Pensioner given £150,000 broadband quote from BT

Money floating around pc

The need to upgrade the UK's broadband infrastructure is a hot issue right now, but Welsh pensioner Beverley McCartney would be forgiven for thinking she was paying for it herself after BT quoted her an astounding 150,000 to activate a broadband connection.

McCartney, 71, of Salem in Carmarthenshire, has wanted broadband for years but in the past had been told she lived in one of the UK's few remaining "not-spots", rural areas beyond the reach of the existing BT broadband infrastructure.

However, her most recent enquiry saw BT sending her a letter confirming that she could in fact have broadband installed, but that it would cost 129,613.54 plus VAT to install the equipment required. As a mark of good faith, however, BT offered to bear 8,000 of this cost itself, or around six per cent.

At first, McCartney thought the huge amount had to be a joke. She said: "I phoned BT and said surely this is a typing error and the girl said 'No, there's been no mistake, other people have had bills for much more than this'."

And while McCartney concedes that Salem which has just 50 houses, all without broadband isn't a major centre, she argues that with Llandeilo just a few miles away it's not entirely remote either. "It's outrageous," she fumed. "I'm not on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere - it's rural but not a wilderness."

BT spokeman Chris Orum said such inflated quotes reflected the difficulty in providing an individual broadband connection in a remote area not covered by an existing infrastructure.

McCartney said she was also concerned at what appeared to be a lack of communication between BT's internal departments after being told for so long that an installation wasn't possible.

"Clearly the departments don't speak to each other and don't consult each other over the engineering cost," she said. "It's outrageous. I can only laugh otherwise I'd probably burst into tears."

In response, Orum promised that BT was looking to invest heavily to address the number of remote areas that are still without access to broadband.

"BT is making a multi-billion pound investment in its UK network and is continuing to work with the Welsh Assembly Government to find solutions for the relatively few areas in Wales still unable to access a broadband service," he said.