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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Urban broadband frustration mounts
Piccadilly Station, Manchester
Residents in one part of Manchester cannot get ADSL
BBC News Online's Jane Wakefield

As BT launches its largest ever campaign for broadband, disaffection is growing among those in the UK who are not be able to participate in the high-speed internet revolution.

The 33m nationwide advertising campaign reached local businesses in Goring, Berkshire in the form of a glossy leaflet extolling the virtues of broadband.

The leaflet featured a paper traffic cone to be cut out and put on computers "when the internet is holding you up".

There is just one problem. Goring is one of the towns among the third of the country that cannot get broadband over a fast ADSL internet connection.

Not a rural problem

"BT's marketing arm clearly has no idea which exchanges are enabled," said Cathi Darling, who is leading the campaign to bring broadband to the area.

"It is wasting large amounts of money targeting businesses by direct mail when these businesses are unable to respond, however much they may wish to."

"The only thing holding them up is BT itself," she said.

Lack of broadband is not just a rural problem. Goring is situated in the middle of the UK's Silicon Valley, just a few miles from Reading.

Trigger levels

Even in big cities such as Manchester, there are exchanges that remain broadband free.

Living close to Manchester's Piccadilly station technology worker Martin Nash was surprised to learn that his local exchange was not ADSL-enabled.


We are working on ways to reduce the cost and potentially the trigger levels could come down

Rebecca Webster, BT Wholesale
He was even more surprised to learn that he would need to find 349 other people interested in having broadband before BT would consider putting the technology in.

He and others like him can register their interest in ADSL on the BT website where they can also find out the so-called trigger levels for each local exchange.

Between 150 to 750 people must sign up before BT will agree to do the necessary upgrade.

The exact number depends on the cost of putting equipment into the exchange and of connecting the exchange to its network.

Looking at costs

Critics have accused BT of setting these levels arbitrarily high and not making it clear how the figures are arrived at.

Head of Marketing for BT Wholesale Rebecca Webster said BT would not publish these details due to "commercial sensitivity".

But she admitted that the process is different to that used when the first wave of telephone exchanges were ADSL-enabled.

There may be a ray of light for residents faced with having to persuade hundreds of their neighbours to sign up for broadband as she revealed that the trigger levels are not set in stone.

"We are working on ways to reduce the cost and potentially the trigger levels could come down," she said.

Before consumers get too excited they should take note that BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland told a government committee earlier in the year that it could take 20 years to wire the entire nation with broadband.

In a recent interview with BBC News Online, Chief Executive Ben Verwaayen admitted that this "is a very long time" but did offer an alternative timetable.

Can you get broadband where you live? What should be done to bring high speed net access to everywhere in the UK?

I am a director of a large information technology company based in Worcester. I choose to live on the west side of Worcester where unfortunately our exchange will not be updated because of lack of demand. However we have thousands of homes, several schools and a university, so I ask BT how many people need to show interest before they update the exchange? Frustrated!
Kevin Savage, Worcester, UK


my wife is a BT shareholder and has been offered a reduction in broadband setup costs but we are unable to benefit!

Rob Baker, UK
I live on the outskirts of Manchester. Both NTL and BT have started campaigns in the area to attract new broadband customers but it is unavailable in the area from either and worse there is no idea when it will be possible. Additionally my wife is a BT shareholder and has been offered a reduction in broadband setup costs but we are unable to benefit! I have complained to BT by telephone to no effect.
Rob Baker, UK

Stop wasting time and money on getting BT broadband available when alternative technologies (such as satellite), would be more cost-effective in many areas. Let the market decide what it wants, and stop asking the taxpayer to contribute to BT's profits.
Stephen, UK

I live in a small village that is not enabled for ADSL. There has not even been a trigger level set. I have resorted to using a satellite system for broadband access. This however, still requires the use of a mode for the upload data stream. It's great for general surfing, but useless for the likes of online gaming which require a low latency.
Andi Fairhurst, UK

Its not just a matter of having exchanges enabled, it depends on the cable length to the exchange. I live on the Docklands in London, less than a mile from Canary Wharf, yet I can't get broadband either. Although BT have kindly offered to sell me ISDN at a very high price for a service not much better than dial-up. I used to live in a small mining town near Wigan, which had broadband over two and a half years ago, via Telewest.
Paul, UK

I live in Harlow Essex, only 25 miles from London. I cannot get any broadband service, but keep getting mailshots from BT informing me of their broadband satellite service at approximately 50 per month and nearly 300 for the installation!
Kim Blanco, UK

South staffs, no broadband. Some areas have access to cable and ADSL and others nothing. It means I have to work 500 miles from home five days a week in Holland opposed to three days if I had local broadband access. Broadband is BT's future. They must convince Joe Public it's something they need.
Russell Perry , UK

I too am having problems regarding broadband - apparently I live too far from the local exchange and therefore have to manage with my 56k modem. I can see absolutely no way that BT could get their act together to enable us, as a country, to really benefit from broadband. Once again the UK is trying to play catch up!
Michael H, Newcastle, UK

Broadband is not the only issue. Inspite of having a digital TV, I can not receive a digital signal where I live, other than paying for satellite. So the BBC's continuous advertisement of its "free to air" services is intensely irritating. It is unfair to be forced to pay a licence fee for services that are not available through no fault of my own.
Pauline Bell, England

