Letter: Why isn’t BT’s promised ‘Superfast’ broadband being delivered?

Thomas believes the council should be looking to protect local employers as well as core services, saying local ISPs may suffer because of their decision to give BT £3.65m in the rural broadproject rollout project.

Children looking into trench :

We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch. This one from Thomas Cowley. Ed

Dear OnTheWight readers,

Today, with the post came an A3 leaflet promoting the Big BT Broadband Sale. Particularly of interest to me was the Infinity offer – £7.50 a month for the first six months for speeds up to five times faster than my current 2.5mb BT ADSL connection. With Infinity, for the first time since Blockbuster in Newport closed, I would be in a position to rent films and stream them to my TV!

As those who have watched the progress of the funding for broadband enablement will know, the IWC is in the process of giving £3m to BT so they can enable ‘superfast’ broadband across the Island. Surely with this new cash injection now secure, BT would be pressing on with enabling their customers across the Island?

Sadly not.

Broken promises
My own experience of BT’s promises about superfast broadband enablement may well serve to illustrate possibly what the Island is going to experience as the BT project to enable faster speeds progresses.

This is I’d describe it as broken promises, delays and no improvement whatsoever.

In Northwood we were first promised superfast broadband enablement in March last year. As someone who works in the technology sector, the date rather stuck in my mind. It was as exciting as when my house in Newport was ADSL enabled in July 2003.

Reasonable excuse for the delay
Unfortunately when I went to look, once the date had passed, I was disappointed to find it had been moved to September. Thankfully we had engineers on our road, replacing the poles, so I went and quizzed them.

Apparently a duct had collapsed in the road, which was necessary to get the fibre to our (already installed) cabinet. I’m a patient kinda guy, so I waited – it’s an understandable problem and one they would surely resolve fast enough, right?

Another missed deadline
The duct was replaced, last summer. We reached the end of September and……. The date was pushed out to October. Since then as we have passed each month end the date has been moved out another month, until the end of December, when the enablement date moved two months, to the end of February 2014.

Despite all of the promises we understand BT have made to the IWC, is it possible that so many of us are going to see this sort of elastic timescale for enablement? To me, it seems pretty likely.

Choice of tens of providers?
One of the key things BT were trumpeting during their charm offensive for the superfast broadband enablement, was that their network would enable a choice of tens of providers to offer broadband to our properties and businesses.

Unfortunately all the evidence suggests this also isn’t really happening. Of the 22 potential providers who could be present in the Cowes exchange, only four have stepped up to put equipment in the building.

As it turns out (unsurprisingly) even the town-based exchanges on the Island simply don’t serve a large enough body of customers to stimulate investment by the alternative internet service providers (ISPs).

Instead we’re just choosing who bills us for BT to provide the wholesale service underneath.

Even looking at the list of four, they represent represent the most terrible of customer experiences available when trying to resolve a fault. They are the providers I would most pointedly avoid if I wanted a good quality service.

A disappointing verdict
In light of the challenging financial circumstances delivered to the council by both the previous administration and the current Government, the decision to take the opportunity to place over £3.65m of Council Tax funds into BT’s corporate coffers in the hope of better services for residents and local businesses remains a disappointing verdict.

It also appears the results of the project are likely to continue to disappoint, too.

Local ISPs will suffer
Aside from contributing to the funding crisis we are facing, the worst aspect of the whole scenario is that it leaves our local ISP businesses such as WightFibre and Click4Internet in a position where they will struggle to make a business case for improved coverage and speeds because of the unfair competition they face from state-funded BT.

If the money hasn’t been handed over to BT, maybe it’s time to put a stop to the plans before the IWC finds itself out-gunned by BT’s corporate lawyers? No doubt they will be demanding payment despite the service not meeting targets as they will say they have made ‘best efforts’ to deliver the service.

Protect core services AND local employers
I’m subject to BT’s best efforts at the moment and unfortunately they show no improvement in customer experience or available bandwidth in over a decade, when the Cowes exchange was initially enabled for ADSL.

Tough times call for tough decisions. Not spending £3.65m that is unlikely to deliver its objectives anyway should not be a tough call when looking to make savings to protect our core services AND protect local employers. Come on IWC – do the right thing and pull the funding!

Image: Wesley Fryer under CC BY 2.0

Thursday, 23rd January, 2014 12:39pm


ShortURL: http://wig.ht/2bwH

Filed under: Letter to the Editor

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46 Comments on "Letter: Why isn’t BT’s promised ‘Superfast’ broadband being delivered?"

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I am surprised that you are surprised! BT selling tactics- with vague promises on line speeds and delivery schedules- successfully overwhelmed the skill sets of IWC officers and councillors- to the extent that only recently it has emerged that the contract was signed late last year. One wonders why?

PFI redux!


Well said, Thomas.
All the fears that you (and many others) raised from the Public Gallery at a Full Council Meeting last year were, sadly, not without foundation.
As you say, all the money may not have changed hands so something might yet be salvaged.


The answer to the question in the headline is that it is what people voted for.

