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BT accused of blocking broadband take-up

An irate user complains

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BT has been accused of "anti-competitive behaviour" following allegations that it blocked attempts for a customer to subscribe to a rival broadband service.

Six weeks ago Tina Weston from Worcester tried to subscribe to Demon's ADSL service but was told by BT that the distance between her house and the local exchange was too great.

Undaunted, Tina continued to quiz staff at BT until someone carried out a detailed investigation into her line. Although she was around 6km from her local exchange (one of the specifications of ADSL is that users need to be within 5.5km of an enabled exchange) it was discovered that her line could handle an ADSL connection.

At the beginning of November, Tina's line was converted to ADSL. The snag was that despite requests to have Demon as her ISP she was actually connected to BT Broadband - the no frills, access-only product from BT.

Clearly, this was against her wishes so she spent the next three weeks trying to get the service removed and replaced with Demon's product. This, she was told, couldn't be done. After yet more phone calls and emails, the connection was finally cancelled at the end of November. But when she tried to subscribe to Demon she was told - guess what - that her house was too far from the exchange.

So, despite being able to prove that the line can take ADSL, her requests to have ADSL from Demon have been declined.

Had Tina been happy to stick with BT Broadband, she would now have high-speed Net access. But her insistence at sticking with Demon has meant that she is still without broadband.

Enraged by the whole, sorry episode, Tina has complained to BT and to telecoms regulator Oftel. She believes BT's internal processes are to blame and is concerned that there appears to be no way to escalate any problems. She's also concerned that BT staff simply don't know the difference between the umbrella term "broadband" and BT's product "BT Broadband". So far she has spoken to a staggering 54 different people at BT and spent hours of her time trying to sort out the problem.

In the letter she writes: "The amount of buck-passing and stone-walling that has happened...is truly staggering.

"I am reluctantly having to agree more and more that I am being penalised for not choosing BT as my ISP. This does seem rather anti-competitive to me. I would like you to explain to me why it is that as soon as it was realised that a mistake has been made by BT that BT did not then seek to rectify that as soon as was humanly possible, instead giving me the run-around for days on end."

A spokesman for BT Wholesale said the company took the complaint very seriously and was investigating it "as a matter of urgency". ®

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