What does it cost to reconnect to BT?
"I'M CURRENTLY with an LLU provider for broadband and phone but I want to switch my phone line back to BT. Will I have to pay a reconnection fee?"
Broadly, there are two types of service available over the copper wire network: the sort provided by ISPs like TalkTalk and Sky, who offer LLU or "unbundled" services, and resold versions of BT, also known as MPF and Shared MPF services.
These are provided by companies like Plusnet, Fuel Broadband and the Post Office, to name just a few.
Should a customer want to move from an LLU provider - Sky or TalkTalk - to a BT-based provider they can get a shock: the new ISP may insist that they need to install or connect a phone line - and charge for it.
It's not always immediately obvious if such a charge is going to apply, although going through the initial online services check should flag up whether switching will incur some kind of fee.
Since June 2015 switching between any of the 200 or so providers who use Openreach's copper cable network, LLU or not, has become far simpler.
That's because there's just one way of moving now, which puts the bulk of the work in the hands of the provider you want to move to. This is known as "Notice of Transfer" (NoT) or "gaining provider led" switching.
Before June 2015 a large proportion of ISPs were using this process - but some BT resellers in particular were reluctant to let go of the older "losing provider led" or "migration order" process.
This involved the customer getting in touch with their existing provider and asking for a Migration Access Code, or MAC.
People who did leave without requesting or using one would be charged a penalty fee - and some ISPs who used the NoT system wouldn't bother to use the MAC keys they were given, landing their new customers with an unexpected bill.
It was unfair and often confusing, which is part of the reason it was changed.
...for the most part
The problem is that now everyone uses the same switching process, it's even less clear than it was before whether you're with a BT reseller or one of the completely unbundled providers.
People switching between BT and their various resellers shouldn't have to pay for a BT line to be connected, as they're already using one.
But as the comments replying to our article on installing a new phone line show, many people with a landline don't know whether or not it's provided by BT.
Surely it's just like moving energy supplier? The line coming into the building is the same, and the phone rings the same as it did - hopefully - it's just we're paying someone else for the service we're getting.
Behind the scenes, however, the new provider is arranging the handover - including coordinating a switching date so the customer's downtime is as short as possible.
When it comes to moving from an LLU provider back to a BT line, that involves getting engineers into the exchange to switch the line at that end from the old ISP's equipment to BT's.
It can be that simple, or there can be much more work involved - but it's what needs to happen at the exchange that will trigger the need to pay - or not.
Connection versus installation
The cost of BT's standard phone line installation is what makes many people shudder - up to £130.
But don't believe the hype. Many providers offer cheaper deals, especially when a new customer takes further services from them.
And here it's worth pointing out that there can be a big difference between the cost of installation, and the cost of connection.
It depends in part on whether there's a dialling tone.
BT's £130 fee is for installation. This is supposed to cover the kind of situation where there isn't a dialling tone and BT need to send an engineer out to reconnect the master socket (main telephone socket) to their line.
But if there is a dialling tone on your phone, it's more likely that you'll pay a connection charge instead - and these tend to be much lower.
See our guide for an updated list of new phone line connection fees.
Problems switching from Full LLU
Refusenik phone providers
Some smaller home phone providers flatly refuse to accept new customers who want to move from a fully unbundled ISP.
They're not phone line snobs; they're simply not set up to manage the technical process of moving the phone line over.
In that situation there's not much that can be done other than finding another BT reseller willing to make the switch, and moving to the smaller provider next time.
It's just one of those gaps like moving email that hasn't been filled yet.
'Tag on the line'
When a phone and broadband connection is set up, providers will put what is known as a "tag" on the line. Without this it's not possible to get a service.
But it also stops other providers using the line, so during the switching process the old provider is meant to remove it.
If they don't, a user can be connected to their new ISP but find themselves in broadband and calls limbo.
Ofcom say it's within the new provider's authority to clear the line themselves; if that's not possible they're meant to liaise with the old ISP and, if necessary, BT Openreach to resolve the issue.
It usually takes a good few days from discovering there's a "tag on the line" to getting it removed; Ofcom advise that it should be done within 10 working days.
However, when these mistakes happen they can often result in frustrating experiences for broadband users down the years.
Those currently experiencing this issue may want to take a look at our guide to making a complaint to an ISP.
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