In the 1980’s, BT had a project to replace the entire copper network with fibre. It was cancelled by the then government on the grounds that it would make competition more difficult after privatisation. This decision was approved by the electorate.

Is that all you are interested in Thomas, the fact you can’t get the Telly? Honestly sometimes I wonder. What do the business community do on behalf of the island except moan about what comes to them. Everybody else tries to get investment but what do they do? Shirley Smart passed this off didn’t she? It was a waste of money and some people said it was… Read more »
As a privatised monopoly the BT Group is answerable to no-one except their shareholders. Furthermore ordinary souls cannot directly contact OpenReach, the ‘service and holes & poles’ group, as only ISPs may approach them. So BT Retail have to join the queue to use OpenReach as do Plusnet,Sky and TalkTalk.[Other ISPs are available]. Then the exchanges and line capacity are managed by BT Wholesale – BTW. So… Read more »
Alex Lightfoot

Just to give a balanced side to the argument (first time poster here) it would appear that BT are actually underselling themselves in some locations, as we have gone from 4mb down to a staggering 80mb down, 20 times the speed! Much more than the advertised “Up to 5 times the speed” and we are paying no more than on our previous contract.

@AL Do you mean the speed went UP 20 times from 4mb to 80MB? If so, do you have fibre going from the exchange/street cabinet direct to your “locations” (at an average cost of more than £150/metre and requiring planning permission to dig up the road)? If not, then congratulations are due to you for discovering how to overcome the physical transmission speed limitation imposed by twisted-pair… Read more »
Alex Lightfoot
We had BT install a new phone line, despite having an existing one, because they were offering the service free with the package we were going with, fairly certain that its still copper, as as you say, laying fibre to a house is incredibly expensive. We are fairly close to one of the cabinets though. Having said that sometimes I do wonder if people complaining about not… Read more »

I would be very interested to know if your new line was copper or fibre as the local cabinet wuld need changing as well.

@mpit “80mbps down and much more is easily possible over twisted pair… ” Really? “Down” is usually less of a problem that “Up” for businesses. BT PR spin likes to elide both to hint at both “Up” and “Down” will enjoy the same speed improvement. Blog discussions here last September with technical people suggest otherwise owing to the cross-talk between premises and cabinet. I defer to the… Read more »

It will be copper, but I’m unsure why you seem to think he has “overcome the physical transmission speed limitation imposed by twisted-pair copper”?

80mbps down and much more is easily possible over twisted pair…


(see my response at 0923 this morning posted in wrong sequence)

I’m not sure what you’re getting at? 20mbps up is quite a considerable improvement over ADSL. Which is what he’ll be receiving if he is syncing at 80mbps down. Of course they need to replace some copper with fibre – these speeds aren’t sustainable for the many miles that most people are from their exchange, so the street cabinets are run with fibre and the last stretch… Read more »
@mpit I am trying to identify the comms link- exchange/cabinet/link to property- that enables AL to get 20mbps up when I cannot get better than 1Mbps up. Is there a constant relationship between up and down speeds? Is 20 up a function of 80 down? (If so my 20 down should give me 5 up.) [OK I am jealous and do not believe BT hype! :-))} It… Read more »
The upload speed is not necessarily directly linked to the download speed, but they are both determined by the line/signal quality. It’s fairly easy to assume that he receives 20mbps up if he’s receiving 80mbps down because the standard of signal that would achieve 80mbps would always allow 20mbps. If you look at my own connection stats; Max: Upstream rate = 31695 Kbps, Downstream rate = 88156… Read more »
@mpit Thanks for the info. So FTTC is the key? However, I am a bit puzzled as my link is direct to the local exchange- not via a cabinet- located some 400m away. Presumably exchanges are better equipped than cabinets so why is my upload speed only 1Mbps when my download speed is rated at 18Mbps? Is the problem that there is no fibre to the exchange?

@mpit a bit more info.

I was wrong- according to BT ADSL Checker my line is connected to Cabinet 5 not direct to the exchange.

The service available is:
WBC ADSL2+Annex M,
Downstream line up to 21Mbps. Upstream line up to 1Mbps.

This ties in with what I am getting at the moment.

What needs to happen to improve my speeds?

The idea of FTTC is they install a FTTC cabinet along side the existing PCP (Your standard, green, roadside cabinet). They do this to reduce the distance of copper between you and the receiving equipment, this is because the performance over copper is limited by distance (well, not entirely, but this is accurate enough for our discussion). They then take your connection from the FTTC cabinet via… Read more »
@Cicero What needs to happen for you to achieve better speeds is FTTC. If you have a cabinet already there and enabled, this is just a case of placing an order and a BTOR engineer jumping your line over to the FTTC cabinet and installing a modem in your home. If there is a cabinet not enabled, or not a cabinet at all, I’m afraid it’s a… Read more »
@mpit Thanks (BTW the cabinet is only about 150m away from my house) So we are back to square one. :-(( Despite the exchange and cabinet being in the largest village on the Island and in “Intervention Area” that BT has promised to upgrade in the contract with IWC, BT now tells me that there are “No plans” to upgrade either the exchange of the cabinet! Further… Read more »

(Pls ignore the rogue phrase at the end)



I’m not sure their checker will have been updated with that project yet.

