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Suffolk family quoted 'jaw-dropping' £2,323 for fibre broadband

Monday, August 3rd 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A Zen Internet customer has told of her shock after being quoted more than £2,000 to upgrade to fibre broadband.

Sam Watson, 47, lives in the village of Lavenham, near Sudbury in Suffolk, with her husband Simon, also 47, and children Becky, 17, and Mikey, 13.

The family gets “reasonable” broadband speeds but decided to upgrade after hearing fibre had been made available in the village as part of the Better Broadband for Suffolk rollout.

“Having two teenagers plus running an IT consultancy business partly from home I got in touch with Zen,” Mrs Watson told Cable.co.uk.

“A couple of weeks passed, Openreach turned up for a site survey but didn't give me much information beyond needing to dig across our garden.”

She then received a phone call from Zen, a residential and business broadband provider based in Rochdale, to say fibre cables would have to be laid to her house from the cabinet at the end of the street, at a cost of £2,323.

“It’s mind-boggling, even the Zen rep was shocked,” said Mrs Watson.

“I asked if we could just go with fibre to the cabinet, but apparently that’s a different technology and not what our cabinet is enabled for.”

Fibre to the cabinet uses the copper wires already connecting each house to the cabinet, rather than running a new fibre cable to every property.

“This really bothers me. Better Broadband For Suffolk tweet every time a cabinet gets upgraded, but what does that even mean?

“It certainly doesn’t mean that consumers are connected to superfast broadband, as I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s been quoted a jaw-dropping amount for installation.”

'We lose connection when it rains'

She said the Watsons are “just an average family” that has been getting “reasonable” speeds of 10Mbps (download) and 0.87Mbps (upload) since they switched to Zen.

But she admitted: “As soon as more than one person wants to be online, we hit trouble.

“Our main problems are bandwidth and reliability – our estate was built in the 1970s and the copper wires running to our house are buried underground so we tend to lose connection when it rains plus we get ants invading the wiring/terminal box.

“As to bandwidth, the kids rely on the internet to keep in touch with their friends – being rural, even school friends can live 20-30 miles away.

“They also stream online TV and movies as well as gaming, there’s not much for teenagers to do here and buses are expensive/infrequent so being able to connect helps them feel less isolated as well as keeping up with what's going on in their world.”

Mrs Watson said she and her husband have set up an office five miles away because it has become “almost impossible” to work from home.

A Zen spokesperson said: “As an ISP dedicated to providing a great customer experience, we share the frustrations of users who come across unexpected costs when trying to have connectivity installed at their premises.

The spokesperson said the government had invested "significant amounts of capital" to ensure infrastructure is upgraded so internet service providers can make the rollout of superfast broadband as simple as possible for customers, with minimal financial burden.

“Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict the quality of pre-existing connectivity ducts installed underground, so when they come to be refurbished or replaced high excess construction charges can be generated which place significant financial pressure on the user – as we see in this particular customer’s case.

“Customers incur excess construction charges only in exceptional circumstances. Zen Internet will continue to work closely with customers and suppliers to ensure the provisioning of connectivity is pain-free in as many cases as possible.”

Update: A spokesperson for Openreach said: "Openreach charges each broadband provider the same amount when their customers want to upgrade to fibre broadband.

"In almost every case this amount is small and not passed onto the customer, but in a tiny minority of cases we face complex engineering challenges that cost a lot more to overcome.

“In this case, we’d need to excavate a road and install new cabling to connect a single home.

"Openreach covers the first £1,000 of costs in any case like this, but the remainder is passed to the customer’s service provider.”

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Comments (5)

Andrew Ferguson
4th August 2015

Well this is FTTH and not FTTC that the article is talking about, i.e. have done the research and looked at what is available in that area.

So it will be excess construction costs for the run from the fibre manifold to the outside wall of the property.

Manifolds are generally much closer to the 8 to 12 properties each one serves than any existing copper cabinet, but if a property had a directly buried phone line excess charges may arise, which looks likely to be the case in this instance.

Still not good, but only commented with a view to providing a bit of help.

4th August 2015

hi Andrew, I was using 'infinity' as the waiting time not the product. And it is doubtful the cabinet is next to their garden, so wayleaves would have to be granted to get it to them. It isn't a political issue, its just a fact of life. Millions are deprived of good connections while the monopoly protects its old copper phone lines. And yes, we know a large proportion can go a bit faster now, but its only a sticking plaster, we still haven't invested in a futureproof infrastructure. Cabinets are obsolete already.

Andrew Ferguson
4th August 2015

Nothing to do with wayleaves if going across your OWN garden is it, and as they were talking with Zen it CANNOT be Infinity.

Had simply replied with a possible way forward for the family affected, rather than trying to make this a political issue.

3rd August 2015

Its called 'Build and Benefit BT' Andrew, the people build the network, get free wayleaves for the telco, who then charge them full price for infinity and claim the infrastructure.

Andrew Ferguson
3rd August 2015

If the issue is excess construction costs, then an option for the run across the garden is to install the duct yourselves, i.e. get Openreach to deliver the ducting and dig it in yourself. Takes a bit more arranging on the part of Zen, but it has been done before.

Another thing to do might be to find out what the situation is with immediate neighbours and by placing a larger group order, Openreach may forego excess charges totally.

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