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Herefordshire man's line 'not commercially viable' for superfast broadband

Monday, November 24th 2014 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A Herefordshire man says he is unable to get superfast broadband as he is on an exchange-only line and it is “not commercially viable” for BT to upgrade it.

Mark Herriot (pictured) has been trying to upgrade his broadband for more than a year after Fastershire – a partnership between Herefordshire and Gloucestershire councils and BT – announced a rollout of superfast speeds in the two counties.

Mr Herriot, from Ross-on-Wye, was eventually told his house may not be part of the programme as it was connected directly to his local telephone exchange rather than through a cabinet.

“We have terrible problems with fluctuations, especially in the evening and particularly over the last few months. We have had the engineer out to no avail,” he told Cable.co.uk.

“This is part of the reason I have been pursuing NGA [next generation access] and seeing if we can get it and was surprised to hear it is not available to us, despite all the hype around fibre being laid in Ross on Wye.

“This led me to finally dig deeper which is when I uncovered the exchange-only lines.”

Mr Herriot said he spoke to senior figures at BT who were unable to give him an explanation.

“I finally got an answer on the Openreach website,” he said.

“I asked why I couldn’t get superfast broadband and was told ‘you’ve got an exchange-only line, not through a cabinet, which it is not commercially viable to upgrade’.

“Fastershire said they were upgrading some exchange-only lines but couldn’t say if ours would be or not.”

Mr Herriot was told by Fastershire the superfast rollout to Ross on Wye would be completed in December and only then would he find out whether his line had been upgraded or not.

“5% of lines are exchange only. How many people will be left without a connection?”

A BT spokesperson said it was more challenging to get fibre broadband to homes served by exchange only lines.

“Our policy is to get fibre broadband to as many homes and businesses across the UK as possible with the funding available, regardless of what they have already,” he said.

“We’re at 21 million homes and counting and no other company is investing anything like the more than £3 billion that BT has put in to fibre broadband.

“We’re also working hard to support the government in taking coverage even further over the next few years via the BDUK process.”

Advice on the Fastershire website says: “There are cases where some exchange-only lines may be fibre enabled as part of the Fastershire project, for example where an additional cabinet is built close to the exchange or where Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) is used.

“Where EO lines are not fibre enabled and are unable to receive download speeds of 2Mbps alternative approaches may be required to provide an uplift in speed.

“Delivering faster broadband to exchange-only lines and fibre to the premises is more complex than delivering it to homes and businesses connected to a cabinet. “This means that it often takes longer to deliver fibre broadband to these properties than to properties within the same area that are connected to a cabinet.”

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