Last week, I had a call from Helen Russell in the Lower Village telling me that when she called to renew her BT phone/broadband service the BT sales person pushed hard by phone for her to upgrade to BT Infinity. This is a service that promises broadband speeds of ‘up to 78Mbps’, compared to the 1.5 to 3.0Mbps that most of us get in the village today. Helen knew that, as a Parish Councillor, I had been working for some time on bringing a higher speed service to our community.
I went online and ordered BT Infinity. During the process, a little spinning symbol on the screen told me that my line was being tested. Then my order was accepted and I received the confirmation of the order shown below.
January 2010 was when I started a quest to bring higher speed broadband to South Wraxall. Here’s a summary of what’s happened since January 2012 – the whole story would take too long! On 3rd January 2012, BT’s South West Regional Manager and his boss had a meeting with me in Bath. The meeting was at their request. They knew that I was discussing bringing high-speed broadband into the village with a private contractor, Gigaclear, and their clear goal was to persuade me that a competitive BT offering was likely to be available in the foreseeable future. The Bradford-on-Avon telephone exchange, to which we’re connected, would be enabled to deliver the BT Infinity broadband service, quite possibly before the end of 2012. It became clear later that we would need BT’s South Wraxall cabinet to be connected to the Bradford-on-Avon exchange by fibre in order for the village to receive BT Infinity. Since the initial meeting, no end of chasing has produced any commitment from BT or Wiltshire Council (who have a programme of rolling out broadband using a government grant with BT as the contractor) regarding when the South Wraxall cabinet might be enabled.
Last week, I made contact with BT Regional Manager again. He confirmed that the South Wraxall cabinet is not enabled and that BT cannot fulfil its confirmed order, despite the fact that the Bradford-on-Avon exchange was upgraded on April 11th. I had email exchanges with Wiltshire Council, then I had phone conversations and email exchanges with BT’s ‘Executive Level Complaints’ department in London who told me that the South Wraxall cabinet is due to be enabled in June 2015 – a full 3 years after the company’s senior representatives sought to persuade me that high speed broadband was ‘coming soon’.
As of today, I am waiting for BT to tell me what more we need to do to bring high speed broadband to South Wraxall soon and whether it is going to honour its contract by installing the service that is the subject of a confirmed order. I have consulted two legal specialists informally. There seems little doubt that my confirmed order with BT is a legally binding contract. A solicitor has offered to take the matter further on my behalf and I will pursue this route if I don’t make further progress with current discussions.
On the evidence to date, a BT sales pitch can’t be trusted and a BT order confirmation isn’t worth the email it’s written on. The BBC last year reported a 42% increase in BT’s profits, to £2.4bn. BT paid £2bn into its pension fund and increased the dividend to shareholders by 12% – so the cost of meeting its obligations to our community is hardly going to break the bank.
BT’s response to the South Wraxall debacle will make the company’s true values, ethics and sense of corporate social responsibility apparent for all to see.