard BTOR practice when there are bad cables (usually water-ingress, which is common because OR haven't invested properly in infrastructure for years) to swap pairs around until the fault is "fixed" for the complainant.
Yes, swap pairs around, not swap to an unoccupied one - which means you might have a good circuit today but at some point down the track you could be on a bad one.
TT can't be much worse than that, nor can they be much more cackhanded than the ex-army squaddies with 3-4 days training under their belts that get passed off as "engineers"
"Talktalk etc. allready have access to exchanges for their LLU equipment."
They have access to a separate room for all the non-BT kit, to a locked cage with their kit in, they don't get free run of the places. They're not allowed into the rooms with BT's kit in. Even non-Openreach BT staff aren't allowed in rooms with Openreach kit in.
The housing estate I live on is a little over 30 years old now and has under-pavement ducts from when it was originally built. However some deal was done at that point that gave BT 10 years exclusive use over them so when VM's precursor was installing cable around the neighbourhood they saw the covenant was about to expire and understandably said "No, we won't dig up your pavements, we'll be back in a couple of years to cable you up."
Of course, they never did and VM have absolutely zero interest in installing now: it seems they are far more interested in milking their existing network than extending it even given existing undertakings to do so. The result is that our street and the one next to it are the only ones within half a mile that can't get cable. Even going out to a one or two mile radius to the best of my knowledge it's only us and a couple of minor country roads with next to no housing on them.
Are they actually a monopoly? Is there anything to stop TalkTalk from digging their own holes and laying their own fibres? I seem to remember Birmingham Cable had a whole (fibre?) network of ducts etc for instance. Or is that the expensive and inconvenient bit nobody wants to do and is hoping to get for free?
There's nothing stopping anyone else installing a network (look at all the "self help" village fibre schemes popping up). As you say the problem is paying back the investment it takes to build the network out in the first place (see how long it took the cable companies to start turning a profit)
"BT Openreach is a monopoly"
Virgin's network reaches half of UK homes. The mobile networks reach even more. It's only a monopoly in the same sense that Ford have a monopoly on selling Fiestas.
"should be a non-profit making company"
Non-profit making companies can't get loans from banks to build new infrastructure. They also don't have much incentive to keep their costs under control.
as far as it goes.
But it shouldn't be that they are ALLOWED to access the openreach ducting - they should be REQUIRED to access the BT ducting on demand. i.e. they MUST provide 100% UK-wide coverage. If anyone asks for an e.g. Virgin provided cable in Auchtermuchty (though $deity knows why anyone would) then they MUST provide it at no more than the price charged by BT.
Fair's fair, we don't want them cherry-picking the cheap and easy places like the postal companies. If they want to break up a monopoly they must provide at least the same service at the same price.
The group claims that business needs have taken a backseat to good consumer broadband and that will continue “as long as BT has control of the basic infrastructure”.
Currently this reads like the UKCTA are publicly complaining that BT providing a good service to the end user is bad for business.
Did the group actually say that or has the author of the article gotten things a little mixed up? If the latter, someone might want to correct that sentence quickly as it seems a tad libellous...
What's the point of having duplicate infrastructure? The last place I lived had the ridiculous sight of two sets of slit trenches and manholes in the pavement (sidewalk to the merkins) where both BT and Telewest/NTL put their cables in the ground. It doesn't make sense for either the consumer or the businesses concerned (except maybe the guys digging the holes). Openretch should be treated the same way National Grid is. Then all the (phone/net/cableTV) service providers would pay equally and have the same access. A competitive market is all well and good but most of the BT's infrastructure was built out at taxpayers expense and BT are (naturally) hanging on to that advantage for all their worth which means its not a level playing field.
I don't know what the numbers are but it wouldn't surprise me if all the money wasted on duplicate infrastructure would have easily have paid for fibre to every house in the country by now.
>What's the point of having duplicate infrastructure?
What is interesting is that I've not seen any third-parties getting into the new build business. Currently only BT (along with the other utility companies) provide developers with incentive to lay ducting: okay the developer has to do the legwork, but they do get re-imbursed. Can't see that it would be particularly difficult for a third-party to specify the provision of a second set of 'open access' ducting - in fact thinking of it I wonder why BT haven't started doing this themselves...
"Can't see that it would be particularly difficult for a third-party to specify the provision of a second set of 'open access' ducting"
They'd need a field force of some kind to then install cables in that ducting and repair it, fit kit in customers' houses, all that stuff. I guess it's a chicken and egg problem - they have no field staff today because they use Openreach staff - the first time they install their own kit they'll need their staff.
