An engineer in wonderland – BT Broadband annoyance

Having resisted it for a long time, I have had broadband installed at home.

I thought long and hard about who would supply the service.

Any company with a bad reputation for service or reliability was straight off the list. 

Eventually I whittled it down to a shortlist:

Zen – with an exemplary reputation.
BE  – with a good reputation.
BT – The supplier of my phone, and without an awful reputation.

BE is run by a friend of a friend, but dropped off the list because it does not supply from my exchange yet.

Zen was about to get my business, when BT clinched it by offering me a £10 a month package for 18 months.

It was installed on time and, following a bit of extension simplification, runs at about 2.7Mbit/s – a bit short of the 3.5Mbit/s the bloke on the phone spoke about, but not too bad.

So why am I annoyed then?

Well, without asking me, BT enabled my Wireless modem for its FON service, which means anyone within range who subscribes to FON can use my modem as an access point.

Now I don’t really mind being philanthropic to this small extent, but I don’t like someone else being generous with the resource I pay for without telling me.

And if I had never logged into the modem’s internal control server out of curiosity, I would never have discovered that I was to be the local access point.

In exchange for my unwitting generosity, I got unwanted free FON time on other people’s modems – but a limited amount of time compared to the infinite time I was expected to be serving others for.

More annoyingly, I had to log into BT’s site and wait two days to stop being part of FON – it seems BT disables the facility by remote control.

It also seems asymmetric in that I can enable it directly – the greyed-out disable has become a nice friendly clickable enable.

AND, having chosen a stupid password in the heat of the moment – my fault, I know – BT then required more personal information from me before I was allowed to change it to something more secure.

I could find no other way to change it without going through BT’s humiliating data mining experience.

Steam vented.

Zen next time, or maybe BE will have got around to my exchange.

And, to be fair to BT, its modem seems to be a quality piece of 802.11n kit which worked straight out of the box when I plugged in the Ethernet cable. 


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  1. Thanks folks.
    I should indeed have gone with Zen.
    However, I am getting a fairly reliable 2.7Mbit/s, which is not bad for my location.
    Now the laptop has picked up something that is stopping AdAware running cleanly, so the laptop is going to get a thorough re-install.
    Anyone for Linux?

  2. Should have gone with Zen, although you’ll really only appreciate why paying a little extra is worthwhile when you get a problem.
    That is really rather devious of BT isn’t it? Sounds like they’re the new AOL (AOL used to rewrite bits of Windows when you installed their software, which had an interesting effect on all your other software).
    Nothing I wouldn’t expect, mind, although I’d be suprised if they did it deliberately, they don’t seem capable of doing much of anything deliberately.

  3. All pretty academic really. Unless you live in the middle of Picadilly Circus, so few people will be close enough to get the FFON Signal anyway. But in return you get access to BT’s own Open Zone sites that are usefull. So, IMHO, I think it’s brilliant.

  4. Clive Williamson

    Thanks, I wasn’t even aware of this, it wasn’t pointed out when I signed up for BT’s broadband package a week ago.
    For the same reasons I will be disabling the service.

  5. Interestingly when I installed my brothers BT wired/wireless hub a couple of years ago I was asked on the installation whether or not to enable it and not surprisingly said “no”.
    My guess is that too many people where saying “no” so they enabled it by default so that they ended up having at least some access points.

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