BT has quoted a pensioner £150,000 to install a broadband line to her home in rural Wales. The national telco contacted Beverley McCartney, who lives in Salem, Carmarthenshire, last week, the BBC reports. It had previously told her it could not connect her home, but was pleased to say it now could for the bargain price of £129, …
OK, the equipment may have been upgraded, but the premises which contain the exchanges, and a vast amount of the last-mile copper, all the telegraph poles, and the wayleaves agreements, and also many of the streetside connection boxes were in the original deal.
Not only has BT been able to use all of this without having to pay anyone, they have actually been able to achieve a capital gain on buildings which used to be exchanges, but have actually had the service consolidated into other nearby exchanges (think how much more compact digital exchanges are compared to the Strouger exchanges that have been shut down), and sold on. I was also told some years ago by someone in the telecommunications industry, that BT actually made money from ripping out the copper based long distance network, scrapping the copper, and replacing it with fibre.
If you were a new player, how much would it cost to put the last mile infrastructure in and buy the buildings for the local exchanges (especially in cities). We had an approximation when the cable infrastructure was put in 20 years ago (by the way, it was not Virgin, it was the small companies that merged to become NTL and Telewest that did the installation, and this is not Virgin Media by another name), and it was expensive then, and effectively bankrupted them. Think how much it would be now! (that's why they are experimenting with fibre through the sewers).
Don't really see the problem
No one is forcing you to live in the sticks.
You don't move to a village in the middle of nowhere and then complain that there is no multiplex cinema nearby.
I f I decide to build a house in the middle of nowhere all the utility companies will charge me thousands to connect it up, which is why many opt for oil tanks, personal generators and digging their own wells.
As others have mentioned, there are alternatives for broadband. They might not be as good but that's what you get if you choose to live in the sticks.
Wherever you live you have to make compromises to an extent. I get good broadband, plenty of pubs and two local cinemas, but can't afford somewhere with a garden, get to have my lungs destroyed by pollution, and there is not much in the way of peace and quite.
I am curious as to exactly what they would have to upgrade given she is only three miles away, but £130k isn't that much given the cost of carrier grade gear, and the probability that it would involve digging up a road or two.
This is what happens in the open market, some customers are just not worth selling to. I'm sure BT would be happy to let her go to a satellite or wireless carrier rather than lose £130k on her.
If you want universal coverage then you have to nationalise BT Openreach (which I'm actually in favour of).
Who said she decided to move to a village in the middle of nowhere? Have you considered she may have been born and grown up there or at least nearby?
Not everyone has the ability, or the income, to move to London to get good broadband speeds but I bet lots of people in London would complain if they had to subsidise the costs of returning essential services to rural communities.
If she has moved there in the last 5 - 10 years then OK, this example is a poor one, but the fact is that we have a country in which having access to the internet is pretty fundamental, yet large swathes of the country are denied this.
The ironic thing is that all the magic broadband brings (home working, 24 hour access to services and providers) are only really available in cities where you dont need them as much.
If we could solve the rural broadband problem we could actually have the promised revolution. Just think of the changes:
- people who want to work from home, dont have to have a home near the office or suffer abysmal connections
- this would lead to less physical commuting and a massive downforce on the costs of living in the big cities, less pollution, less pressure on city schools, less environmental damage
- people who wanted to live in the city (for the "life") would be able to do so once more while "second homes" in the countryside would become occupied and some villages would cease to be "weekend only" places.
This cant happen until we get round the problem of broadband only really working in the built up areas.
For anyone who wants to see what it is like, try to go 2 months without doing ANYTHING on the internet - so no online shopping, no access to e-Gov websites, no e-statements/banking, no taking advantage of internet offers for utility services etc. Its barely possible now and I suspect in 5 years it wont even be that.
Perhaps she was born in the sticks and likes to live there, but if she wants mod cons she should consider moving.
I bet they won't build an opera house next door because she likes opera. I bet Tescos won't build a shop close by to give her 24x7 shopping. Why should BT have to give her uneconomical broadband?
There are alternatives like satellite. The silly old bat could go to http://www.broadbandwherever.net/
I live and work rurally in New Zealand. I have wireless broadband which gives me 2Mb/s. It costs more than city BB and is slower. I could move in to town and get high speed BB. I could also pay a few 100k to get all the trenching and cabling done to get city BB here. Instead I take the compromise.
