BT speeds up broadband rollout scheme

Places where there is genuine demand for broadband should see their local exchange upgraded to ADSL quicker than they would under the previous regime

BT is changing its broadband demand registration scheme, which the company uses to assess broadband demand in areas that are currently not covered by its ADSL network.

From today, BT will begin upgrading a local exchange to ADSL as soon as enough local residents indicate that they want to get broadband. Up until now, ISPs have had to go back to these people and confirm their interest first though an 'advance orders' procedure, which added up to six weeks to the process.

The broadband demand registration scheme was launched this summer as a way of letting BT hear from people who want broadband but can't get it. For hundreds of locations across Britain, the telco calculated how many broadband customers it would need before it was commercially viable to upgrade the local exchange. These 'trigger levels' vary from 200 to 750, which some people have complained is simply too high to be achievable.

By cutting out the advance order process, BT says it will significantly cut the time it takes for ADSL to reach those places where there is enough broadband demand.

"This will bring broadband to exchanges where there is genuine demand sooner than was previously the case," a BT Wholesale spokesman told ZDNet UK News on Tuesday.

"Exchanges that would not otherwise have been upgraded until early May -- because of the six week advance order process -- will now be upgraded before the end of March," he added, indicating that the move will help BT to achieve its aim of rolling out broadband to an average of one new exchange a day up until the end of March 2003.

Ten local exchanges have already been upgraded to broadband after hitting their trigger levels, and another 15 are currently being upgraded. A further eighteen exchanges have also achieved their trigger levels, but no work has been carried out yet because ISPs had been still trying to obtain advance orders -- today's news means upgrading work can now begin at these 18 exchanges.

As ZDNet has previously reported, the registration scheme has been hit by fraud - where people submitted hundreds of false registrations in an attempt to bring broadband to their area. In some cases, exchanges that had hit their trigger level saw hundreds of 'registrations' deleted after ISPs found that they couldn't obtain enough advance orders because the data was largely false.

BT insists, though, that removing the advance orders process won't make it easier for people to fool it into upgrading exchanges where there is little demand.

"We've put a whole range of tests in place to detect false registrations, including robots that work on the data. People at BT Wholesale check the registrations, and we're also working closely with ISPs," the BT Wholesale spokesman explained.

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