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Need for Speed: Kat’s troubles with fibre-to-cabinet broadband provision


ISPs' slow uptake of BT's 40Mbit/s ADSL is giving Kat the opportunity to whine about things she could never have dreamed of in the days of 56kbit/s modems.

I’m in the process of moving house: stressful at the best of times. My little anarcho-technophile commune is easily shocked by the real world and was appalled to find that our new home – like a surprisingly large swathe of North London – isn’t covered by Virgin Media’s cable service. Even though broadband availability checkers such as Sam Knows confirmed that Virgin provided cable to the general area. The information may be inaccurate, or perhaps our street is just unlucky. Either way, our hopes of an upgrade to 100Mbit/s were dashed.

For all of us, a fast internet connection is a key tool for both work and entertainment; at least one of my flatmates is contractually obliged to maintain a certain minimum connection speed at home and the addition of new net addicts to the household will only increase our bandwidth consumption. Revolution threatened, people swore. It wasn’t pretty.


We calmed down a bit when BT’s Broadband Availability Checker informed us that the exchange supported BT’s new Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) fast ADSL, which has a maximum speed of 40Mbit/s. A bit more checking told us that we might have to wait a few weeks for it to be fully rolled out to BT’s street cabinets, but it’s still good enough for us.

Virgin, to their credit, cancelled our cable TV service without batting an eyelid. However, a few months ago, they’d replaced our failed cable modem with a new Super Hub cable router and offered us a cheap upgrade to 30Mbit/s from our existing 20Mbit/s. We jumped at the chance and were pleased to find that – as promised -we were achieving speeds of 30Mbit/s.

Still, Virgin offers ADSL, and an equivalent 30Mbit/s should be well within the scope of FTTC ADSL speeds, given our new home’s short distance from both the exchange and the nearest street cabinet. We’d happily put up with 17-18Mbit/s for a month or so until the rollout was complete.

Unfortunately, Virgin ADSL will not be taking part in the FTTC rollout. They’re not alone in this; only a handful of ISPs have confirmed their participation, including Zen and ADSL24. An independent list of providers and packages is currently maintained here.

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