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Universal Service Obligation - phone line

robparker
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Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Some advice please.  Is there an obligation on BT to supply a phone line to a premises which has never had one?

I am a trustee of our village hall, a building which has been in existence since 1897.  It's on a prominent corner in the village, surrounded by other properties all of whom have a BT phone line.  Most telephone lines around the village are on poles but there is a new housing development close by which has a BT manhole 17m from the hall.

To bring the hall into the 21st century we wish to offer free WiFi to our users and we ordered a business phone line through Plusnet.  So far so good.  Plusnet were great.  A line would be installed for free.

A contractor for BT arrived to fit the line and decided all of the poles were just slightly wrong for one reason or another and he left.  A few days later a BT Surveyor attended and said that our only options were a new pole outside the hall (cost approx. £900 + VAT) or an underground connection from the nearby manhole (cost £1550 + VAT).

As we are a small registered charity we cannot afford either quote and we reluctantly cancelled the order.

Does BT have a legal obligaton to supply a phone line for free?  It's not as if we are in the middle of a field far from any other habitation.

I'd really appreciate any feedback on this problem.

23 REPLIES 23
Gandalf
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Thanks for your post @robparker and welcome to our Community Forums.

I'm really sorry to see how much it's potentially going to cost to provide your village hall with a phone line.

The Universal Service Obligation (USO) Here covers up to £3,400 of costs to provide a broadband speed of up to 10mbps where there's no alternative available at £45 a month or less. 

It may be worth calling the USO helpdesk on 0800 783 0223 to discuss, though looking at the postcode where the village hall is on a mobile coverage checker like EE's Here shows excellent 4G in the area and their packages are generally below £45, so I suspect this may stop you from being eligible for a free phone line installation under the USO.

Would signing up to mobile broadband be a good alternative? It'll involve going to another provider though as we don't do mobile broadband, and we aren't involved in the USO even if you are eligible as that'll just be BT.

I hope this helps. 

From 31st October 2022, I no longer have a regular presence here as I’ve moved on to a new role.
Anoush Mortazavi
Plusnet
robparker
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Thank you very much for your advice.  When I cancelled the order one of your very helpful colleagues in Business Support did suggest the same.

However, when I checked out the EE mobile router it seems to only offer 20 concurrent connections which might not be enough on busy event days.

The whole situation seems grossly unfair when everyone else in the village gets a line for free.

I will certainly discuss with the USO helpdesk.  Thank you.

Gandalf
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Thanks for getting back to me @robparker

No problem, looking at the supplier notes on the order, it looks like engineers basically need to expand the infrastructure to accommodate an additional property in the village. Definitely worth calling the USO and see what they say. 

Let me know how it goes. Smiley 

From 31st October 2022, I no longer have a regular presence here as I’ve moved on to a new role.
Anoush Mortazavi
Plusnet
robparker
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Thanks.  I will. 😊

Gandalf
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Cheers, sounds like a plan

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Anoush Mortazavi
Plusnet
Townman
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

The EE concurrent user connection is worth a review. I suspect that is a matter of the maximum number of concurrent WiFi users on THEIR WAP. If their 4G hub has an Ethernet port you should be able to connect your own WiFi router and connect as many users as you wish, recognising that they will all be sharing the bandwidth.

There is no reason why you cannot look at buying your own 4G router and get a mobile data SIM on any of the mobile networks.

One thing to consider which might need different tech to that supplied by an ISP is any controls, limitations or separation you might want to apply on the network. For example you might reasonably inhibit access to streaming services. You probably do not want individuals streaming football matches, burning up your allowance, stealing the bandwidth from other users … and annoying other guests with the usual banality of football commentary.

I had many Sunday afternoons ruined by customers who thought it OK to stream football matches at full volume on their personal devices in my free from football pub … to say nothing of the excess quota charges.

Superusers are not staff, but they do have a direct line of communication into the business in order to raise issues, concerns and feedback from the community.

robparker
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Thanks Townman.  This is very useful advice and I will look at the options you raise.  It is probably doable with mobile on EE but the issue of excess data use is a concern for us.  We'll get there one way or another.

It's great to have helpful folks on these forums. 😀

robparker
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Here's the USO reply.  No great surprise.


Hello Rob,

 

Thanks for your email.

 

I’m sorry to hear about the issues the property is having trying to get a phone line fitted. Unfortunately our team deals with USO for broadband and not phone line and we aren’t able to help with this.

 

If you would like to enquire about the properties eligibility for the USO scheme in terms of broadband then please call us on0800 783 0223 and one of our advisors will be happy to go through this with you.

It might be worthwhile asking Plusnet to speak to Openreach again and see if there is anything else they can do to help. One thing to consider would be a 4G home hub which doesn’t require a phone line, and this would enable you to connect to the internet using the 4G connection as opposed to through the telephone lines.

I’m sorry that we are unable to help with your phone line.

Many thanks,

Esther Howard

USO Team/ECR/BT Consumer

Is there any further conversation to be had between Plusnet and BT Openreach as suggested? 🤞


 

Gandalf
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

I'd say it's worth calling the USO team to discuss, because you'd need a phone line to get broadband so there seems to be some confusion. 😕

From our point of view, our suppliers have asked us for excess construction charges (ECC) to progress the order and unless a surveyor can come up with another solution that doesn't involve heavy costs, the only way we'll be able to install a line to provide broadband is by paying the ECC's. 

It's very rare though that once suppliers say these extra charges are needed that they'll be able to install a line without them, because surveys are normally thorough and they'd only go down this path as a last resort. 

From 31st October 2022, I no longer have a regular presence here as I’ve moved on to a new role.
Anoush Mortazavi
Plusnet
robparker
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Yes, their reply is ambiguous isn't it?  We can't help with a phone line but you can call us to discuss getting broadband. I'm confused. 😕

I guess there's nothing to be lost by phoning them.  I'll report back.

Gandalf
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

It's likely that having good 4G signal, although not an ideal replacement for broadband, may stop the USO from being able to help. But let us know how it goes Smiley

From 31st October 2022, I no longer have a regular presence here as I’ve moved on to a new role.
Anoush Mortazavi
Plusnet
robparker
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Spoken to the USO team up in Newcastle and there's nothing they are able to help with.

So our options are finding a grant from somewhere to help with the infrastructure costs or exploring the 4G option.

We'll try the grant route first as we'd like to know exactly what our monthly costs will be once broadband is installed.

Thanks to everyone for your help.  Admin this can be closed now.

Gandalf
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Ah fair enough, no problem at least you tried!

Feel free to let us know how it goes and if there's anything further you'd need from us. 

From 31st October 2022, I no longer have a regular presence here as I’ve moved on to a new role.
Anoush Mortazavi
Plusnet
robparker
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Re: Universal Service Obligation - phone line

Thanks.  We will return to order that phone line and broadband from you one day! 😀