Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Free iPlate - for £200 !

BT developed the iPlate or "BT Broadband Accelerator" to isolate the ring wire and allow use of ADSL on any extension. This device is easy to fit and costs less than a tenner, or if you're a BT Total Broadband customer you can have one for £1.20 postage.

There is a bit of a catch for some customers in that the iPlate will only fit on a modern NTE5 master socket with a detachable lower half faceplate, as explained on the BT Total Broadband site.

What if you don't have an NTE5 ? You really should try to get one if you have more than one extension socket as it gives you a "test socket" for diagnostic purposes and also allows you to fit a fully filtered faceplate for the ultimate ADSL efficiency.

BT's terms and conditions don't allow you to fit your own NTE5 as it is their network demarcation point and they don't want anyone accidentally connecting it to the mains or making other errors. So if you want a legal NTE5 you'll need to get BT to fit one.

There is a BT price list item for this, it costs £25 + VAT for "Conversion of hard-wired master socket to Linebox and Regularisation of illicit master socket" which is discounted to £0 if there is a disabled person in the house. If you have 2 or more lines the subsequent ones cost £26.25 + VAT.

This item was originally free for everyone as part of the migration of household wiring to the modern plug in phones. Similarly low priced services are available for conversion of ISDN or Highway lines to analogue - £42.55 + VAT. I've had the latter done personally, and it cost £50 at the time (17.5% VAT).

My reason for writing this item is that it turns out to be quite difficult to impossible to actually obtain the £25 + VAT service from BT, despite it being in the price list. Some people have had it done for free, some as part of a broadband fault visit but many have found they are being quoted around £200 for the service (some have been billed this after being told it was free).

So what's going on ? We have a published price list which falls under OFCOM regulation and yet we can't get the service offered at the price displayed.

I made an enquiry, referencing the price list item, and was quoted about £200. When asked for a breakdown the response was "I have checked the details of the charges and can confirm that the engineer’s visit charge is £125 and the charge for the extension socket is £70 which makes £195 in total." (Note that I wasn't interested in an "extension socket", but there you go, and the price list charge for an engineer visit is £115 not £125).

It appears that customers are being quoted, and/or charged, the price for a new extension rather than for bringing the network demarcation point up to current standards. It isn't possible to arrive at the prices quoted / charged by adding up engineer visit charges and hourly rates, and in any case time based charges are only relevant where there is not a fixed price for the activity in the price list.

Attempts to get clarification from BT have failed, perhaps OFCOM should be the next stop.

This is an important issue, as houses wired with BT sockets in the 1980s are often "star wired" without an NTE5 and hence have wiring that will give ADSL speeds much lower than is possible, or in some cases ADSL services that don't work because of the internal wiring. This was recognised in the "Digital Britain" report where a substantial number of houses were going to be improved to 2 Mbits/s by attention to their wiring.

If we're going to give people the broadband they should be receiving, let's have access to a cost-effective NTE5 installation service to isolate the internal wiring. It's already in the price list, just let us buy it ! Please ?

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