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Full Fibre Confusion Continues for TalkTalk Users in Rural Cheshire

Sunday, Aug 13th, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 4,008
ultrafibreoptic_ufo_broadband

A few months ago we reported (here) on how residents in two Cheshire villages had been mistakenly been told by UK ISP TalkTalk that their full fibre (FTTP) broadband service – under the old UltraFibreOptic (UFO) platform – was about to be disconnected. But unfortunately, the provider seems not to have learnt its lesson.

Just to recap. The service in the villages of Hollins Green and Rixton (Warrington) was first announced in September 2020 by CityFibre’s FibreNation division (here), which only a few months earlier had been acquired from TalkTalk for £200m (here). Despite this, TalkTalk continued to act as the retail ISP for customers on the UFO and FibreNation parts of their network.

NOTE: The situation in the villages is partly linked back to last year’s decision by TalkTalk to close its UFO product “trial” in York because the “equipment is obsolete” (here).

However, everything took an awkward turn this year, which occurred after the ISP gave customers in the village an unwelcome surprise – when they logged into the provider’s website, they found a warning about the impending loss of their broadband and phone service. Customers were instead directed to call a specific phone number to “avoid losing” their service, except TalkTalk’s support agents had no knowledge of the change.

On top of that, locals who tried putting their address though TalkTalk and CityFibre’s availability checkers (i.e. to see if they could choose an alternative package or ISP) found that neither system reported them as having any access to full fibre. And despite CityFibre unveiling the original project, the operator’s support staff later confusingly told local users that they didn’t take on that part of the network when they gobbled FibreNation (CityFibre later informed us that they did in fact own and operate the network).

At this point ISPreview intervened in order to seek some clarity. A spokesperson for TalkTalk then acknowledged that the “banner was displayed by mistake and has now been removed – we apologise for any inconvenience. Customers in this exchange will continue to receive their usual service until further notice.” Despite this, the situation in York meant that it would probably only be a matter of time until the product was retired.

The latest development

Residents in the village have now received a new End of Contract Notification (EOCN) letter from TalkTalk, which, much like the original website notice, informed them that their UFO service was ending and to call the ISP. “When we called, we were told there is no FTTP service in our area! I checked on the TalkTalk website, and we are still shown as no service. Seems like no one wants the FibreNation / CityFibre infrastructure in the village,” said an angry local.

TalkTalk chose not to provide us with a comment when we chased them this time, but they did confirm that the EOCN had mistakenly recommended their Full Fibre 900 package as an alternative, which they added is not currently available to customers in Hollins Green and Rixton. Once again, the ISP apologised and said that in-contract customers would continue to receive their usual service until further notice.

In the previous report we noted that Freedom Fibre, which is a TalkTalk backed alternative network, was allegedly engaged in talks about a possible acquisition of the local network. But so far nothing appears to have come of that and, meanwhile, TalkTalk continue to make the same mistakes. However, the ISP has promised to contact impacted customers to discuss their options, although hopefully next time it’ll be with correct information.

The good news for locals is that Openreach has since expanded their own FTTP lines across the community and many have already decided to switch, rather than remain stuck in TalkTalk’s uncertainty field. As one customer said, “The amount of time I’ve spent on the phone with [TalkTalk] getting to this point is ridiculous. I’m booked in with BT this week for a new connection and would rather just move on.”

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
12 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    You have to give CityFibre and Talk Talk 10/10 for entertainment value. They’re the gift that just keeps giving.

    1. Avatar photo Jason says:

      completely agree

    2. Avatar photo Paul says:

      The way things are going I don’t think neither Talk talk or Cityfibre will be going much longer, not in their current guise anyway.

    3. Avatar photo Andrew says:

      As work on installing fibre has just suddenly stopped and left unfinished in many places, leaving streets in a mess, people on social media are asking if Cityfibre have gone bust.

      Utter chaos.

  2. Avatar photo Amir says:

    Cityfibre are normally pretty good to be fair. I would not want to stay with talk talk over this though. Hard to leave if you’re not presented with any other options.

  3. Avatar photo aw says:

    all companies get it wrong sometimes but tt get it right sometimes and not that often

  4. Avatar photo Chris says:

    Similar issue in Milton Keynes City ! Cityfibre checker says TalkTalk Full Fibre available but talk talk sales line says Milton Keynes has no full fibre! Cityfibre are adamant it is – they built it 2 years ago!

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      TalkTalk don’t offer products over 100% of CityFibre’s network. Use the CityFibre checker to find the ISPs that may serve you.

    2. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Vodafone get a period of exclusivity on CityFibre in the original twelve cities, Milton Keynes is one of them. So TalkTalk might not have access to all of MK yet?

  5. Avatar photo GH says:

    Not the kind of news cityfibre need when they’re already struggling to achieve decent take-up rates.

  6. Avatar photo Alex A says:

    Neither companies seem particularly organised at the moment.

    In other news Sky are interested in TalkTalk’s business division.

  7. Avatar photo Whitehall says:

    I think this is a story we are going to hear more and more often – Big network companies sucking up smaller fiber altn-ets, and then customers finding that a lot of that footprint isn’t worth being made backwards compatible with the rest of the new network.

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