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As the telecommunications market has been opened up, the telephone side of the business has decreased due to more competition. The company still has the responsibility of maintaining and developing the UK's phone network but BT internet is an increasingly important part of its business. Its emergence as a major ISP is perhaps a logical move, given that the telephone and internet service use the same line.

The company's home page shows that it serves both home and office users. Go to the BT broadband pages and you'll see a range of packages that give you the option of choosing broadband only or adding phone and TV. The phone feature has the option of cheap broadband calls so you can talk for less - but most offer this.

Central to the service is the Home Hub, a router that provides wireless broadband throughout the home. The service promises the best speed available on your phone line and there's a checker available to run a speed test on it. If you want to add mobile broadband to the package, a one-off fee gets you a USB modem dongle so you'll have internet availability while you're out. BT business broadband offers a complete service that can include web hosting, a domain name, software applications and full communications along with broadband.

Although BT has previously had a rather staid image, its broadband service has generally been highly rated. BT Total Broadband was named best wireless broadband in the Top 10 Broadband Awards of 2009. Customer reviews generally praise the fast connection, reliable service and easy set up although there are the usual criticisms of support, with the call centre being overseas.

The company is in the process of converting its network to fibre optic but, given that it has a countrywide infrastructure, this is a long process. A pilot scheme for 10,000 new homes in Kent in 2008 was followed by trials to existing users in London and South Glamorgan, and to business premises in Glasgow in 2009. An investment of 1.5 billion aims to provide fibre optic cabling to 10 million premises by 2012. However, existing premises will still have co-axial copper wire from the street cabinet into the building. A BT fibre optic broadband micro site at www.bt.com/fibre was launched in November 2009 to provide information about fibre optic services.

The company acquired Ribbit, a web-based phone service in 2008. It announced in November 2009 that it was launching a trial that will allow mobile users to access calls and messages from anywhere.

An allegation by the British Phonographic Industry that 100,000 illegal downloaders use BT Broadband has been denied by the company. It claims that the BPI's evidence is incorrect and that it has already written to suspected illegal downloaders. The BPI, however, was unimpressed and believed BT could do more.

Although BT doesn't have the best of images, its broadband service seems highly regarded. Its Home Hub is certainly a big attraction, offering the latest n router technology, an inbuilt firewall and automatic update features. The compnay does tick most of the boxes, including the availability of VoIP for cheap phone calls. However, in some ways it's bit like a Skoda, with a reputation that lingers despite improvements in standards. In addition, there are cheaper deals going so I'd be tempted to shop around before making a choice.

A word of warning, though. Our office broadband used to be provided by Orange and whenever we had a problem with the line Orange would take days getting in touch with BT to get it sorted out. If you live in a line troubled area, having your internet connection with the source may have it's benefits in relation to problem solving? †

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