I live in a fairly small town and cannot get ADSL. BT have reviewed our exchange and decided to not set trigger levels, because they believe that no number of people could make it commercially viable. They say they will be offering other ways to access broadband, such as wireless technologies, but none of these exist yet. The local high school is supposed to be one of the new Technology Colleges - how can they expect to provide specialised educations in technology when the pupils cannot use what is becoming a basic need?
Bob, UK

Everyone is focused on ADSL, just don't forget the cable alternatives! Some people see all the publicity surrounding BT and ADSL and forget that this isn't the only route into broadband. You may be lucky and live in a Telewest or NTL cabled area and not realise this.
Greg, information technology manager, UK

Not only do I work for one of the two primary cable companies in the UK supporting their cable modems but I live in an area which is in the other's franchise, yet I can't get cable or ADSL and see no prospect of either in the near future. So much for broadband Britain.
Nigel, Wirral, UK

I am distraught. I live less than 100 miles from the centre of London - one of the world's major capital cities - and the very best speed I can get via my dial-up modem is 26.4 kbps. It is pathetic. I can't get ISDN or ADSL. I am too far away for the radio system to work, and the satellite system is not compatible with my company's servers. I have been in touch with Ben Verwaayen, Chief Executive of BT, and the only option he can offer me is a leased-line at 900 in install and a further 1870 per quarter. 7480 per year! And this is only for 64 kbps. To get 128 kbps would be 'around double that'. What can I do? I am at my wit's end. With the price of fuel ever-increasing along with traffic congestion, working from home must be the modern way to work yet one can't do so because the telecoms are so dire. What can one do? What leverage can one use to get BT to get it's act together? BT's money would be much better spent getting broadband out to those who wanted it. Those people who want broadband know about it. They don't need to be told about it via a advertising campaign. It just makes a mockery of the whole thing.
Guy Massey, Sudbury, Suffolk, UK

I have ADSL, and its far from the wonderful service advertised. Always on? Yes, if you exclude the frequent disconnections and being unable to reconnect for hours at a time. High speed? I think not. At peak times it can be slower than a standard modem. Great content? Broadband media content is practically non-existent outside of the US, and due to copyright reasons is rarely able to be accessed by UK surfers. A word of warning, if your going to sign up, don't chuck out your old dial-up modem - you will need it as backup for when the service is particularly slow.
Phil, UK

Just because I live in the country side does not mean I do not wish to keep up with the latest technology, I have tried to register for broadband but I am unable to do from both my home and business as our exchanges are unable to do this. I do not go round chewing straw all day and would like to have the same benefits as other people via BT, but they have not even got a date when it might be installed in this area. So we have no alternative but to just sit around and wait.
Stephen Shaw, UK

As we live in an increasingly wireless world, it comes as a surprise that no company is offering cost effective broadband via short wave radio links. The overall cost of wireless is a fraction of hard wired cable links. Surely the government should free up frequencies specifically for wireless broadband.
Jamie, UK

I live in a five-year-old estate on the northeast corner of Newbury. I cannot get ADSL via the BT line nor is there cable laid as an alternative. How much more broadband support could been made available for the millions spent on the ads.
William, UK

I am fortunate enough to live in a Telewest broadband area and subscribe to this service because it is faster than BT. However, even if I wanted BT broadband I can't have it because the trigger level for the area in which I live has not been reached and is nowhere near being reached as yet.
Michael Forster, UK

It's difficult to imagine anything more irritating than being cajoled to do something and then being told it's not available to you. I live in a large-ish conurbation but was told by, an otherwise very helpful, BT operator that I was classed as 'rural'. Well there is a tree in my garden I suppose. This poor lady seemed intensely embarrassed by the whole thing and admitted that she spent a large part of her day explaining to bemused potential purchasers that they could not sign up. BT has, once again shot itself in the foot. It really can't have too many toes left!
Martin K, England

BT are shooting themselves in the foot. The faster, more reliable, established cable services will surely win the fight for the UK's broadband customers. Especially since so many other services are provided alongside cable broadband (for a fraction of the cost of ADSL) that BT just cannot offer and therefore cannot compete. Their only hope is to roll out RADSL as soon as possible. I don't see that happening though.
Andrew Sherlock, UK

I have the advantage of living in Goring, working within a UK Silicon Valley Company and having also worked for BT, so I think I can speak for all sides. Broadband will be a great tool for the UK's netsurfers and companies alike once it is implemented but we have to remember the current state of the telecoms industry in the UK and Globally. As much as BT is in the wrong for canvassing in areas it cannot provide it is correct in concentrating on areas with the larger populations therefore higher percentages of subscribers. This in turn will lead to a reduction of costs for BT and this can then be passed on to the consumer and later enable rural access as well. I sympathise with people eager to join the technological revolution but sometimes we need to look at things in a more realistic point of view.
Daniel, UK

No go in the villages in Silicon Fen either (five miles outside Cambridge). Our neighbourhood has set up a wireless broadband community system with antennas on the houses instead!
Ian Rickards, Cambridge UK

I have been having a go at BT for quite a while now. The target for my village is set at 400 - the total number of houses is only if the order of 1600 - this means that one in four need to apply, there are no large businesses (and only about six small businesses) in the village. I think it is obscene that BT should spend all the money they are on advertising broadband when they could use that money to upgrade their exchanges.
Mike Adams, UK

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