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UPDATE2 Origin Broadband – Anger Over Notice of Digital Region Closure

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 (9:37 am) - Score 6,297

South Yorkshire ISP Origin Broadband appears to be taking some flak from disgruntled customers over their handling of the imminent Digital Region (DRL) network closure and a 30 day notification email, which was first sent to subscribers in the middle of July 2014.

The Digital Region network is due to close at the end of this week after falling under the weight of its massive public debt and failing to attract enough customers to their alternative superfast broadband (VDSL) platform (here and here). Most of the ISPs on DRL’s network have had months to prepare and inform customers of their future plans, although not all have been as effective at communicating the situation.

Origin Broadband left it until the very last moment to send out the required 30 day notification message, which then appears to have missed off some vital information. Take note that customers unable to receive the stated “fibre broadband” (FTTC) service below were instead told to expect just “broadband” (ADSL).

Origin Broadband DRL Closure Notification

To, *************

As you may be aware, the company who operates the network over which your fibre broadband service is based (Digital Region) are scheduled to close its network on the 14th of August 2014.

We need to make it clear that in spite of the closure, we can continue to provide your fibre broadband!

We’ve taken this crisis as an opportunity to build our new network across South Yorkshire and as a result, we’ve taken a step up and are now a full network operator in addition to being a great local ISP. If you haven’t had a call to explain what happens next, we will get to you soon. If you have any questions in the meantime, you can feel free to respond to this e-mail or give us a call on 0800 206 23 33.

This closure has been a very challenging situation, but we’re working flat out to ensure there is no disruption to your service with us.

Thank you for your patience while we deal with this – and thank you for being a customer with us. We couldn’t have grown to this point without you!

Kind Regards,

Pete

The message itself failed to detail precisely what would happen in August, not least in terms of the contract and any additional fees that might be applicable. Crucially some customers report that they have since been asked to take out a lengthy new contract and pay an additional setup fee (DRLForum), while others claim that they have been unable to receive a call-back from the ISP and still don’t know what to expect.

Furthermore the email boldly states that Origin has built its own network across South Yorkshire, although a few customers report being migrated to an unbundled (LLU) TalkTalk Wholesale line. In fairness, we can easily understand how a small ISP may not wish to frighten customers away, but leaving such things until the last minute does carry some risk.

At the same time some negative criticism of Origin’s handling of the situation posted to their Facebook page, which seems to be the only source of updates despite the fact that not everybody uses it, doesn’t appear to last long before a swift application of the delete button is employed (of course they certainly wouldn’t be the only ISP to do that).

For example, yesterday origin posted a notice on Twitter: “UPDATE: Our team are still working hard to get everyone across to Origin’s new network – which is now live… http://fb.me/6VoyHega0“. Unfortunately any customers trying to follow that link will find the relevant post has been deleted, after disgruntled people allegedly expressed unhappiness about Origin’s ability to keep them informed.

Ofcom has told ISPreview.co.uk that they’re currently looking into the Origin Broadband issue and we’ve also dispatched a message to Origin in the hope of gaining a response. In related developments, GEO Networks (Zayo Group) recently snapped up DRLs remaining assets (here) and progress is being made on an alternative Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and BT based project for South Yorkshire (here), although the new funding won’t benefit Sheffield city centre.

UPDATE 11:54am

The following statement has been sent to us by Origin’s marketing department.

Origin Broadband Statement

As I’m sure you can understand, the collapse of Digital Region has been a very difficult event for Origin – as we were the company that gained the most customers on the network and so had thie biggest challenge in migrating them. The next largest holding of Digital Region customers was a fraction of Orgin’s. If any customer feels that we have not met the terms of our contract, then we would welcome a discussion with them to address their concerns – and ask that they please call us.

I can confirm that Origin was advised by a major telecommunications company that a special project could be put in place to facilitate seamless migration to our new network (because no SLU-GEA migration path had been created by BTOR). When the time came for this deal to be implemented, we were then advised that the costs could potentially be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds – which rendered this a completely impractical solution given that we have invested so heavily in our new network in preparation for this project.

We therefore had to find a new solution at the last minute. This has resulted in our struggling to contact every customer in time and will also result in downtime for some users. We have recruited as quickly as possible in the last year to enable us to deal effectively with as many people as we can as quickly as possible. This recruitment drive is scheduled to continue as we deal with the aftermath of the closure and drive new revenue moving forward.

Unfortunately, Origin has to incur establishment costs for every customer that is migrated to our new nework. I understand from speaking to our team that the only instance where our advisors have been charging setup fees is when the customer insists on being able to leave us at any time. When this is unacceptable, the customer has been free to take a DSL service elsewhere.

On to the new network – Origin has made a huge investment to offer services directly from 44 exchanges across South Yorkshire. All Origin exchanges will offer ADSL2+ at a competitive rate that allows us to compete directly with companies such as BT, Talktalk etc. and offer fibre where we have the headend required to provide services directly. All of Origin’s best offers will be provided directly from our network.

When we cannot offer services directly for any reason, we may utilise a partner company to reach as many potential customers as possible. I must stress that the customer service will never be dealt with by a third party, and we always secure the best possible connection at all times for our customer who cannot be reached by our network.

UPDATE 16th August 2014

As feared a sizeable number of customers have found their service being cut-off when DRL’s network was shut-down on 15th. In some cases this was by the customer’s choice, but the comments from some of those affected paints a worrying picture concerning the apparent lack of information and warning.

DRLs ISPs have had months and months to prepare their customers for the big switch-off, which most like ASK4 have done to good effect, and so there’s precious little in the way of excuses left that can be used to defend Origin’s failings in this department.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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