Rural broadband drive 'hit by fraud'

Someone is submitting false entries to BT's broadband registration scheme in an attempt to get a local exchange ADSL-enabled, and the practice could be widespread

BT's broadband registration scheme, which lets people who can't get ADSL in their area tell the telco they want broadband, is being hampered by people who are submitting false information.

The company told ZDNet UK News on Wednesday that it had spotted that several hundred false expressions of interest in broadband had been submitted for the Wrexham North local exchange. These have now been stripped out of BT's scheme.

BT has been working with an unnamed ISP for the past few weeks to identify the false information.

"There were over 200 fraudulent entries for Wrexham North, based on multiple consecutive phone numbers," explained a BT Wholesale spokesman.

BT's broadband registration scheme is based on 'trigger levels' -- the number of broadband customers that BT has calculated it needs for upgrades a local exchanges to become economically viable. In Wrexham North's case this trigger level was set at 400, which was "achieved" at the end of September.

Wrexham North will now be returned to the registration scheme, where it will stay until it again reaches 400.

This is disappointing news for those local residents who had already registered their interest in getting broadband, and who would have hoped that their exchange was only a few months from being upgraded.

"This doesn't help anyone, and the people in Wrexham North who really want broadband must be particularly frustrated that someone has used a not particularly sophisticated method to try and cheat the system," said the BT Wholesale spokesman. "This is probably the worst case of its kind that we've seen," he added.

People do not directly register their interest with BT. Instead, they register via an ISP, which will then contact them to take an advance order once the trigger level is hit. For this reason, it can take some time for fraudulent entries to be detected.

The full extent of the problem of fraudulent entries in BT's system is not known, but it is thought to have played a part in several other exchanges hitting their trigger levels.

False information has been suggested as one reason that insufficient advance orders were placed at the Knaresborough local exchange. As ZDNet UK reported this week, just 99 advance orders were booked by ISPs after 400 expressions of interest were registered, well short of the 75 percent, or 300 registrations, needed for the exchange to be upgraded.

Another local exchange, St Budeaux, also failed this week to attract enough advance orders.

Ian Buckley, marketing manager at Zen Internet, believes that false information has played a part in St Budeaux's failure. "It's an exchange where we saw a large increase in registrations in a small period of time," he said.

Zen Internet is one of the ISPs that are collecting registration data and forwarding it onto BT. Buckley told ZDNet UK that, at one local exchange, he is having to strip out a large amount of false data every day. This is presumably being submitted by someone who mistakenly thinks it will help them get broadband more quickly.

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