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Berkhamsted UK Businesses Complain BT FTTC Broadband is Ignoring Them

Friday, January 10th, 2014 (8:24 am) - Score 1,163
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Brash Solutions, an IT services company, has heavily criticised BT’s wholesale division (they probably also mean BTOpenreach) for rolling out superfast broadband (FTTC) services to residential parts of Berkhamsted in West Hertfordshire (England) while ignoring the “majority of the High Street and business offices“.

The company says that for many the perceived problem is “BT and its near monopoly of the wholesale market“, which gives them a great deal of power in some parts of the country. Brash then goes on to claim that “BT is prioritising residential customers rather than business and unfortunately it makes commercial sense for them to do so“.

Brash Solutions statement:

Residential customers in general have very low internet usage during the day and only really use the internet at evenings and weekends; businesses make huge demands for broadband bandwidth during the working day yet broadband prices are similar for residential and business customers.

The majority of the High Street and business offices in Berkhamsted do not have access to FTTC internet… similarly many business are convinced that during periods of bad weather their internet slows significantly (unfortunate when considering the UK climate). However, some of the residential roads further from the town centre have Fibre.”

A quick bit of checking shows that FTTC services are available to large parts of Berkhamsted but firms on Northbridge Road, where Brash Solutions is also based, can only access the older ADSL2+ services with download speeds of between 7.5Mbps to 17.5Mbps (well it could be worse).

Last year the CEO of TalkTalk, Dido Harding, similarly suggested that BT were ignoring business areas with their FTTC services in order to protect the “lucrative leased-line business“, which is a complaint that we’ve heard quite frequently over the past few years.

At the time BT’s Group Strategy Director, Sean Williams, countered by saying that the operator only “deploy fibre in areas where there’s most likely to be take-up: it’s as simple as that“. But this could of course be interpreted to say that since some businesses might already take a leased-line and thus probably don’t need FTTC (firms would probably rather have a choice).

In any case Brash Solutions has now started a small campaign in order to try and demonstrate business demand for FTTC services in the area (here). Meanwhile it should be remembered that BT are continuing to deploy FTTC/P services via both their commercial and BDUK supported projects, which means that the above situation remains open to change.

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29 Responses
  1. I would also question Brash’s claims about usage. Long gone are the days when business users were heavier than residential users (if it was ever the case with broadband to be honest). Also long gone is the case of residential users only really using the broadband during evenings and weekends – think people who work from home, house wives/husbands etc, kids off from school (holidays, sick etc), the unemployed, students studying at home, those now retired – and not to mention those who choose to set downloads going whilst they are out.

    1. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      Very true indeed. The peaks on LINX, etc, are in the evenings and are due to residential usage.

      If Openreach really cared about usage they’d welcome business users, would save bandwidth sitting idle during the day.

  2. Avatar Sledgehammer says:

    “The majority of the High Street and business offices in Berkhamsted do not have access to FTTC internet”

    Could this be because some if not all maybe on EO lines?

  3. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

    The statement is flawed.

    Openreach couldn’t care less about how or when bandwidth is used, that’s the ISPs problem.

    It’s far more likely that, due to the size of business premises relative to homes, the cabinet in question, if there is one, doesn’t pass enough premises to be considered and nothing more.

    They’re wasting their time with this anyway. Openreach complete their commercial rollout in May, and aren’t adding any more cabinets to their deployment.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Don’t forget BDUK.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Totally agree Ignition, Openreach just provide the cable, the “service” comes from another provider

    3. I take your point Ignition, though Openreach also provide EAD fibre circuits, so the (possible) case of BT/Openreach trying to not canibalise leased line revenues (admittedly made by Dido in the above article not Brash) is valid.

    4. Avatar FibreFred says:

      ^ Easy to assume but virtually impossible to prove tho

    5. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      Oh I entirely agree Openreach are trying to preserve EAD revenues, however much of the issues with business parks seems to be that they have their own PCP, or share one with very few other premises, hence a low premise count on the PCP.

      I can’t really imagine that there are going to be *that* many small offices and shops running on leased lines, or those that are will be running on very low bandwidth ones, 64k ISDN or whatever, for vital, low bandwidth services such as card transactions. For those FTTC isn’t a viable replacement.

      For myself the big way Openreach are preserving EAD revenue is with their heavily reduced FTTP rollout and their restricted FTTP product set. Had they released a product with 100Mb upstream that would have quite possibly harmed EAD revenues in a big way.

