BT has a service called Openzone. I have only just come across it. It is an interesting idea. You pay BT some money and they then give you access to an amazing number of wifi hotspots. So as you move around you can do everything that wifi lets you do such as surfing the web. So far so normal.
However when you buy into BT home hub to give you home access to the Internet then you get some pre-installed software on the hub that runs a system called BT Fon. BT Fon is a partnership between a company called Fon and BT. This means that your router will take some bandwidth and make it available to other BT Fon users for free and give you the same rights over their bandwidth. You share/give away 512kb I think. So you share the bandwidth which sounds very public spirited. If you have taken out a subscription to BT Total Broadband by default you are opted in to BT Fon.
So now how does this tie in with BT Openzone? As I said you buy access to BT Openzone and BT pays commission to people and organisations who sell the access vouchers. Having paid your money for Openzone vouchers you can use your access to get into the BT Fon network and so you get access to a huge number of Wifi hotspots.
So just to get this right. BT charges you for your BT home hub. Then by default they charge other people to access your hub. Maybe it's me, but that doesn't seem right. Its like I buy a car and by default, anyone who wants to can come for a ride providing they pay the guy who sold me the car some money.
But that's not all. If you are one of those people who want to use BT Openzone then you pay good real money to do it and expect to get real good bandwidth and zinging speeds. What you really get is access to some BT broadband home hub and a paltry 512Kb. So that's like the guy selling you vouchers to ride in a Ferrari and when you get the ride it's in a clapped out Ford Escort painted red.
I think that this is the way that it works, but the BT site is a mystery of intrigue and disguise. Our company Birchills Telecom goes out of its way to make things as clear as possible. We don't publicise prices which only apply for the first three months and then double. We think it is important that our customers can easily understand what is going on. BT seem to want exactly the opposite and that is why I would welcome confirmation that my research is accurate and any comments on the fairness of the policy – because I may well be missing something.
Written by David Hill, Chairman - Birchills Telecom