I live in France. In a little town in the back of nowhere. Actually, between two nowhere towns. To give you an idea of the definition of "town", it would read "Pop. 150" on an American style sign. It probably wouldn't even qualify for a name of its own in British terms. It is a bunch of houses around a church.
My phone line is over 4.4km away from the exchange. Something said 4675 metres, but I don't know how it knows that? Is that to our boundary? Our house? Our phone socket? The Livebox lead is a metre and a half, is that counted? :-) So we're really really far from a nowhere place. Yet I get a megabit. It might be a lousy slow snoozefest megabit, but it is travelling down phone wiring from the sixties that lay 'dormant' for fifteen-odd years. And given how the wire flits around in the wind, it is surprisingly reliable. I was on-line all the way through hurricane Xynthia. Not a hiccup.
Come on Britain, you don't want to be one-upped by the *French* now do you? :-)
Bootnote: Isn't WiMax and directional Wi-like links supposed to provide coverage in outlying areas? I know a town nearby was going to try WiMax as an alternative to everybody having their own broadband contract (mainly for schoolchildren, some parents didn't see the point of broadband enough to want to pay for it), but after the recent global financial fiasco, the scheme was shelved "indefinitely". Shame, it would have been an interesting one to watch.
I note that people are down-voting posts that say "tough cheese", or something along those lines.
Hey, I live in Central London. I pay a fortune. I contend with overcowding, pollution and all that jazz. If someone wants to go and live in the middle of nowhere, then why on earth should I have to subsidise her connnection? I realise this isn't a popular thing to say, clearly.
I live in the countryside and I'm grateful I never have to listen to jazz anymore, I don't know how you put up with it.
Oooohhhhh I need more money than everybody else in the country because I live in London
If you live in London you it is much more likely that you are also being paid considerably more than you are worth compared with other regions.
Oh that right you are more important too aren't you!
Way to miss the point
At what point in Chris' post did he say he was more important because he lives in London?
By my reading he was saying that there are downsides to living in London that he puts up with. The downside of this lady living in the countryside is that getting broadband is going to cost her a fortune.
I'm guessing you have some sort of bee in your bonnet about London to have decided to completely misread/misrepresent his comment.
For the record I'm a very happy country dweller who doesn't see why he should pay for this lady to have broadband.
Perhaps all the people who have such a downer on city dwellers should prove their superiority by putting their hands in their pockets and clubbing together to pay this lady's bill.
Is there anyone there?
Not more than we are worth, but more because of the f*****g cost of living in London. They *do* go hand in hand, you know.
Heh I'm the AC you are replying to.
Have a look through all the comments, so many are stating basically saying "Ooooh you live in the country fuck off and shut up"
Try the national news where nothing happens outside the M25 (unless it's the BBC news who have finally discovered Manchester)
Hence my displeasure even though I do currently live in a city (which isn't London.)
For the other commenter believe it or not apart from housing, transport, food, fuel, clothing & electricity are all tend to be cheaper than other cities in the UK.
When I moved from London my monthly expenses actually rose (excluding housing as I was living pretty central) When it is all said and done my outgoings are about the same as London but without the extra money for living there.
Where I live a the average terraced house is more expensive than Barking, Bexley and also the counties of Kent & Essex (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/in_depth/uk_house_prices/html/houses.stm)
BTW where I am living now is amongst the lowest salaries (for the same roles) within the UK. However before being called a whinge I am prepared to suffer for a better overall quality of life for my family.
So do you want to have another go at justifying higher salaries for Londoners?
With the original Welsh point however:
With the closure of local banks & post offices, plus the insistence of almost everything being placed online (including masses of stuff farmers and other rural people are expected to keep up to date with) for many people internet connectivity is increasingly important.
In addition when the forced digital switch over takes place how many people will lose their TV & radio signals and be told, Oh Mrs Jones just listen to us via the internet, which of course she cannot do?
With the amount of tax money spent on researching internet connectivity in the 3rd world would it not be an idea to roll out such coverage within the UK?