  4. Avatar DTMark says:

    When I was struggling with my broadband at home I looked at leasing an office in our local town. However this was a no go because all there was, was ADSL.

    When I looked in more detail 85% of the cabinets had been done. All the ones that were skipped were business areas. These were not exchange-only lines.

    Of the actual premises I was looking at, one does now have access to VDSL and the others do not. For my purposes Three upgraded to DC-HSPA and now we have 4G so the competition solved my problem first and I can get the speeds I need here, so I don’t need to go down that route any more.

    You could argue that since these business premises were very near to the exchange it made logical sense to upgrade the more outlying areas first. Although not every premise in the outlying areas can get the service anyway.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      An interesting point is whether this situation will remain for BDUK…

      Where counties have taken money from the ERDF to match BDUK funding, that EU money is (IIRC) supposed to be used for business rather than residential.

      I also recall that the various local governments within the Greater Manchester BDUK bid had prioritised certain areas – which were the town centres where businesses hadn’t been included in the commercial rollout.

  5. Avatar Nic Elliott says:

    Although, of course, it has never been confirmed by any part of BT to us, we have always told customers that BT/Openreach prioritise residential areas over commercial areas for the FTTC rollout.
    Our experience since the FTTC rollout began has been exactly in line with this and the above comments.
    Our own office was a victim of exactly the same bias, being on a business park, even if that business park was only metres away from residential areas already upgraded to FTTC. We had to bond 5 ADSL lines together to be able to operate there.
    In my view it is pure economics for BT. One cabinet in a residential area will give far more FTTC subscribers (and therefore money) than an upgraded PCP in a business park.
    The businesses may “need” it more, but they unfortunately just have to wait.
    With any big communications infrastructure rollout, it has to become self funding, so I do sympathise to a degree with any method that means that it can be paid off sooner (targeting a density of subscribers first).
    But this can’t always (ever?) be considered “fair” to those who have suffered with slow connectivity speeds for a long time.
    Add to that the already aforementioned tactic of wanting to protect precious revenues from expensive Fibre Ethernet circuits and you do end up with a consumer biased rollout for certain.
    In these situations, for businesses needing the extra speed now its either stick with an ADSL line, an expensive Ethernet (or EFM) line, some kind or wireless (3G or 4G) or satellite connection, or bonded ADSL.

    1. Avatar JNeuhoff says:

      I agree. BT is doing a very poor job for business customers. In our town of 10 000 there is no proper telecom services available at all, just very old slow copper wires, with 50% EO lines. BT has been refusing for years to answer our enquires about fibre lines or leased lines. There are whole business parks as well as a High Street without any kind of fibre broadband in our town, not even the BDUK is getting its act together here because of an incompetent district council. All our web servers are loacted abroad. We are actively trying to relocate our small office elsewhere.

      BTW.: VDSL is not a very suitable solution for businesses anyway, any kind of slow asymmetric DSL service over old copper wires is not a longterm solution. Hence, giving BT more money via BDUK is a serious waste of taxpayers money. Only BT trolls (there are some on this forum here!) would endorse these yesterday’s copper VDSL technologies as progress.

      Also, using bonded DSL lines is not an option, we’d need 8 to 10 copper lines for this to get a half decent internet connection, there are simply not that many spare local loops.

      I strongly urge users who are in a similar situation to get in touch with alternative telecom providers, just get 10 or 20 business users, and I am sure some altnets might consider deploying a proper telecom service, albeit at a cost.

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      @JNeuhoff

      I could have sworn Superfast Essex were planning to include your town in their 2014 plans.

      Anyway, it seems that there haven’t been many responses from either residents or businesses in your town. The online maps, showing survey responses, seem to firmly put your part of Essex in the least-responsive categories (just like most of the parishes in the county). Take a look at http://www.superfastessex.org/Maps.aspx

      Perhaps it turns out that most businesses don’t care about it as much as we do on here.

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Leased lines will be available, are you asking the right question?

