The truth about broadband

I used to work for an ISP and I’ve had up-close and personal experience of both customers and the BT Wholesale side of things. It’s been a number of years since I worked there and now I’m seeing more and more people switching across to FTTC, commonly known as “Infinity” according the BT.

However, there’s massive problems which I’m dearly hoping that are being addressed.

Firstly is the management of expectations. Customers believe that they’ll get 80Mbps when, on my exchange, 40Mbps on fibre is the fastest anyone is going to get. To get that speed you have to be pretty much on top of the cabinet too.


FTTC, also known as Fibre To The Cabinet, basically shortens the distance between you and the exchange by reducing the amount of copper cable. Instead of the twisted pair in your house going all the way to the exchange (like regular ADSL broadband), it stops at one of those big green cabinets near you house and then switches to fibre-optic.

The trouble is, on my experience at least, we’ve still got a long way to go. Moving house and taking your phone number with you is costly and takes far, far too long. There’s also a ridiculous situation between the BT companies.

BT Wholesale are the people that most ISP’s contact when they want an ADSL or FTTC installation doing. BT Wholesale then ask BT Openreach to go and do the installation. Meanwhile, if you choose BT Retail, aka BT Broadband, then they will be billing you and putting the internet service on top.

Confused yet?

You should be. Basically, if you’ve chosen BT Broadband to install your BT Infinity FTTC broadband and want an update on your installation, you call BT Broadband up. BT Broadband will then contact BT Wholesale, and BT Wholesale will show an electronic update on what’s happening. There’s a limited telephone service between the ISP (BT Broadband) and BT Wholesale, and the ISP (BT Broadband in this case) CANNOT speak directly to the BT Openreach engineer. They have to go through BT Wholesale, who play piggy-in-the-middle.

No matter how angry you, as the customer, get, you cannot speak to the engineer doing the work directly. You cannot see what that BT Openreach guy is doing. You have to instead call BT Broadband, who log into a web console with BT Wholesale where they can then request an update or log a fault, and then hopefully BT Wholesale will get an update from BT Openreach to feedback through the change.

Eventually you might get an update, but the infuriating thing is the fact that these are all separate entities. BT Broadband (the ISP) isn’t the same as BT Wholesale (the order-takers and infrastructure) or BT Openreach (the installers and fixers).

Add into this the customer – you. When you call the support desk because your broadband is slow, this is the same stupid path that your ISP has to go through. They (the ISP) will raise a ticket with BT Wholesale, who will investigate and usually declare that everything is alright. Meanwhile, you get more and more angry as your speeds are nowhere near what you expected. If BT Wholesale do task a BT Openreach engineer (or the ISP pushes for one), you could get charged for missed appointments, faults that aren’t BT’s fault and internal wiring problems. Basically, you’re putting your neck on the line just raising a fault because they can just add the charge directly to your phone bill.

The truth?

If your broadband speed is slow and it’s in the master socket without any internal wiring, you’ve done almost everything. ADSL customers should swap the filters, check wiring. FTTC customers should check the wiring and router etc. However, if BT say that their network is fine and you’re basically just on a long line or a congested exchange, you’re stuffed. They really don’t care a great deal. The cabling and network they have is getting old now, and if you have a slow-ish connection then you’re probably going to have it for quite some time yet if BT have stated that their bits are fine.