Is there anything that can be done about high broadband rates?

(8 Posts)
Gracelo Thu 31-Jan-13 10:59:45

I would like to switch phone+broadband supplier from BT (~£40/month) and I started looking for better deals. However it seems that there are no substantially better offers available in the area where I live.
Admittedly I live in rural Scotland but my friend who lives less than 2 miles away is on a cheap TalkTalk deal and so are friends who live 3 miles away in the other direction, it's not like there are no cheaper services available at all close by. Some companies, like TalkTalk, don't offer services at all at my postcode and other, like Sky and plusnet only offer deals which are pretty much the same price as BT. The Plusnet customer adviser I talked to says that the rates are set by Ofcom for individual exchanges and that we were just unlucky.
Is there anything that can be done about this? Can I petition Ofcom and would they actually care? There are about 60-70 households on this exchange. Has anyone challenged unfair broadband rates before and can advice on how to go about it? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

nannynick Thu 31-Jan-13 12:41:37

My mum lives in Scotland and has similar issues about the lack of providers - she has stuck with being with BT. An option I did suggest to her was PlusNet, which is owned by BT Group PLC and seems to me to use the BT equipment (though someone more technical may tell me otherwise) but provides more bandwidth (the amount of data permitted each month).

SamKnows can tell you what facilities your phone exchange offers. The exchange near my mum offers ADSL / ADSLmax and is Market 1 (see bottom right of the SamKnows page for which Market the exchange is in). The Market figure seems to relate to how many users are on the exchange... I'm on a Market 3 exchange and I get a lot of choice in broadband provider. I presume this is because the companies feel it's worth having their equipment at the exchange as they are likely to get enough subscribers to their service.

The Market number thing is what I think the PlusNet customer adviser was talking about, as I am on a Market 3 exchange I get a lower cost broadband than someone on a Market 1 exchange would get.

I would doubt there is anything you can do. With 60-70 houses on your exchange it is not viable for the companies to offer you a lot of choice.

I suppose you could have satellite link but the cost is quite high and the bandwidth allowance quite low (in my view).

Mobile Broadband is a possibility - Article: Scottish Villages Get Free Mobile Broadband Thanks to 3UK

ouryve Thu 31-Jan-13 12:51:11

Being rural does make Internet slower and more expensive, doesn't it? The structure behind hte costs comes in 3 zones. Like you, I'm in the middle of nowhere zone (I live 5 miles from Durham, ffs!) and while Talk Talk does supply us (not that I'd touch them with a bargepole) the choice isn't all that great in total. We've been with Plusnet ever since we first got broadband, almost 9 years ago. I think we're paying something like £13 a month for a measly 1Mb connection, but at least we have enough bandwidth allowance to compensate. Plus, if we download big things overnight, it doesn't come off our allowance.

One of the reasons why people in towns and cities get much cheaper broadband is because of LLU. The effects of this are that more households can be supplied more cheaply. The disadvantage for users is that the 8MB max they're promised is unlikely to materialise at peak times because too many other people are using it.

I know a few people in quite remote locations who use mobile dongles for their Internet, but the download allowance does tend to be small and it does depend on how good mobile providers are at serving that area.

Gracelo Thu 31-Jan-13 14:19:16

Thanks nannynick and ouyve for your answers.
I checked our exchange on SamKnows and we share an exchange with the larger village on the other side of the loch. There are 511 residential premises and 31 commercial ones and the only available option is ADSL, sigh. My friend is on the exchange just North of us and they only have 344 residential and 32 commercial premises. I wish we were on that exchange. It's only marginally further away and the line doesn't have to get across a bridge.

I've wondered about mobile internet but I'm not sure I understand it. Does it work on normal PCs, even quite old ones, or do I need a tablet or smartphone for it. I do have a smartphone but I need internet on a computer as well. Geee, I feel old having to ask these questions. Technology has moved faster than I have.

nannynick Thu 31-Jan-13 15:20:30

Mobile internet dongles can be USB devices, or some are Bluetooth. So on an older PC a USB device may be what you would need, where as for tablets a bluetooth device would work - may be known as MiFi. You can also get Bluetooth dongles for older PCs, to enable the PC to talk to a Bluetooth device.

Does your smartphone get a good signal when at home? If so then the network you are on may well have a mobile broadband dongle available, they may even allow you to connect your smartphone to your computer (known as tethering). Three Mobile: Tethering

Speeds vary, see this article and as you have a smartphone it may be good to try using that to get a feel for speed at your location by running a SpeedTest. (Check your usage allowance before running the test as it may use up to 20MB of data)

I live over 3.5km from the nearest exchange and in the past the issue with ADSL speed has been that due to the line length (well over 3.5km) the speed is poor and early on when ADSL first came out I was not even allowed to have it as it was too unstable. Length of line is a big factor still in terms of speed you will get, as is the line quality (loss measured in dB). I once had my line tested by an engineer and I had over 60db loss. This is worth a read if you are interested about Line Loss. 60dB loss means that about 1 millionth of the initial power is received.

I was lucky though as about a year ago, BT pushed out fibre to cabinet (FTTC), so phone line now connects to a Green Box at the end of my street, at which point the data signal then gets routed via fibre optic, with voice then still going via the usual phone cable. Rolling out fibre to all parts of the UK is very costly and I would imagine that they will not do it for everywhere, especially exchanges with not that many users on it. Openreach have a look up facility to see if an exchange will be Fibre enabled... the exchange where my mum lives in Scotland says "Not currently in rollout plans", so unlikely to ever happen and I suspect your exchange may be in the same boat. It's just not financially viable to lay the fibre. Maybe technology will change over the years - never know data over powerlines (link goes to details of a trial in Cumbria) may happen on a big scale.

Gracelo Thu 31-Jan-13 16:24:57

Thanks nannynick, I really appreciate all your help.
I checked Openreach and like your mum we are not in an area where there are any plans for fibre. Also, it seems we are not covered for mobile broadband, although, strangely, both EE and 3 seem to think that on the little sandspit just to the West of us, which is only visible or accessible at low tide, there should be excellent mobile broadband coverage.
I'll have stick with BT, won't I?
I'd still like to know how Ofcom justifies the different rates. Our exchange is bigger than the one my friend is on. I can (sort of) accept that it's one of the disadvantages of living very rural (not as rural as some places in Scotland though) but that there are such differences even within our area I find really irritating.

nannynick Thu 31-Jan-13 16:40:19

If it helps - SiteFinder - will show where there are mobile masts. You have to zoom in a bit and then scroll around. I can not see where it says if the mast supports data or not but it's a possible way of seeing what mobile networks are in your area.

Your existing smartphone is the best thing I feel to use for testing purposes, as long as it gets a signal. If it is on contract you may be able to get Tethering added for just a month, to test that out.

Gracelo Fri 01-Feb-13 12:05:40

Thanks NN, I have decent mobile coverage with O2 here. I can tell the Vodafone users at work because they always gather with their phones at one tiny little spot in the building whereas I have good reception anywhere at work and at home.
I need broadband at home independently from my phone otherwise dp and the children don't have broadband when I'm away. Dp doesn't have a smartphone (yet).
Thanks again for your help. I learnt stuff. smile

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