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BT Retaliates Against ISP Orange UK Blame for Romsley Broadband Price Hike

Posted: 21st Aug, 2009 By: MarkJ
Bemused BT has begun an investigation after we reported last week that residents of Romsley (Bromsgrove), specifically those that are connected via ISP Orange UK, had seen the price they pay for broadband rise by an extra +£8.81 per month. Orange promptly blamed the increase on BT, yet today a BT spokesperson informs us that it has made no such recent price changes on the local exchange.
Romsley UK
The original local newspaper sourced item (here) suggested that the rise was due to a lack of unbundled ( LLU ) broadband availability in the area (Orange, like many UK ISPs, charges less if users are on its cheaper LLU broadband service). However this confused us and did not explain why Orange was able to charge a lower price prior to the increase because no LLU would have existed then either.

According to data from our friends at the excellent Samknows site, BT Wholesale is the sole provider of broadband services to the Romsley telephone exchange (detailed data) with best available speeds of up to 8Mbps (BT ADSLMAX). It is a small town area with just 971 residential premises and 25 non-residential premises. Clearly the desired mass market scale that an unbundled service requires would have difficulty making a profit here.

From this information we can confirm that Romsley does not have and probably never has had an unbundled line from Orange (there is no record of any unbundling on the exchange), which again begs the question; why was this brought up as an excuse for the price rise when LLU never existed at Romsley in the first place? We put that same question to Orange.

An Orange Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

"Due to supplier costs outside of our control, we are now no longer able to provide our lowest prices in areas where we do not have our own network. We apologise for the inconvenience this move may cause, and would like to reassure all our customers that we remain committed to providing quality home broadband products and services across the UK."

So BT is to blame because Orange "no longer" has its "lowest price ... network" in the area? This could suggest that Orange did have an unbundled line in Romsley before, though we can find no record of that. Sadly the statement is too vague to draw many conclusions.

Something is clearly amiss with this situation and so we decided to pursue BT over the matter. Interestingly BT could not reply until now because of a similar Orange-derived complaint being opened, which prompted the operator to begin an investigation of its own.

A BT spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

"BT Wholesale has not made any recent changes to its broadband pricing that would directly result in higher end user price rises of this scale. There are many benefits to Communications Providers and their customers in moving to next generation broadband services and we are encouraging this."

BT appears to be a bit bemused by Orange's statement and hopes to have a fuller response with us in the very near future, possibly today. We are also contacting Orange, again, in hope of gaining greater clarification. So far Orange has appeared reluctant to inform us about precisely where the price increase emanates from.

Readers may recall that BT Wholesale did in fact increase broadband ADSL prices for older products on its platform, although that occurred many months ago in December last year (not recent). In addition the changes were not so huge as to account for an extra £8.81 per month on customer bills.

However it is worth noting that BT hoped those increases would foster greater adoption of its improved broadband services (e.g. WBC/WMBC up to 24Mbps ADSL2+ etc.). That is all very well except many areas have yet to be upgraded to support this new 21CN based technology, which irritated more than a few ISPs at the time and still does today.
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