Sunday, 19 January 2014

Trojan horses: the latest BT Infinity offer

Sigh. Two days ago yet another missive came from BT, drawing attention to their fibre optic broadband, marketed as BT Infinity.

I already have 'ordinary' broadband. I switched to BT from Talk Talk in April 2012. The BT deal gave me (for the first time) wireless technology at home via a BT Home Hub router; and the package also included free weekend and evening landline phone calls (a redundant benefit now, because I've disconnected the handset to avoid those annoying sales calls, and rely instead on my mobile phone).

In June 2012, BT carried out some local infrastructure work that dramatically improved their broadband and phone call service in the village, and ever since then there has been nothing to complain about. I do perfectly see that things could be better still with BT Infinity, but I'm not prepared to pay for it. I don't download films, or stream sport, or otherwise make heavy use of the Internet. I haven't got a family with multifarious needs. I really can put up with the BBC iPlayer having to catch its breath every now and then, just as I put up with it when caravanning. Honestly, it's not a problem.

But BT keep sending letters that extol the benefits of BT Infinity to me. Go away!

I had three such letters in 2013. The first (in May) was a low-key announcement that fibre optic broadband was now available in my area. I think I checked and found that, actually, it wasn't. Not yet. The second (in September) was more pushy. It said in big letters Upgrade to faster, more reliable fibre optic broadband for free, and explained briefly what I could do with such bandwidth. I was unmoved. The third (in December) said Enjoy superfast broadband speeds - and great sport for free. Consumer programmes such as You and yours on BBC Radio 4 suggested that 'superfast' meant only 'rather faster'. And the mention of 'great sport' made me yawn.

And now their latest letter: You've been chosen for a free upgrade to fibre optic broadband. Chosen? That's an odd word to use. Surely they mean 'targeted for an offer, because your minimum contract term will run out soon, and we want to keep you as a paying customer, and if possible get more money out of you'. I suppose they wouldn't want to put it quite that way.

It's not really a 'free upgrade'. Even though they say this:

The upgrade is really free. We'll upgrade you to BT Infinity for no extra monthly charge. There won't be any installation costs and the terms of your existing contract won't change. If your contract is coming to an end, please ask about future pricing options.

Aha! Those future pricing options... An 'upgrade' will mean a fresh contract, with the clock reset and services rejigged and repriced. That will mean for instance paying my annual landline rental three months early, if I upgrade at once. That would be most inconvenient. And although I rarely now connect the handset to make a free weekday call, I see that after 'upgrading' I would face an unwelcome call charge if I did so. There are sweeteners such as half-price monthly payments for the first few months, but that honeymoon period soon passes, and then I would have to submit to an ongoing pricing regime that would prove costlier than now. After all, I'd have been given a greatly improved service: of course it will cost more in the longer term. Until it becomes old hat, and therefore cheap as chips - just as 'ordinary' broadband has.

I feel I should actually hang on, and see what happens to the pricing of 'ordinary' broadband. It ought to fall, so that BT Infinity can be mass-marketed as a premium service. And not just to the Chosen Ones.

I don't like BT's approach. I used them for broadband and calls some years back, and became very dissatisfied. The usual thing. An initial tempting offer, then left in the lurch when the service deteriorated, with an abysmal helpdesk; and obstructive behaviour when I attempted to leave them. In turn I became unhappy with Talk Talk, for similar reasons. I went back to BT to get wi-fi in my home, but that does not mean that I love them, or consider them reformed. I remain deeply suspicious of their attitude and their ethics.

It's much the same with all commercial companies. Behind every deal there will be a snare. Deals are devised simply to hook customers in, and make money out of them. Sometimes the deal will work out well. You get the desired new toy, and are very happy for a while. But in the long run it will inevitably become humdrum and not special any more. And the contract may turn sour.

I am sure that - for me - 'high-speed broadband' can deliver nothing that will significantly add to the joy of living. So no thanks. Or at least not until I have a clear personal reason for having it.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The main reason I switched from BT to TalkTalk was their pricing but at that time my connection to the Internet was via dial-up. fibre-optic cables were something for the future. I have found no problems with TalkTalk save one I had a couple of years ago with our router which was soon put right. TalkTalk sent an engineer to sort it out and he gave us a new one and set it all up. Since joining with them I have enjoyed a price reduction but they do occasionally push their special promotions, tv, phone and broadband and of course higher speed connection through fibre-optics. In fact everyone's data is sent through fibre-optic cables, they just want us to pay toward its inception and upkeep so naturally promote new 'deals'. I am like yourself Lucy, I have no special need for higher speed than I have at present and what I have now was a free upgrade from the original connection speed, though nothing like as fast as full fibre-optic speed. The only reason we get slower speeds is down to the connecting apparatus I think, the way the copper lines interconnect with the fibre. In some countries they simply built the infrastructure and connected everyone to the high speed system. This country or rather the companies let loose by our government, like to squeeze every ounce of revenue from us. Eventually you will automatically be connected to high speed without a choice and no doubt have to pay more so in the meantime, unless you want it, hold your ground would be my advice.
    PS I deleted the first post because of typo errors.

    Shirley Anne x

  3. The bottom line is that BT are in the business of making as much money out of you as they can, even if it means writing to you with half-truths that are just on the right side of being legal.

    I'm in the process of leaving PlusNet (a division of BT) after they took over my previous ISP. They wrote to me saying "there may be cancellation charges.." and to phone them for clarification. Rubbish! They have all the data to know there'll be no cancellation charges and the phone number is just sales try-on.

    Lucy, if what you presently have is meeting your needs, stick with it. It really won't be that long before Super Fast becomes normal and they're trying to flog you Extra-Super-Fast broadband.

  4. Some years ago we were held up for weeks on end on journeys to and from our nearest city as a slot was cut slowly along the road and I immediately thought fast broadband finer optic cable. I made enquiries only to find that it was two universities laying a high speed link and being less clever folk than they would like us to think had not bothered to strike a deal with a phone company to drop in an extra cable!

    Where are the integrated contracts for net and phones? Want broadband of variable speed depending on what they decide to give you and a land line when you would like a landline / mobile package, they have us by the short and cur lies and little real choice!

    If like us you would like a little broadcast culture, first you have to sign up to a heap of unwanted sport and crash and bang movies which folk like us do not want. Only blinkered idiots run these companies and have no idea that there are unlimited folk out here who would love to sign up to an honest and tailored cultured package. O how I pine for the days when they say we had less choice but you did know that everyone was not paying different prices for the same service so most of us feel cheated...

    Modern life!


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