    4. Avatar GNewton says:

      It’s amazing to see how some people like TheFacts always claim to know better, as if they where working for BT, trying to sell leased lines, which are not everywhere an option. If TheFacts doesn’t work for BT then I think he should accept what BT says about the availability of certain telecom products. Also, the stupidy of bringing up this same nonsense about leased line being an option for a small business anywhere in the UK shows a lack commercial sense. I know of small businesses who simply moved offices to the nearest town where suitable telecom services are available for their needs at a fraction of leased line costs. And yes, even BT can offer VDSL or ADSL based business lines in many towns, too. And these are often good enough for many businesses. Though I have to admit business parks and High Streets are often the last place to open up a new business premise these days, I have seen this nonsense in many places in Suffolk and Essex.

    5. Avatar FibreFred says:

      So the options are there “leased line” which many businesses around the UK use, its just that these small businesses don’t want to pay those rates.

      That’s a big difference, its a different between connectivity being available vs affordable for these particular customers.

    6. Avatar FibreFred says:

      And GNewton, where you have examples of this:-

      “I know of small businesses who simply moved offices to the nearest town where suitable telecom services are available for their needs at a fraction of leased line costs”

      Can you let us know what service they took up when they moved and from whom just so we can understand what it is these businesses are after?

    7. Avatar TheFacts says:

      It must be cost for JNeuhoff. I have seen VM laying duct into a supermarket in non VM residential area.

    8. Avatar GNewton says:

      As usual TheFacts is speculating here. I have seen cases where BT refuses has refused to offer leased lines to customers.

      My suggestion for TheFacts: Write to the government and ask them to stop wasting taxpayer’s money in BDUK programs, because unlike BT he knows better how to offer leased lines to everyone in the UK. 100% coverage, problem solved 🙂

    9. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Refused to offer leased lines!? 🙂 on what grounds?????

  6. Avatar John says:

    A fined spot for openreach van parked at yellow line parking is illegal

    1. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      Hi Phil / ADSLMax / whomever.

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      LOL.

      I was going to comment that there are plenty of legal reasons for stopping on a double yellow line, but your response is much better 😉

  7. Avatar tonyp says:

    I’m a bit puzzled. Certainly there are the green cabinets proclaiming Openreach Fibre broadband in downtown Berko. I guess it is the outlying business parks that have not yet been equipped. Similarly, neighbouring Tring ‘exchange’ is also FTTC equipped but there are no plans (so far as I know) to provide FTTC to my location until 2015 at least. Just 2.9 miles from central Berko too! Virgin also have deployed their cable to premises in Central Berko and I know that a Fibre trunk following the A4251 was laid past my door (traps are labelled NYNEX) but again no plans for distribution in my neighbourhood. I can understand TTB’s frustration.

  8. Avatar fastman says:

    neuhoff – your exchange is small popuation 10000 cira 3000 Premises so that is a small exchange (Market 1 or Poss Market 2) and not commercially viable — hope you are on the case of superfasr essex to see if or when you your exchange will be upgraded

    1. Avatar CrazyLazy says:

      Tripe, smaller exchanges than that are enabled and have been for some time…
      http://www.samknows.com/broadband/exchange/EAACL
      http://www.samknows.com/broadband/exchange/NECOT

      As just two examples, there are actually enabled exchanges with less than 1000 premises.

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      Of course, we’re all aware that the criteria is really whether the cabinet is viable, and not whole exchanges, but it is generally true that the smaller market 1 exchanges are left out of the commercial programme en-mass.

      I dont know about Acle, but Croft exchange, in Hurworth-on-Tees, is right in the middle of a large NGA-white area.

      In fact, Croft is down to be considered within the Digital Durham BDUK project in 2015, but is marked as having had some commercial work done already. Judging by the intervention-area maps for Durham, I’d say that the work has been done in a suburb of Darlington that the Croft exchange serves, and only went live 6 months ago. That likely means that the fibres go back to Darlington directly, and that Croft (when it gets done properly) will be a child to Darlington.

      http://democracy.durham.gov.uk/documents/s32991/Digital%20Durham%20Programme%20Cabinet%20v5%202FINAL.pdf

      if anything, it highlights & reinforces fastman’s point that small exchanges are very variable, and sit on the edge of needing BDUK funding.

      In JNeuhoff’s case, his exchange does appear to be included in the Essex BDUK plan, but the large-scale map doesn’t make it easy to see down at postcode, street or house level. A high percentage of EO lines adds to the problem there, making it less viable than the average exchange.

  9. It is all down to commercial viability. It does not make it right nor should the UK Government be comfortable with this. These are not hard to reach premises, they are easy to leave. Most importantly outside any funding assistance as the EU says No.

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