I’d suggest contacting their NGA enquiries team – they may offer you a little more information: [email protected]

Alex Lightfoot
Having run several speed tests over the last few days it would appear that my upload speed does vary significantly more than my download speed, the lowest download speed I have registered is 70mbps but the slowest upload has been around 12mbps. I won’t pretend to understand all the ins and outs of the cable, my focus is on software, but it does appear there isn’t a… Read more »

Thanks for the info Alex and mpit but I am not holding my breath waiting for BT to honour their promises!


In response to Stephen’s comment of 23 January, regarding not being able to contact ‘OpenReach’ here are their details:-


Thanks Braveheart & just checked out the link and found this; sadly this site removes the styling layout and fonts from the OR original site. In the words of OR; It’s important that you know what we ie Open Reach, DON’T do We don’t sell phone or broadband services to homes or businesses – our customers the service providers do that. We don’t make recommendations on who… Read more »
Thanks Braveheart & I’ve just checked out the link and found this; sadly the OTW site removes the styling layout and fonts from the OR original site. In the words of OR; It’s important that you know what we ie Open Reach, DON’T do We don’t sell phone or broadband services to homes or businesses – our customers the service providers do that. We don’t make recommendations… Read more »

Further to my previous posting here is another useful link:- http://www.btplc.com/thegroup/


The BT Wholesale Performance Test for broadband is a useful tool for ADSL, fttc and fttp services.


There is a further diagnostic test button after the initial test. When OR techies have used it in my house they just click ‘Yes’ after the fine print in red and the tests.

ha-ha-hah! I am very grateful to this topic, because it has been the only one ever, on the OTW, that I can safely ignore and thus saves me lots of lovely time, because I never understand a word of it. Hats off to those who do! Please, don’t try to summarise it for me in words of one syllable, saying how simple it is, I really couldn’t… Read more »

@tryme How about this summary that might interest you?

One fears that BT’s snow-job on the IWC contract will cost you money without benefit. :-))


Oh what a surprise! That’ll do me, thanks Cicero.


Since penning this article the FTTC availability checker availability date has now been moved to the end of March.

This is the sort of rock-solid deadline and high quality service that the IWC have poured £3m of our money in to.


Your problem is that you are taking it as gospel in the first place.

I’m pretty sure it states that it is just an estimation and with weather like this, I would expect BTOR are far too busy fixing existing lines rather than adding new technology to lines already working.

No, you’re wrong. It’s not my problem, it’s BT’s problem. When I check on an ISP’s website it says: “Fibre Optic Broadband is scheduled to be available to order on this line by 31/03/2014.” So tell me, as a consumer, why shouldn’t I have taken that as ‘gospel’. It’s the expectation that has been set by BT, to its ISPs, which is relayed to the customer. That… Read more »
You’re not the only one to have EFS dates moved. I spent a year watching them and having them moved back. In the end, I found out it was an issue with a blocked pipe that had to be scheduled with some other roads works (or something along those lines). It went live a few days after I moved out! There are so many potential issues that… Read more »

As a side note.

If it’s only been moved back a month, I’d take that as a good sign.

Usually blanket date moves are done in three month blocks.

If it hadn’t been moved back 12 months, mostly at one month progressions I’d take it as a good sign, but it’s a sign of poor planning and incompetent management moving it continuously for a year. Please don’t bang on about ‘the weather’ being at fault – they’ve been not completing this enablement for a year now. The weather hasn’t been that bad all through that year!… Read more »

@mpit “I’m pretty sure it states that it is just an estimation”

Oh yes! The good old “best efforts” excuse that appeared in the negotiation for the IWC contract! :-))


Has the BT contract with IWC, complete with legal commitments and schedule ever been published? If not, why not?

[BTW seeing that alleged upgrading has rendered BT Yahoo email service “unfit for purpose” for the last two months, it does not, give one much confidence in BT’s ability to live up to its technical promises!]

@CIcero I cannot comment on BT Email, but it’ll be run by completely different people – I don’t think you can take that as a standard for how a completely separate entity (BT Openreach) operates. On the email thing, I’d generally advise against using your ISP’s provided email – use an independent service (I recommend Gmail). You’ll have the flexibility to move ISPs without worrying about email… Read more »

I use Gmail as well :-)) What is Thunderbird like? Worth the money?


As in the Email Client? It’s free so just give it a go.

I’ve not used it in years, so couldn’t comment.


Why bother with an email client? Leave it in the browser. If Google loses their data centres sufficiently to take out people’s accounts I would suggest there are going to be bigger issues in most of ours lives than a few missing emails!

Once more my cabinet has passed an ‘expected enablement’ date and what has happened? The date hasn’t been slid back this time, it has been REMOVED. BT can’t tell me why. OpenReach can’t tell me why (although they’re going to get an engineer to give me a call in 24-48hrs to explain why). What does the DSL Checker tell me? “FTTC is currently not available on this… Read more »

Well there’s a surprise (not)! How is your investigation of the BT contract going PJ?