Living in the countryside is great, except for one thing, the dreaded curse that is rural broadband.
Our upstream bandwidth was the main problem, which was stuck at around 0.25 Mbps for most of the time we’ve had ADSL. An unannounced change around a year ago (presumably some sort of upgrade at our exchanged) saw this improve to around 0.8 mbps. This still was pretty useless for streaming any sort of quality CCTV from the house though and was the bane of my gamer sons life.
Back in March, when the snow was still on the ground in the UK, I noticed a contractor pulling a new cable down our road and had my fingers crossed it was fibre. Once they had finished and gone I got a chance to look at the cable, the excitement grew.
BT Are Truly Awful
I contacted a few of our neighbours to tell them the good news and also to caution that it would be a nightmare trying to order from BT, but to stick with it as it would be worth it in the end. I was right on both counts.
This is maybe the 4th or 5th time I’ve had the misfortune of placing a Fibre order with BT. That includes a couple I’ve done for family members as well as in work.
I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with another company that’s in more disarray than BT. They really are a complete mess. And I’m talking about multiple orders over years now, with no sign of improvement. If anything they are getting worse.
He are just some examples of the sort of crap service BT gave us in this install…
- Over the last maybe five years I have entered multiple email addresses in the BT checker system to be informed with BT Inifinty was available on my line. I never received a single email now that it is.
- 2 orders in a row were cancelled by BT because of their ‘system problems’. So I had to order a 3rd time before the process even started.
- When an issue arose they said they couldn’t contact me – turned out they had ancient mobile number for me despite me putting my new number on the order in the box designated for alternative contact details.
- Our first engineers visit appointment cancelled.
- BT phoned me to apologise that the surveyor had not been out to survey our install yet and it would be another few weeks. This phone call came around 8 hours after the surveyor had been with us and completed the job.
- I received a text from BT on the morning of the install with our engineers name and number. I rang him to discuss times and he told me I wasn’t on his list and he wasn’t our engineer. Phoned BT, they admitted ‘this happened’ but couldn’t give me actual engineers details.
- Our actual engineers arrived 15 minutes after their 5 hour window to arrive (8am to 1pm) as I was about to head back to work.
- One (of many) of their classic lines was ‘We might not have a long enough fibre in the van as the surveyor didn’t put down any measurements on his report”.
Un-prompted BT rang me to say they were reducing my one-off install charge from £29.99 to £9.99 and the monthly charges from £56.49 To 49.99 for the duration of our 18 month contract. So £137 saved over the duration, that’s good of them and goes some way to compensating for the hassle. But I’d love for them to just get it right from the start.
Replacing the Draytek Vigor with a….
The fibre comes into our Node Zero and emerges as Ethernet presentation to the BT HomeHub version 6A that comes with the service. It’s decent enough and a good step forward from any of the previous ones I’ve seen, but no use for the VPN, bandwidth limiting or a host of other features I needed. It won’t allow the 10.xxx.xxx.xxx IP range I use at home either.
I’ve had Draytek Vigor routers for countless years now and my first instinct was to buy another. Asking advice from some uber-geek friends turned up various great alternatives including these that are worth a look.
However none of them seemed to offer the one box, appliance-like solution of the Draytek, and a few seem to be mired in command line interfaces (life’s too short).
So I’ve gone with what I know and used a DrayTek Vigor 2926 (the basic version as our WiFi is handled separately with a UniFi system). The 2926 Firewall is rated at up to 400Mbps so should last plenty of years.
Installation is a simple matter of following the Ethernet cable out of the fibre wall box and unpluging it from the BT Home Hub. Then plug it into the WAN port on the router.
After that setting up the Draytek to connect to BT is a 5 minute job. There’s a useful guide on the Draytek site and the only details we needed was this generic login for the Infinity service…
- Username: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Password: BT (I believe this can be anything, or even blank?)
The Need for Speed
Fibre to the Premises, Home, Building (FTTP/H/B) is becoming more widely available and is a truly wonderful thing. It was certainly worth all the hassle…
- Down speed increased by 736% from 8.85mbps to 74.01mbps
- Up speed increased by 2,376% from 0.86mbps to 21.30mbps
The improvement in ping time is a big hit for the gamer in the family too. The BT Broadband Availability Checker shows our line can support “Upto” 330/50 Mbps, nice. So I can have even more bandwidth if I pay more (although again the BT site elicits eye-rolling as the options seem pretty confusing).
My parents similar rural FTTP install is now reporting availability of the full-unicorn 1,000/220 option!
Gigabit broadband. Now there’s something to look forward to.