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UPDATE2 Origin Broadband – Anger Over Notice of Digital Region Closure

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 (9:37 am) - Score 6,273

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.

Leave a Comment
25 Responses
  1. Avatar M says:

    I recently moved off Origin Broadband due to the Digital Region closure, and I have consistently have had to hound them for updates and action, usually quoting laws, rights, contract clauses and have often CC’d e-mails to M.D. Oliver Bryssau as the cut-off date looms.

    The annoying thing that happened trying to stop my service with them is they asked for the VDSL2 modem back that DRL supplied me, even though it clearly states on the box “Property of Digital Region…” and not Origin Broadband. They even asked me to pay for the postage myself, but then submitted to offering five pounds credit for the postage. This is clearly not enough to cover the cost of sending it back to them fully insured, even though they were close enough to me to physically collect it themselves. After hounding them further, they ended up submitting to the actual cost of sending it to them which was around ten pounds, but as of today, after a month, I have still not received any final invoice, credit or notification that my account is closed despite me asking for this documentation.

    Origin Broadband was a great provider initially, but they have imploded due to mismanagement of the DRL shut-down. They should have mass-contacted all their customers to say their account was automatically being terminated/ceased if they did not contact them about other options instead of trying to keep them and force them onto OpenReach’s pitiful 24/1 ADSL product for quite an expensive price and a new very long eighteen months contract. They also bang on about their ‘new network’ but it is just a resold ‘TalkTalk’ package which just denounces all that was special about the provider.

    Digital Region was absolutely brilliant and far superior to OpenReach and Cable alternatives. It was virtually a 1:1 contended service (as hardly anyone used it) with the highest upload no other infrastructure could beat with a maximum of 100mbit downstream and 36mbit upstream. With interleave turned off, the latency to a typical website was as low as 4ms too which was out of this world. The upstream of which was the highest any residential customer can reasonably afford in the whole coutry and constantly measured as ‘faster than 99% of GB’ on Ookla SpeedTest.

    It is a great shame it has been destroyed by this Conservative administration by withholding the funds required to help keep it running. Now yet another public funded service falls into the private hands, namely GEO Networks, who will only supply connectivity to businesses and not residential customers. I hope everyone who used the network and all workforces of service providers that used the DRL infrastructure remember this for next year.

    RIP _our_ Digital Region.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I wouldn’t say it was destroyed by the current coalition administration, Digital Region was a good idea in principal but one that was poorly thought out by the local authorities involved and their partners. Arguably it was destroyed before the first spade had even broken soil.

      Politicians rarely understand telecoms and the assumption of “build it and they will come” doesn’t work unless you have strong community engagement to begin with. On top of that DRL hardly advertised its existence and failed to agree the involvement of major ISPs before commencing construction.

      You can have the best network in the world but if it only has 3k customers and needs 100k to breakeven then all it’s doing is sucking your council money into a black hole. Nobody in their right mind would keep throwing money at a top class racing horse if it had no legs to run on.

    2. Avatar Karl says:

      Agreed, let’s keep national politicians out of this, it was doomed before it started:

      – Poor network design, when a room full of very experienced network operators tell you it’s flawed, you listen.

      – No API. Broadband is a low margin game, pushing excel files around to process orders, modify etc. does not fit in with that.

      – Publicity, or lack of it. Yes ISPs should have done more, but they were saddled with high interconnect costs in obscure locations. DR should have waived them for the first 12 months to allow people the money to promote the services and gain customers.

      – Many other failings as well, which I’ve detailed before in my open letter to them.

    3. Avatar BBCRobinson says:

      Hi M,

      I’m messaging from BBC Radio Sheffield. We’re doing some coverage of the shutdown and were looking for customers to share their experience with us. email Joe.Robinson01@bbc.co.uk if you’re interested

    4. Avatar Alex Atkin UK says:

      @Karl

      Can you go into more details as to what exactly was wrong with the Digital Region network design?

      It certainly seemed to work fine as it was, but of course it never got close to full capacity so any flaws would not have shown up.

