27 Raeburn Place: To BT or not to BT.

In Britain there used a large number of government run companies that had a legal monopoly over a certain sector, and these were called “Nationalised” companies, which rely on funds from the public to run, and normally large subsidies from the government too. During the Thatcher Years, many of these companies, such as British Rail, British Steel and British Telecom, were all privatised, that is to say, became real companies.

The merits of a free market (or as close to one as we can achieve) are not to be discussed here, and the benefits of a non profit organisation is neither here nor there, but what does impact our daily lives is the problems encountered by the change of these companies into entities that can trade as a competitive company, with real risks.

The first problem is that of infrastructure; when British Rail ran the railways, all the services were by the same company, the tracks were all maintained by the same company, and all the trains were the same colour. It meant that we could reasonably expect a fair ticket price, and the feeling that the amount of money we spend goes straight back into the structure and running of the network. Now a days, we have so many different companies running the network, you can hardly keep up. In Scotland we are slightly lucky, as one company, or one franchise, is the whole network, meaning that our system is nicely linked and coordinated so that we can buy one ticket and expect to stay at least on the same colour of vehicle. In England there is a different story, with various companies vying for your ticket to go different places.

And what of the network? One company was set up to run the network maintenance, Railtrack, but it was a disaster, and NetworkRail has been setup as a sort of Nationalised Private Company, something that should sort the problems.

But as customers we don’t encounter it as much as we might have done; it is more organised, and much fairer than some other sectors, like communications.

In my new flat, I want to set a phone line for the overall goal of having Internet access for my laptop and potentially for my Xbox360 that I am weighing up. My flat is not in a cabled area, which I think most of Aberdeen is also. This leaves me one option.


Now, this is because BT owns the infrastructure that the rest all run off. Most Internet companies require you to have a BT line, as BT spent the millions at the time to build a large network to connect every household (as the General Post Office, under the government). I can however choose the company that takes my line rental (via a new system of Exchange Switching), which a company (for example TalkTalk) pay my Line Rental to BT, and I pay them.

This seems fine, but I want a new line. And for a new line, I need BT. Therefore, I spent 1 hour 15 minutes talking to my only option and now have it set up. Why can’t I get a choice?

In France the majority of these types of companies are still nationalised, and that I would not mind. But when a private company is my only choice for a service that I require for other services, I take account with that. This is neither fair, nor right, but do I have a choice?

I am not going to take BT Internet, rather looking at Sky or Plusnet. At least in this instance I can get a choice.