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What do campaigners want? Transparency of information...
Friday 03 October 2003 14:25:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Since we published the 'Dirty Dozen' list a little under two weeks ago, the mood amongst campaigners trying to get BT to issue a trigger has become more and more militant.

This last week, a new problem has raised its ugly head. The issue is that of unviable exchanges, Camelford was the first although this appears to have been a honest mistake. The exchange of Whiteparish has been confirmed from multiple sources that it will be marked as 'unviable' when the next review is published, another exchange that is likely to have a similar fate is Taffs Well.

Admittedly, it is glaringly obvious that when the next review is published the number of unviable exchanges is going to increase, mainly due to the fact that the exchanges without triggers tend to be the smaller ones. This raises the important question of why do smaller exchanges need the same amount of ADSL hardware as the larger ones - is there not some potential for cost savings?

What has really upset a number of campaigners is that they are finding out this sort of information from local newspapers, or companies who talk to BT account managers for example. This is made worse by the excellent level of communication that now exists between campaigners and BT Wholesale, who in the main are saying no decisions have been made. It is believed that the date for publication of the next review for exchanges is not far away - how far is open to guesswork, dates in October, November and December are flying around.

What we would like to see, is a transparent system put in place within days rather than months. Where BT Wholesale has made a decision on an exchange no matter how bad or good to publish it NOW rather than drag things out waiting for a quiet news day to hide the bad news. Weekly or monthly updates to the online demand trackers in a manner similar to how the Ready for Service dates are released would avoid a lot of confusion. We feel that all exchanges need to have clearer information available too, we are aware that to publish this for all ~3000 exchanges will take time, but better to start now, than leave people in the dark. We envisage three stages for exchanges currently with no trigger:

  • A no way will this exchange ever get ADSL message.
  • The exchange may be enabled with enough interest and further cost reductions, the current registration level needed to be published no matter how big.
  • The exchange is seen as viable, but we have not determined the exact trigger level yet.

This sort of information will allow campaigners, RDAs and local businesses to look elsewhere for alternatives when needed or plan campaigns accordingly. Of course it will make it easier for BTs competitors to move into some areas, but if BT is committed to a Broadband based UK infrastructure, it must be prepared for competitors to exploit gaps in the market, rather than fighting a rear guard action that does consumers and businesses no favours.

If you are a campaigner for your area, or just want to share your experiences with BT in this matter then feel free to visit and post in our Pre-registration Campaigns forum.

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