Super fast broadband - Latest
By Bideford_ppl | Friday, March 02, 2012, 19:32
The Government has decreed "Superfast Broadband" is to be rolled out to rural areas including the South West. British Telecom call it "BT Total Broadband or BT Infinity."
My advice, do not hold your breath. In reality this means BT using local distribution metallic cables with technology that is around 100 years old. It could be likened to installing a modern seven-litre Rolls-Royce engine in a 1910 vintage motorcar.
BT will tell you that they have or are installing high-speed fibre optic cables to accommodate speeds up to 100 Megabits per second. What they do not tell you is these cables only run from your local telephone exchange to one of those green metallic cabinets we see on the pavements. From there to your home BT's broadband is delivered on old technology – usually twisted pairs of copper or aluminium wires.
This method goes back to the days of operator handled voice only telephone calls. Who can remember the phrase, "number please?"
In an attempt to overcome this weakness, BT employs something called Asynchronous Digital Service Line technology. Unfortunately it does not eradicate the fault liabilities inherent in the many clamped and screw joints in the cable metallic conductors between your residence and the local telephone exchange. In past times "Plain Old Telephone Service" or POTS as it was known, could live with these shortcomings albeit your line might have been a bit noisy.
BT's competitors use 21st century technology all the way into your home. These are the Cable TV providers using fibre optic or co-axial cable and the Cellular Wireless providers using radio signals. They have invested in modern distribution transmission plant; BT has not. So why not go to one of the many alternative broadband providers? There is no advantage because unless you engage one of the afore mentioned media providers the chances are all others have to use BT's antiquated wire based local exchange distribution network.
BT has a monopoly. The so-called "Un-bundled Loop" competitive options have to use BT's local distribution network or construct their own at enormous capital cost.
Unless your residence is within a reasonably short distance from a BT Telephone Exchange or Distribution Cabinet almost certainly you will not receive 100 Megabits quality. On plant in a reasonable state of repair outside this radius the most you are likely to receive will be around 20 to 30 Megabits.
In all events you will be paying for 100 Megabit service! BT does not have scaled tariffs.
If BT cold call you or you contact them regarding BT Infinity or BT Vision they will assure you that you will receive between "X" or "Y" Megabits per second minimum line speed. They will say it is adequate to provide Video On Demand. This is not based on empirical measurements to your residence rather what you should receive based on engineering specifications. Clearly this does not take into consideration the quality, state of repair and performance of the pair of wires into your residence.
In my personal case I switched to "BT Total Broadband" in September 2009. In September 2010 I subscribed to BT Vision. That is video (TV channels) and audio (radio stations) delivered over the Internet. At the point of sale Leander told me that, in my Postcode in Ivybridge, I could expect a signal of 6.5 Megabits. This I was assured was more than adequate for good reception. When attempting to receive Video on Demand more often than not I received an "error message; V4." This I later learned meant my line was unsuitable for BT Vision. In fact my line speed has averaged around 1.9 Megabits per second since taking out the BT Vision subscription. When I was able to "log-on" the picture kept freezing to the point of being annoying and unwatchable.
Last July BT engineers confirmed after several visits that my line was inadequate due to the condition of the cable feeding my residence. In January I wrote to Warren Buckley, BT Director of Customer Service, Ofcom, Telecoms Ombudsman, Devon Trading Standards and my constituency MP. The only one of these who got personally involved and remains involved was my MP.
In fairness to BT the problem was devolved, via their "Executive Complaints Office," to the local BT Openreach engineers. These engineers have been diligent in all respects however it could be said they are looking for the proverbial telephonic needle in a digital haystack. Recently on their latest fault finding mission I was advised they had found two fault conditions due to substandard cable plant.
It is my considered opinion, based on 40 years in the telephone industry here and in the United States, that BT has got major problems in the Southwest. Other than major towns and cities, the dilapidated and outdated nature of its rural and small town distribution network is such that suboptimal line speed performance is more likely than not.
If you do not believe me look at the BBC News Website. They ran an article Thursday 23 February based on findings of a survey of 1.6 million homes by "uSwitch." Julia Stent, director of telecoms stated that:
"Britain might be riding the wave of a super-fast broadband revolution, but for 49% who get less than the national average broadband speed, the wave isn't causing so much a splash as a ripple," said Julia Stent, director of telecoms at uSwitch.
"And what's really surprising is the number of cities and towns such as Hereford and Carlisle that are suffering from slow broadband speeds, dispelling the view that it's just rural areas and small towns that have issues with their broadband," she added.
Frankly in my opinion it is disgraceful that a company with BT's resources in capital money and modern technology appears to be getting away with:
A. Provision of service far below their implied, published standards in my location and probably others like it.
B. Selling products that are operationally most likely to be unfit for purpose.
C. Charging me, and possibly many others, for services I am not fully receiving i.e. BT Total Broadband and BT Vision.
D. Failing to advise of problem resolution progress or offer alternatives up front.
E. Failing to maintain outside plant cable distribution network at least in my location or upgrading it to 21st Century standards.
From my MP's involvement in this matter I suspect I am not alone in this area or indeed the Southwest.
As to the root causes. I suspect, based on what I have read in the public media and from BT's own in-house magazine, they are more interested achieving internal targets reflecting market penetration and revenue rather than 21st Century standards of service.
They probably think they are running a bank!