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Bonkers broadband and call centre hell

Internet & Broadband"If you know your account number, are calling from the moon, and can recite the words to the second verse of the national anthem, backwards, press 1. For all other enquiries, press 2, get a duvet and settle in for the duration." Call. Centre. Hell.

I'm about to move house. Dutifully, I've given my phone, broadband and TV providers four weeks' notice of this fact, in the hope of enjoying total connectivity from day one at the new country pile. Fat chance.

Although such mammoth lead time is sufficient to get a phoneline and satellite dish installed, broadband extracts a penance from its followers. Dare to disturb the pipe by moving house, and you can jolly well wait to read your email - £6 tax or no.

Why is it that migrating broadband, or even setting up a new account, is such a dark art in the UK? We are, after all, a small country with a large, tech-savvy population.

I'll tell you why: the bonkers way digital Britain operates. Ironic, given the history.

In the 70s and 80s, global business eschewed this green isle because they tired of the inefficiency of UK infrastructure. Used to telecoms providers bending to their every whim, Japanese and US businesses didn't see the joke when they rang the PO asking for a new phoneline to be installed, today, and met with only laughter as a response.

Privatisation followed, and the profit motive set to work. But the job was botched so that one private company (BT) owns, runs and maintains the infrastructure that its rivals (ISPs) must use. Like I said: bonkers.

As a consequence, it will take me a week at best to get a phoneline, and a further seven days before I'm online. Fair's fair: a fortnight without broadband is irritating rather than catastrophic. I do have, after all, a smartphone and a 3G dongle.

But improving digital infrastructure requires not only faster web speeds, but a slimmer business model, more genuine competition, and much better hold music.

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