I can't, not fully, but BT when it was sold off by Maggie did have some tough can't compete stuff, the no broadcast etc, also the predecessor of VM could lay cables anywhere it wanted with little oversight(zero) and they went tits up.
Sky, Talk Talk, EE, Fuck Them
Vodafone, now at least they gave BT a run for their money and have done well since.
Not a big fan of BT, but not so happy with the other devils either :-)
There's quite a successful pub that I frequent - I've decided I want a bit of that action, but rather than build my own pub with all the attendant hassles I'll just go along to the existing one and demand access to one set of taps to run my business from.
Works for me!
I remember back in the 80s when an outfit called, I think, Videotron were laying cable out in South-East London like it was going out of fashion, partly because they'd sewn up a deal with local councils to grant access to council-owned land to lay the aforementioned cable.
As part of the deal, all council tenants were offered cheap access to this facility and so one day, we had a visit from the Videotron sales rep. In breathless tones, we were assured that this new service was carried entirely on fibre-optic cable right up to the TV set. Ever the salesmen, the paid monkey in a suit even handed me an example foot-long length of this wondrous "fibre-optic cable" as an example of what would soon be carrying a plethora of TV channels and other services into the comfort of my own home.
A cursory examination of said cable revealed it to be nothing more than yer bog-standard 75 ohm copper coax. When called out on this aspect, the little salesman ensured me that I was mistaken and that, in fact, it was proper fibre-optic. I then went out to my bits-and-pieces cupboard, pulled out a 50m cable drum of 75 ohm copper coax I had knocking around (as you do), plonked it in front of him and said (in the most sarcastic tone I could muster), "Oh, really!..."
I lost count of the various shades of red his face ran through over the next 20 seconds...
"Ever the salesmen, the paid monkey in a suit even handed me an example foot-long length of this wondrous "fibre-optic cable" as an example of what would soon be carrying a plethora of TV channels and other services into the comfort of my own home."
I had an electricity guy knock at my house a couple of years ago who claimed that his company had been round replacing all the external wiring to allow it to be used for renewable energy. He turned up in a van with a clipboard and demanded to see our meter before starting his pitch. It was quite bizarre and could be summarised as "lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, sign here". Alas he didn't win our business.
I'd rather deal with open reach than the cheapie cowboy subbies the isp's will end up using to clutter up the ducts. Think things are bad now, they'll get much much worse if there is a free for all and everyone will blame everyone else. At least now everyone blames openreach and they eventually sort it out as they have to, talk talk couldn't care less if they disturb a sky connection whilst the subbies will get double bubble for any mistakes they make, won't take them long to cotton on to that.
"I'd rather deal with open reach than the cheapie cowboy subbies the isp's will end up using to clutter up the ducts."
You (and several others) miss the point. Perhaps this is deliberate and you're schilling for BT.
If Openreach is divested, the ducts will still belong to Openreach and be cabled by Openreach, even if the cables inside the ducts may belong to 3rd parties - and those cables still have to meet applicable technical standards.
The difference is that BT won't own Openreach and therefore BT Head Office won't be calling the shots about who Openreach can (or can't) talk to, how difficult it's made to talk to them or how many hoops 3rd parties need to jump through in order to interoperate with Openreach.
It's rather telling that Openreach and BT wholesale have one set of prices in areas where there's competition and another set (which is a LOT more expensive) where they're the only game in town and such pricing often makes their _retail_ pricing cheaper than what the wholesale charge to 3rd parties is in those areas.
If that's not leveraging a monopoly (and illegal margin squeeze) I don't know what is.
Anyone who has read the specifications for the test standards to be met for the installation of underground conduits issued by BT must be impressed, as if they were installing high technology involved in, say, rocket launching facilities.
It's time the UK network providers took a gander at what is happening on other countries.
Railways are very popular partners as they have the rights of way through all manner of landscapes - and are a kiss to use for installation of fibre optics.
Abandoned pipe systems are also popular - it's amazing how much infrastructure lies abandoned underground, just rusting away.
Sewers are used in Paris - they even have mini-crawlers that haul cable into conduits too small for even a midget to crawl in to - and everyone has a sewer connection.
In Toronto, a Western common carrier checked out Bell Canada's pole/conduit lease rates and decided it was cheaper to plow in (a tracked vehicle with a 'hoe' on the back cutting the ground and laying cable) very well armoured cable straight into the dirt under the roads in fully developed areas - not virgin ground.
