Here today, gone tomorrow

LONDON (01/16/2004) - After five months of subscribing to America Online Inc.'s (AOL) broadband service, PC Advisor reader Mark Harrison's account was disconnected. The reason, says BT Communications, is that Mark lived too far from his nearest exchange to qualify for broadband. Confused? So are we.

Mark signed up to AOL broadband back in July. At the time he checked BT's website to ensure he was close enough to his local exchange -- Brenchley -- to receive the service. His search returned a positive result so, after selecting an ISP, a happy Mark was soon speed surfing across the internet.

But at the beginning of December, five months into his subscription, his broadband connection suddenly failed. Engineers repaired his local exchange, leaving Mark with an intermittent service. After being pushed from pillar to post between AOL and BT, the telco giant finally agreed to redeploy the engineers.

After due inspection of the Brenchley exchange, the problem was identified: Mark was simply too far from it to receive broadband. But his house hadn't moved, and nor had the exchange, so what was going on?

BT spokesman Francis King told us an accurate test had been carried out on Mark's line. "This found the electrical line loss to be almost 10dB higher than the 60dB line loss limit for broadband," he said.

An exchange covers a maximum area of 6km; according to BT, Mark lives beyond this distance so he should never have been able to receive the service in the first place. This isn't no consolation for Mark who is now left with no choice but to log on via his old 56Kbps narrowband connection.

BT told us it would look into the matter to try to establish exactly how the mix-up happened; as soon as we get an answer we'll let you know.

If you have experienced a similar problem, please post your story, along with your contact details, on the ConsumerWatch forum.

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