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Unsuspecting broadband customers being switched without their permission

Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) has been hailed as an evolution in cheaper, faster broadband connections, but it can have some expensive consequences for customers who sign up unawares, warned Michael Phillips, product director.

“It costs somewhere in the region of £35,000 to unbundle a single exchange,” says Phillips. “So providers are keen to add as many customers as possible to their unbundled networks - sometimes moving them over without the customer even realising.”

“But because LLU uses a different type of technology to traditional ADSL connections, customers could face a break in their broadband connection and have difficulty in returning to the BT network if they’re not happy with the service,” explained Phillips.

“Those who are with an LLU provider and want to switch back to ADSL will undoubtedly face a break in their broadband service of up to weeks at a time. They may even have to pay BT £124.99 to have their phone line reconnected if both their broadband and home phone had been moved to an unbundled network,” he added.

According to BT, around 1,000 exchanges have now been unbundled by providers looking to lower costs by installing their own equipment in the local exchange.

Once they have their own equipment installed in the exchange, it is much cheaper for providers to connect new customers, as they no longer have to lease the lines from BT. Because of the financial benefits, the current figure of around 2.5 million for LLU customer connections is growing all the time.

While an LLU MAC code system is being trialled, ISP’s are under no obligation to accept the codes and many customers have been forced to foot the “cease and re-provide” cost of moving to a new provider, which currently stands at £58.75.

“Customers are unaware of the problems they could face when trying to switch away from a LLU provider. We need increased clarity from ISP’s and definitive regulation from Ofcom so that these problems do not persist,” added Phillips.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.