  2. Avatar Barry Smith says:

    I have been with Origin 12 months, initially really impressed, but their handling of the DR shutdown has been truly awful. I have no idea what is happening with my connection, agreed to stay with Origin (even though having to go back to ADSL) as they told me there would be no downtime. Now it seems there will be downtime although they cant’t tell me how much or even go give me an update regarding the migration. Oh and they NEVER call back when they say. Truly awful service, I’m not want to have a go at a company but these guys really do deserve it now they way they have acted with their customers.

  3. Avatar Owl. says:

    I left Origin after 2 years as their support has gone into free fall.The promise of callbacks never materialise,they see Facebook as the means to update users of any faults.Its all become very poor after such a promising start.
    Regarding Facebook,any criticism of the company by users and their posts are swiftly removed.
    Its a shame because initially they were a good local isp.

  4. Avatar William Squires says:

    Origin,
    Congratulations on another poorly worded skirt around the actual point which is that you have massively let down your customers.

    I’m just so glad that I managed to cancel my order before I might have been locked in to any of these shenanigans.

  5. Avatar ME says:

    from their facebook page

    “Mission
    To give everybody access to a top-notch Yorkshire service WHEREVER they are. We’ll consider the job done when we’ve got a superfast connection running to the North Pole!! :-)”

    from they website

    “Spring 2011:

    Henri Wust and Oliver Bryssau came home from university to find that their broadband service wasn’t very good! Slow speeds and poor customer service made enjoying the online world very difficult.

    Tired of disconnecting for the 10th time in WoW. Oliver and Henri Held decided it was time to bring good quality and affordable broadband to the people of Yorkshire!!

    Now, even if you don’t know WoW, don’t worry… all you really need to know is that our company was founded on a belief that whatever you need to do online, you should always have the option of doing it through a good Yorkshire provider; one that isn’t owned by BT (and never will be).”

    “Summer 2011:

    Origin became a wholesaler to other ISPs. Origin’s ‘reseller’ partners were now recruiting their own customers to us and this helped our growth immensely. We spent the rest of 2011 focused firmly on growth… and a very good 2011 it was too!”

    Spring 2014:

    After a lot of planning and some major graft, we’re ready to go live providing services direct from exchanges. Not a middle man in sight. This will be the key to our expanding beyond Yorkshire and showing the whole country that Yorkshire broadband is better when it’s delivered from a passionate, determined INDEPENDENT provider.”

    So they slate providers in an indirect way for poor customer service back in 2011, yet this is what they are actually doing now.

    It also makes you wonder why did Origin not migrate users earlier, if they had everything in place in spring……

    Overall from reading their own history and comments, this company does not even stand by it’s own morals and looks actually worse than any of the main providers out there…

    This is a shame as a once recommended company by users this is no longer the case.

    A BIG let down by Origin

  6. Avatar Wayne says:

    Requested my MAC now 16 days ago still not received. They claim I haven’t requested it although I have it in writing. I’ve also asked for a subject address request on myself and they are refusing to provide one even after I offered to pay the admin charges behind it!

    1. Avatar Owl. says:

      If you have it in writing then contact Ofcom.They should give you one by law within 5 working days.Mine arrived after 3 working days.

    2. Avatar William Squires says:

      Write to the ICO additionally regarding the SAR. If true they are obviously completely breaching the DPA.

    3. Avatar mark says:

      i had exactly the same problem , was told today i wont need one after midnight as there wont be a tag on the line.

      great, now i can be without the internet for at lease a fortnight before any other isp activates there service…smooth transition NOT !

  7. Avatar Russell says:

    I moved to Origin back end of 2012 after leaving Plusnet who I was a customer for eight years. I moved to Origin as Plusnet and other major ISP’s could not provide Fibre in my area.

    It was only by pure chance that I stumbled accross The Digital Region by reading it somewhere. The Digital Region has not been very well advertised from the start and when I mention it to people they have never heard of it.

    I have had a great service from Origin the last two years so can’t fault them with that. They contacted me via phone sometime in July to say Digital Region was shutting down. They told me the easiest and cheapest way to stay with them would be to move the landline to Origin from BT and have an all inclusive package with Origin. This wasn’t viable for me as we pay our BT line rental 12 month up front and was paid back in April.