A fast internet connection to the village from nearby fibre (already mentioned) and a wireless hotspot / repeater / mesh network (also already mentioned) would benefit everybody in that area and be cheaper than upgraded exchanges and all that copper.
There are NO disadvantages to living in the country, apart from the price of broadband. Thanks for reminding everyone.
Just get a carrier pigeon with a 4Gig USB drive:
Faster and cuter* than an ISP!
*OK, cuter if you like pigeons......
I don't think other people in her village have broadband. The BBC article says people in a nearby town 3 miles away have broadband and there are 50 houses in her village who would like broadband... that makes it roughly £3k each, right? She goes on to say that she wouldn't even pay £2k let alone £150k... seems you can't please everybody!
Did they think
she was Paul's long-lost sister, or something?
So much for 21CN
Bob and Bolccg seem to be missing a couple of important points. First the original telephone network was rolled out years ago (without megabuck subscription) and the whole idea of DSL is to use that copper network for broadband. I had to check out where Salem is - only 13 miles from Carmarthen and ot far from the A40 either. Second, 21CN was supposed to fix this kind of stuff. This is not on an island or on top of a mountain!
Since other people in the village already have broadband, the possible problems include: becuase they have run out of lines, because their stupid planning rules say that they can't do it or because of an incredibly long front garden/ driveway.
So how about tapping into the fibre that must be so close (on the A40) - a bit of Wavelength Division Multiplexing maybe (so cheap these days)? Or how about sharing a neighbours setup via wifi (or even running a Cat5) or a cheap point to point radio link from a box at the end of the garden if that's the real problem.
All that's required is a bit of imagination here!
Oh no it wasn't.
> Second, 21CN was supposed to fix this kind of stuff. This is not on an island or on top of a mountain!
No it wasn't. 21CN fixes issues in the core network not the local loop. As a side effect of replacing equipment in the exchanges the DSL side gets a handy boost (they replace ageing DSLAMs with MSANs and probably couldn't get any that only did ADSL1).
> All that's required is a bit of imagination here!
And money - but you're basically right. BT aren't the only CP in town.
What they need
Is a load of wealthy English people to start buying up local cottages as holiday homes, which would create demand for broadband, so it could be installed at a reasonable price.
Er, what are you doing with those matches?
But our prime minister said that he inteded to get broadband to every home in Britain.
Of course he didn't mention that you'd get a £150k bill as well.
What on earth would the Welsh need broadband for?
Dirty sheep photos?
What on earth would Londoners need broadband for?
To look at places where people would actually want to live of course
Mines the coat holding tickets marked depart London
"What on earth would the Welsh need broadband for"
As a Reg reader you *know* what the Internets made for, don't you?
Satellite, powerline, 21CN
@Michael 28: A.N. Other has already written about the well known disadvantages of satellite (not just weather sensitivity, but also ridiculous latency). Wrt powerline: forget it. Scottish + Southern Electric were the only semi-serious UK player (check out the Keith Maclean interview on ISPreview) but even they gave up on it before their long-advertised "full commercial rollout " started to happen. Neither the technology nor the economics work for powerline broadband.
@21CN: BT's much-overhyped much-delayed 21CN seems to be quietly being abandoned as far as voice (which iirc was the initial public justification) is concerned, which doesn't bode well for areas which don't already have it committed for the broadband side of things. I don't think 21CN was ever promoted as anything to do with "last mile" problems, which is what we have here (though it sounds like it might be a few miles).
Sharing service with a neighbour already online does seem like a nice simple cost-effective approach, and even if done professionally would cost a tiny tiny tiny fraction of the BT-quoted price.
"Flossie does Wensleydale" doesn't download itself you know...
"If I decide to build a house in the middle of nowhere..."
Being in the UK, any chance that she's been living in her (for example) 200-year old house for (say) about 40 years?
Geesh, I'm just a young fella and my house (that I decided to build 'in the middle of nowhere', ...a mile up the road from civilization) was built BEFORE the growth of the Internet into an essential utility.
F*ck Me Dead
Given that other people in the town have broadband, why the high price? I'd want them to be running backbone grade fibre to the home for that. Wankers. You'd have thought they could come up with something cheaper.
id pay it!
