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BT reprograms biz customers as hotspots

Bandwidth so good they're charging for it twice

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BT has begun transforming its commercial customers' Business Hubs into OpenZone hotspots for any passing Tom, Dick or Harry to share, and leaving businesses to figure out how to opt out of the scheme after the fact.

Under the scheme, 20,000 BT Business Broadband customers have already had their hubs upgraded, with another 200,000 being seconded into the OpenZone network over the next few months.

BT assures us that everyone received a notification e-mail providing details of how to opt out of the sharing arrangement.

The e-mail sent out to business customers explains that the hub will receive an overnight upgrade, warning the user to leave it switched on and so forth, before slipping in the exciting news, at paragraph four, that following the upgrade total strangers will be able to share their bandwidth:

"After the upgrade BT Openzone will be ENABLED, offering your visitors and customers secure, public wireless internet access using your Hub as a BT Openzone wireless hotspot."

BT reckons this is just want businesses want: they'll be able to resell OpenZone vouchers to visitors and make a few quid, as well as sharing their bandwidth with all and sundry.

We spoke to BT who passed on a press release that was apparently sent out to selected media (El Reg comms editor excluded, natch) at the end of January.

"Free BT public wi-fi hotspot for every business broadband customer" claims the release, proudly suggesting that "Hub owners buy BT Openzone access vouchers ... and can choose to pass the vouchers to their customers or resell the prime business service and add revenue", so you can either screw visitors to your office by selling them vouchers, or pay BT twice for the same bandwidth by giving them away.

BT claims the OpenZone users are securely separated from local users, and has the experience of Fon to back that up. But hitting customers twice for the same bandwidth is certainly a new low for the former-monopoly telco.

BT does offer instructions for turning off the hotspot, and the company isn't expecting customers to share their bandwidth for nothing. Assuming you don't disable the hotspot then you get entered into a prize draw and could be the lucky owner of an iPod Touch (8GB), or even a few hours of free OpenZone access - which might be useful if you're visiting a company that wants to sell you access.

Reg reader Tim was not convinced, telling us "I wouldn’t mind so much if we didn’t get such a paltry speed from our BT connection. Well, no, actually I would still mind then too."®

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