    Origin then gave me the option of Fibre only and what I was paying £25 a month for they now wanted £37 a month.

    I had no option but to migrate back to Plusnet on a fixed two year deal of £10 a month, no brainer really! This last month I have had a nightmare being passed to and from Origin to Plusnet blaming each other. It has now resorted in me having to get ADSL with Plusnet and then upgrade to FTTC once active.

    This has resulted me in having approximately five days downtime with no connection!

  8. Avatar mark says:

    I too was notified about the closure, and set about trying to get any kind of internet connection in place for when origins services ceased.

    The problem I faced is that i needed my MAC address, to sign up with any other provider.

    I have been calling day after day to get this, for about 3 weeks. ive been promised i will get a call and someone will give it to me.

    well here we are….today is the day my origin stops (tonight at midnight). and still no mac address.

    I called them today, and asked for it one last time and was told “you wont need one after midnight because there wont be a tag on the line”

    well that’s just great !!! now i have to wait until the origin service ceases before i can apply for another provider’s internet service.

    it’s going to take BT or Plusnet at least 14 working days before its even ready to use.

    so i will be without the internet for a fortnight at least.

    i must say, i did give “Paul” the guy on the phone at origin a propper dressing down.

    If i run my business like they have handled this closure, i would have gone bust a very long time ago.

    How can the hold bac a mac address when they know damn well we need it to migrate to another provider?

    What a ridiculous way to treat there customers.

  9. Avatar Peter Proxy says:

    Report them to OFCOM for their failure to supply a MAC code within 5 working days.

    http://www.ofcom.org.uk/

  10. Avatar Darren says:

    Today we’ve found that our office broadband supplied by Duocall wasn’t working, when we reported the issue we were told that we were on a “digital region” connection and that’s been shut down over night – leaving us with connection whatsoever.

    Duocall are telling us that they’ve sent emails and left messages warning us about this but it’s all news to me. I certainly haven’t had anything in writing, although I did receive their bill for the next month OK!

    Is anyone here also using DR broadband from Duocall and have an experience to share, or struggling with the DR shutdown in general?

    The DRLForum site seems to have lots of people reporting problems, but nothing about Duocall so I guess they’re not one of the main providers like Origin.

    We’ve just about cobbled together some emergency connectivity via 3G, but as we’re a web design agency the next few days will be really painful.

    Darren

    1. Avatar Chalky says:

      I would say that Duocall would be a reseller of Origin as Origin Broadband was the only full ISP still using Digital Region that we know about and the forum has been going for a few years now.

  11. Avatar SpencerUk says:

    I suggest everyone goes to the http://www.drlforum.co.uk site for assistance.. Many of the users have telecommunications experience including myself (admin) and I’ll try to help everyone when I get home tonight (around 6pm) to help as much as I can

  12. Avatar Darren says:

    @SpencerUK I tried to register on DRL Forum this morning but I didn’t get my confirmation email so can’t activate my account.

    1. Avatar SpencerUk says:

      What’s the username you tried to sign up with? I’ll validate manually 🙂

    2. Avatar Darren says:

      It’s just “daz” – thanks.

    3. Avatar SpencerUk says:

      Account activated pal.

  13. Avatar David says:

    I know it is quite late in the day but want to offer my 2pence worth.

    I agree that they don’t call back when they promise to.

    Origin never informed us of the shutdown and we had no idea of the impending switchoff. We saw it go off line and waited a few days to see if it came back on (we have 2 lines bonded just in case one goes off because it happens often and internet is critical to the business).

    After a week without it coming back on, we contacted them and found out we have been turned off. We signed a new agreement and Openreach have only just (we had to wait until the 29th September) installed a new line (why couldn’t they have just routed into the old socket). They took 2 days to install the new line and it is still not working (today 2nd October). They have just told me I now need a new router and are sending me one.

    If I did not have a 2nd line, our internet based company would have been killed off by all this and I would have been looking for another job.

    Disgusted is not the word.

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