Id want to see exactly what hardware was installed for £130k, and Id put my name on it, then id charge BT the cost of renting it from me.
Paris, because of some joke about fat pipes....
Having their cake and eating it too
Another example of that decrepid dinosaur of a billing and customer service front (known as BT), with its greedy boss and arrogant stupid staff getting it wrong again.
For those bleating about BT being a 'Private' company. Is that the same BT that the government was proposing a 'communications levy' whereby BT get to add money to landlines (which is a tax), to fund cable infrastructure (which Virgin does very well with)? So in other words taxing US more to fund THEIR infrastructure with no regard to private enterprise, competion or any other form of a market.
Utilities such as British Gas, BT, water companies are only private companies when it comes to shareholders dividents and the boss's salary. In all other regards they go cap in hand to the government (i.e. US) and plead poverty or unfair market conditions (such as effective competion). Nationalise rail and utilities and sack the bosses. Then sack anybody who is profligate with tax payer's money.
PirateSlayer chose his icon so well.
Is that the same BT that the government was proposing a 'communications levy' whereby BT get to add money to landlines (which is a tax), to fund cable infrastructure (which Virgin does very well with)? So in other words taxing US more to fund THEIR infrastructure with no regard to private enterprise, competion or any other form of a market.
I have never heard about any of that ever being planned.
The last government did want to place a levy on all fixed lines, regardless of provider, to create a pot that any provider could then apply for funding from to help expand higher speed access across the whole country though.
I don't have a car
Can I have a free one please?
Why not Wi-fi from a neighbour?
By the sound of it, the rest of the local village has taken up all the space in the exchange, and BT being the cheapskates that they are, won't upgrade the exchange further to support that one extra customer (fair enough economically speaking). So realistically she needs alternative sources.
Satellite is crap, we used to use it before BT finally got off there asses and upgraded our exchanges locally. It ok for download speed, but latency is laughable and getting pings to Google of about 1.2secs is not good in the slightest. Great speed for large file downloads, but for simple browsing etc, utterly useless. And everytime it rained the thing got disconnected anyhow, and it never rains much in Britain does it?
With her neighbours connected though, it might just be worth her buying a pair of good external Wi-Fi masts and borrow a neighbours connection. Hell could then share the bill with them for the connection. Just make sure the badgers don't nibble on the masts though!
As others have said, would suspect 3G is the way to go. The coverage of the decent companies like T-Mobile and 3 are pretty good now and would be surprised that they haven't got something either there or on the way there soon anyhow...even out on a mountain side these days can pick up great signals in alot of places.
in rural maine...
... broadband is what you hit a moose with.
A few years back BT started running adverts on TV to install a telephone line line to any premises for £100*. A guy in the remote hills took them up on the offer and they refused as it would have cost them a over £100,000*.
Complaints were raised, the local MP got involved and eventually they relented and provided a line via telegraph poles to the property.
*I can't remember the actual prices as it was a long time ago, but they were in that area.
similar for me
while i doubt it would be quite that much, i'd fully expect it to cost 50-100k for BT to install decent broadband to me. I live approximately 2 mile from a town centre, and there is an exchange on my side of the town. however, due to the rediculous way that BT have got my phoneline going, it goes about 4x as far as it actually needs to (apparently they couldnt have strung a phoneline accross the nearby canal by my house... they have to go a mile past it, then cross the exact same amount of water, and come a mile back), and because the cables 20 years old its crap quality too, so we get rubbish quality broadband, that for most of the summer gets speeds roughly equal to a 56k line (when it works at all). its slightly better in the winter, and manages speeds that most people had 10 years ago.
but its not up to BT to fix all of that of course - because the voice line works, and thats all they're obligated to do. So because of the stupid way they chose to run the phoneline, i cant get proper broadband and they wont fix it. and in fact, if we suggest that perhaps they'd like to do something about the line quality, they essentially say "we dont care... would you like us to turn it off instead? no? **** off then."
Broadband is not a necessity
If she lives in the middle of nowhere, surely the thing to do is to travel to somewhere with broadband. Also, not being able to get broadband does not preclude getting any sort of data access whatsoever, even if it is sub-56k...
there have been projects to cover precisely these issues.
Essentially a base station is setup in a village and folks in the area are supplied with suitable equipment to connect to the base station.
