Choosing a rural broadband provider

I have recently moved home and I decided that after nearly eight years with PIPEX it was time to look around and see if it was possible to find a better rural broadband provider.

PIPEX provided the service that I needed for many years. But after multiple takeovers, the service and the customer support deteriorated. The low point was in the summer of 2009 when my broadband connection went up from 1.5Mbps to 3.5Mbps for six weeks. To some, this would be fantastic news, and it was to me too for a while. I told my neighbour about the great broadband service I was getting from PIPEX. He was still on 1.5Mbs so he complained to his provider (the one with the local DSLAM). Within a week of his complaint my broadband speed went down to 1Mbps and was up and down like a yo-yo thereafter. I was still paying nearly £30 a month for my unlimited use contract so I complained to PIPEX. They dropped my monthly bill to less than £10 a month but my broadband performance didn’t improve and actually got as low as just 512Kbps in 2010.

I realised that since I first signed with PIPEX there have been many BT exchanges in the UK equipped with competitor’s broadband equipment. My rural exchange was not one of these and my broadband was resold to PIPEX through BT Wholesale. PIPEX (now Opal) just didn’t have the clout in my region to demand better service from BT Wholesale so they just took my money and blamed my problems on being rural. No one could explain why I enjoyed six weeks of uninterrupted broadband at 3.5Mbps in the same house with the same equipment so I knew I was being screwed.

I did some research online and found that PlusNet had a pretty good reputation amongst rural customers. They also have some good online tools for taking a peek at the faults logged on their network including BT Wholesale’s provision. I looked at taking broadband from Sky, BT and a few others, but because I live in a rural location, my connection for the time being would be provided by BT either directly or via wholesale and none of the TV advertised deals apply. I also wouldn’t get the same level of techie fault reporting tools offered by PlusNet. It was clear to me that PlusNet where worth taking the chance on so I signed up for PlusNet voice and broadband for a year and so far I am very happy with the change.

The only hiccup I have had with PlusNet is that they assume that all new customers already have uninterrupted internet access or mobile phone access. I had neither at my new home and still don’t have any mobile phone reception. All of PlusNet’s communication with new customers waiting for connection is via email and SMS text message. Fortunately, my wife’s corporate Blackberry could receive email here so the important messages concerning installation and activation went to her email account instead. PlusNet will not send a letter to you even if you request it so they are by no means perfect, but the best I could hope for.

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2 Responses to “Choosing a rural broadband provider”

  1. Vince says:

    Tom, We have a Vodafone Sure Signal at home but it only works with 3G phones. Now that I have stopped using my Acer DX900, only my wife has a boosted signal on her Blackberry. The rest of the family have GPRS phones and we are all out of luck until we next upgrade. It’s a shame Vodafone didn’t call the device ‘Vodafone 3G Sure Signal’. I know their advertising states only for 3G phones but I think it’s a common misconception that gets Vodafone’s foot in the door in poor signal areas.

  2. Tom says:

    Vince,

    I live in the middle of rural Wiltshire and for the past year have been using a Vodafone Access Gateway (now called a Sure Signal). The device plugs into a spare port on your Broadband router and breaks out a 3G signal into your house, which is routed to their servers and back over their network. The result: Full Vodafone coverage in the house for a layout of £50. You have to be with Vodafone, but you can add up to 30 phones to your cell, so your friends (and neighbours) can also use it. It says you need at least 1MB, but I regularly only have 750Kb and the signal always works, even when I am downloading to my network.

    Worth looking into, I haven’t looked back!

    Tom

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