Beware ISPs offering Free Upgrades

If you’ve had an ADSL line since the early days, especially those with unlimited transit, you’ll probably be hearing from your ISP about now. They’ll be offering you a “free upgrade” to a new, faster service as the product you currently have is being discontinued by BT. This is a tad disingenuous.

What’s actually happening is that BT is changing its wholesale prices, making the legacy products like Datastream and IPStream less profitable than then newer Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC), and they will indeed be dropping IPStream and Datastream from exchanges starting in October 2013. Although this won’t be overnight. That doesn’t mean your provider couldn’t offer you an equivalent service, although this will depend on the equipment remaining at the exchange and who operates it. Most of London, for example, has Be or C+W available as an alternative. Or they could move you on to WBC.

The disadvantage with WBC is that it will probably require you to change your modem (or entire router if its a modem/router combined). It’s not technically possible to programme WBC to connect at the older G.DMT standard, giving you the reliability you’re used to. Presumably if you’re using an old 512K line it’s for reliability rather than speed – the last thing you need is fast and flaky. You can clamp the modulation method on some modems, and if it’s a G.DMT-only modem it won’t attempt higher speeds, although this doesn’t guarantee it’ll be stable at the maximum 8Mbps is may try for. Unfortunately many ADSL2+ modems out there tend to get unstable if you turn up the wick, and there may be no way of turning it down from the modem’s side. This won’t have mattered on a G.DMT line, but these won’t exist any longer. In sort, you’re probably going to need a new one.

One striking feature of this whole situation is the different way ISPs are treating their customers; and bear in mind that people on these old lines will have been loyal customers for very many years, paying every month at early 2000’s rates. Zen Internet and EasyNet are good examples. If you had an unlimited IPStream before, this is what you get now.

Zen EasyNet AAISP 4theNet
(download limit)
Hard limited 100Gb  Remains unlimited Shaped (no change) Remains unlimited
Modem Tough – you must go  and buy another Send pre-configured new one free of charge Depends on service level Depends on service level
Price Same Reduced TBC Reduced
Speed Max 8Mbps down, 448K up As fast as possible up to 24Mbps down, 2Mbps up TBC 12Mbps down, 1Mbps up

This isn’t comparing like-for-like; 4theNet is a lot cheaper to begin with and favoured by those in the know, whereas Zen and EasyNet charge more but do a lot of end-user hand-holding. AAISP has mind-boggling technology solutions, but has always charged for transit in their own way – but they don’t cut you off. Unless Zen has a change of heart, their users are going to walk away. You get the vives that old customers are just too much trouble.


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