For more distant users a mesh network allows hops across end users kit back to the base station.
From the Radio 4 programme it ended up cheaper than putting in a lot of DSL kit into smaller exchanges.
Got to pay for Ian's bonus somehow
They've got to raise the money to pay Ian Living (like a king) ston his £1.2 Million bonus somehow.
What always gets to me...
...about incidents like this is that they show a TOTAL lack of internal oversight. There must have been quite a few people involved in sending out this letter. Did any of them give even a moment's thought about the likely PR result? Do they ever give a moment's thought to anything at all beyond the clock on the wall?
Did NOT ONE of them have the basic common sense and backbone to say to the boss/colleague, "Come on!! You're not SERIOUSLY thinking of sending this out?!!"
Mindless bloody jobsworths the whole crew at BT - their attitude to customers is simply contemptuous. You can take a firm out of the public sector, but by heaven it's a lot harder to take public sector attitudes out of that firm.
Here's an insight into the mindset of people / organisations like this.
Their efficiency, quality, whatever you want to call it, is not measured by whether they do anything productive, or sensible, or in fact sane.
It is measured by whether the contract (order, task, etc.) has been fulfilled as specified.
So, if someone enquires if they can get broadband, and the end result of the enquiry is not only stupid but risible, there is no mechanism in the process to stop it being output - all that matters is that the task has been processed.
The more degrees of separation there are between the requestor and the actioner, the worse it gets. Hence why outsourcing / offshoring is generally such a disaster.
This will carry on until an outsourced / offshored childcare service starts leaving babies in the bath to drown, and then doesn't understand why the mothers are complaining - because the dead babies are all bathed and clean.
The most sensible post all day on this topic
@John - totally totally right. Someone should have just sent her a standard letter saying 'Sorry but a ADSL connection to your home is not viable at this time. However we are working to improve the situation and hope to have something avalible to you in the future'
End of story..................
..she's an eccentric millionaire. BT did the right thing. They offered the service she asked for and quoted accordingly. It's unfortunate that it came to such a large amount but them's the breaks. At least they showed willing.
It's not up to BT to make assumptions about their customer's wealth or spending patterns. They quote for a job and wait to see if the quote is acceptable.
Indeed. I myself received a letter from BT saying exactly that.
The trouble was, I already HAD a f*cking ADSL connection - installed (by BT) some years previously, and working fine...
It does cost that much
Get planning permission, get right of way leaves across everybodies land, get permission from highways agency (major roads) local council (minor roads) every local farmer (unaproved roads).
Then rent some plant and a crew to dig a ditch, closing roads, rerouting drains, gas lines etc.
Then lay some conduit, then the cables, then the network equipement.
Put aside a few 10K for when you have to dig it all up again in a year when some idiot digs through it with a JCB.
We had to pay something like this to run a fibre across our site because BT wouldn't let us put it in their existing ducts - on our property!
Anybody remember the name of the company in Cambridge that were doing individual microwave phone links from a mini-dish on your house? Had a big building opposite the science park - then went bust because BT were promising to connect anyone for 100quid.
I *think* you are talking about "Ionica"
Seemed pretty neat, provided you had good LOS and it was not too sensitive to rain (quite important at near sea level in the UK)
3 miles of belkin network cable for £2000 :)
Umm but you'd need repeaters ever 180m or so and power to those repeaters.
Fibre is about the only real solution.
Personally find out if my neighbours want broadband and then put together a business plan and then see how easy it would be to do a community like system.
& the gall to actually expect the customer to pay, oh bargain Ill just get my cheque book...
Im buying a house in France in a fairly rural area, the village has a choice of ADSL, RE-ADSL, ADSL-Max & ADSL2 with Fibre Optic soon, granted its probably not fibre to the door, but certainly a pleasant surprise to see such a good choice.
Not sure what scheme works in Scotland, but NI has (had?) one too.
Northern Ireland got government funding to get everyone (who wanted) onto broadband regardless of DSL availability. Quite a few folks ended up on satellite. It was a limited term contract and expired not that long ago . Can you guess who won the original contract? Hint: it includes the letters T and B, not necessarily in that order.
Heads BT win, tails the public gets ripped off.
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