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BT OpenZone: Is it or isn't it?

Hotspot controversy stoked by ambiguity

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BT's decision to upgrade every BT Business Hub, enabling them to operate as OpenZone hotspots, has been controversial - the fact that the company seems unable to decide if users are being opted into or out of the system can only make things worse.

The email sent to customers seems pretty explicit, stating clearly that "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". But after we covered the story, BT got in touch to tell us that "Existing customers were mailed a firmware upgrade to ask them to CHOOSE whether they want to upgrade their hub to a hotspot" - which neither matches the text of the original mail sent to customers, nor corresponds to the experience of our readers.

Everyone does agree that new customers will be issued with a router that already has the OpenZone hotspot enabled, but the question of what happens to existing users remains open.

That upgrade is, obviously, not mailed to customers but automatically comes overnight as described in the email which instructs customers to leave the router powered up for a few nights to make sure it's received. Several Reg readers report that once they had received the upgrade the OpenZone function was enabled by default - so if they had done nothing they would be sharing their network access.

BT is at pains to point out that OpenZone traffic is low priority, and that OpenZone users won't impact on the customer's bandwidth cap; the telco even has an FAQ on the subject, but many customers are still upset to be providing OpenZone with free hotspots despite assurances from BT that such connections will be secure.

We've asked BT for clarification, a couple of times, but the company is still pondering the matter and hopefully will get back to us soon; we'll update you when we can. ®

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