Of course, nothing beats a pro-active regulator as Canada (now) has whose enabling legislation gives them control over all property owned by telco's and cellco's and permit's them to stipulate/dictate the terms under which one company can lease facilities from a competing incumbent.
Today's cable together with current cable laying techniques can bypass the artificial bottlenecks thrown up by BT.
Better still, the UK government could establish a stand-alone fibre grid, such as used in electricity distribution, with the ISP's simply accessing it for onward sale.
The rights of way of gas lines and fuel oil lines are another public asset to be exploited. Remember the tank farm fire in HEMEL HEMPSTEAD a few years ago? It was a feeder to Heathrow Airport. Hard to imagine a quicker, more direct, route than one used by a pipeline.
All of those approaches are used by BT and its rivals when convenient. I remember some years ago when C&W (I think) bought up the long-defunct London Hydraulic Company because some bright spark discovered that they had pipes running into all sorts of buildings from the days when office lifts were run by distributed hydraulic power.
After the BT breakup the new rival Mercury communications was planning to use railway wayleaves.
And as for new technology, does anyone else remember the Blue Peter programme when Lesley Judd was valiantly trying to handle the new BT "mole" which could tunnel new ducts under roads without the need to dig up the surface, but which unfortunately looked to hundreds of sniggering schoolboys (and I suspect to Ms Judd herself, going by her expression) like a giant vibrating dildo?
"Railways are very popular partners as they have the rights of way through all manner of landscapes - and are a kiss to use for installation of fibre optics.
Abandoned pipe systems are also popular - it's amazing how much infrastructure lies abandoned underground, just rusting away."
But many of these already have been used. Mercury and C&W ran networks alongside railway lines. Many telcos run fibres between sites in London using the underground. A company called 186K, set up by Transco (I think) runs a national fibre network using out of service trunk gas pipes.
There are many national networks in place. Some reach further than others, but they're there. I can get from city to city using Colt, Verizon, 186K, C&W, KCom - there's lots of infrastructure competition in national networks and it's not a problem that needs solving.
They don't solve the major problem though, which is the cost of building last mile access. Generally, people who build them go bust. It's a much safer bet for any new telco to lease something from BT than it is to risk capital in a build.
Consider a modern urban environment - under the surface is phone, electricity, water, Virgin, gas, sewers. If I use a mole, I'll damage something and my insurance costs will rise enough to put me out of business. If I dig I need weeks of negotiation with the council around roadworks before I can start and since the cable companies visited in the 90's the spec on how roads and pavements need to be reinstated is far more detailed. I need to either employ people directly to dig, knowing I won't need them after the job, or I need to find a contractor in the rare sweet spot of being both affordable, available and not maniacs.
Once I've spent all that money and installed all that cable I can start selling stuff. In the meantime however, I've been paying interest on the loan I took out to do this - any delay in completing the work might mean I go bust before I've got a single customer with my bank running out of patience.
I need to sell a lot of stuff to a lot of people though - if I'm aiming at the consumer end of the market I can maybe squeeze £50 a month out of my customers. After I've paid staff costs and backhaul costs and data-centre charges and all the rest of it, I might have £10 left over, and I've got to start paying back my giant bank loan out of that. Assuming my build went well and didn't run over or cost far more than expected, it's going to take a bit of time for those £10 a months to pay back the £2,000 per customer the network cost to install. If I don't sell enough stuff to enough people, or if prices drop, I'm finished.
Most investors hear this story and decide they'll take their money elsewhere and put it into something less risky with a better return - and that's the problem that needs fixing for there to be more competition at an infrastructure level. It's not a technical or regulatory problem - it's a "how the hell do I make any money?" problem.
Prices are unlikely to go up any time soon, so the only movable item is cost. I can't dig cheaper without the council fining me for leaving a street a rubble-strewn, sewage laden bombsite, so I need to not dig - either by leasing from someone else who has already built out or using something that doesn't require a dig - radio perhaps.
"In my humble opinion the reason that Openreach don't fibre up those areas is simply that they'll start losing revenue from their leased line sales"
No shit, Sherlock, except it works like this:
BTOR don't sell leased lines, they sell copper pairs that BTW stick NTUs on .
BTW will lose revenue from leased line sales if there's fibre or VDSL in the area and pass concerns about this on to BT head Office.
BT Head Office order BTOR not to lay out fibre or VDSL services in the area and to cite economics as the driver.
So, without any direct communication between BTW and BTOR, you have anticompetitive collusion.
A fully divested infrastructure company would be largely immune to this kind of gerrymandering.
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