First success for BT's broadband demand tracker

BT's promise to take broadband to any part of the UK where there is enough demand has its first result, but ISPs must now turn pre-registrations into orders

Broadband Britain took a step forward on Monday as Todmorden, in Yorkshire, became the first place in the UK to achieve the level of consumer demand for broadband needed for BT to upgrade the area's local exchange.

Two hundred Todmorden residents have now registered their interest in getting a home broadband connection -- hitting the trigger level set by BT earlier this summer. As long as 150 people now sign up for a broadband service with an ISP then Todmorden could get broadband before the end of 2002 -- and could even be a spur for broadband rollout in other areas.

BT said that the breakthrough at Todmorton was very good news, and showed that the broadband pre-registration scheme -- which was criticised as little more than a PR move by some in the industry when it was first announced -- was a success.

"This is a very welcome development. The next stage is for ISPs to convert these registrations into actual ADSL orders," a BT Wholesale spokesman told ZDNet UK.

At least three quarters of the registrations need to be turned into firm orders with Internet service providers before BT will agree to upgrade the local exchange. While the BT Wholesale spokesman said that BT was taking a positive view, it is possible that some of the 200 registrations are in fact bogus -- making it harder for the target of 150 orders to be achieved.

"The case of Todmorden hitting its trigger level means a move towards the end game for the exchange in that area. Hopefully ISPs will not have any problems getting the 150 required orders for the exchange," said Andrew Ferguson of ADSLGuide.

"This means that it is time for people in the area to show the colour of their money -- in the worst case scenario a lot of the registrations will turn out to be bogus. It's a case of fingers crossed that not too many are and that the publicity of being the first exchange to reach its trigger may counteract that," Ferguson added.

The issue of false registrations is especially pertinent to Todmorden as it is only a few weeks since BT cancelled some of its registrations because the telco believes they were bogus. This could, however, make it more likely that all the remaining registrations are genuine.

The target of 150 orders must be achieved within the next six weeks. If it is, then ADSL could come to Todmorden before Christmas, as it typically takes around three months for BT to actually install the necessary equipment in an exchange so that broadband can be delivered.

According to BT, over 71,000 people have registered their interest in broadband via the pre-registration system.

Three other areas -- Penn, Merthyr Tydfil and Inverness Culloden -- are over 70 percent of the way towards hitting their trigger levels, but many other areas are much further behind. Brecon, for example, has been given a trigger level of 400, but has just 19 registrations so far.

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