BT broadband cost to rise for most users by up to 6.5%: No link to pounds 1bn sports channel launch, firm says Customers get 10 days to end contracts for free
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) BT is raising its broadband prices by up to 6.5% in January, months after the launch of its pounds 1bn sports channels.
The telecoms company will write to customers next week about the price rises, which will affect the majority of phone and broadband customers. Only those on tariffs now being sold will escape higher bills, as BT increases costs on dozens of other packages and services from 4 January.
Line rental is increasing 3.5% from pounds 15.45 to pounds 15.99 a month. Customers have the option of saving pounds 50 by paying a year in advance.
After a bidding battle with Sky which pushed the Premier League's broadcast income up 70%, BT has secured 38 football games a season for three years for its sports channels.
With an array of presenters from Clare Balding to Jake Humphrey and Martina Navratilova, and studios in the former Olympic park, BT is gambling that its investment in sport will stem the defection of broadband customers to rivals such as Sky and TalkTalk.
Customers who signed up for its pounds 10 a month copper broadband and pounds 15 fibre broadband packages, introduced this summer to accompany the launch of BT Sport, will see no price rises in this round.
A BT spokesman said: "These price changes are not linked to the launch of BT Sport. We revise our prices every year in what is an intensely competitive market and whilst some go up, others come down."
The company is also investing heavily in pushing out fibre to street cabinets, spending pounds 2.5bn to bring the new lines, which allow faster broadband connections, to two-thirds of the United Kingdom.
But its efforts to bring faster lines to the hardest to reach homes, using pounds 1.2bn in public funds, came under fire from MPs this week. BT and the civil servants masterminding the BDUK project to build broadband in rural communities were criticised for delays and a lack of the transparency needed to ensure value for money.
The public accounts committee said BT was spending hundreds of millions less on the project than originally hoped, while local councils, which award contracts for the work, are spending hundreds of millions more than was expected.
Call package prices for new customers in 2013 will remain unchanged, but the cost of packages BT no longer sells will rise by about 6%, the company said. The most popular plan, Unlimited Anytime Calls, will rise from pounds 5.15 to pounds 5.48 a month.
Those unhappy about seeing bills rise mid-contract will have 10 days from receiving notice of the price changes to terminate their agreement without penalty.
However, the cost for leaving a contract early outside of this grace period is rising, in one case by as much as 25%. Those on Unlimited Anytime Calls will have to pay pounds 11.50 for each month outstanding on the minimum term of their contract, compared with pounds 8.75 previously.
Rates for international calls to some destinations will increase by 6.5%, and the voicemail service, Answer 1571, will now cost pounds 1.75 a month. The service was previously free to those making more than two calls a month.
The same price will apply to BT privacy, which helps stop unwanted calls and was previously free to those making two calls a month.
Costs for those customers not on price plans will rise, particularly during the day, when UK landlines and 0870 numbers will be charged at 8.95p a minute, up from 8.41p.
The set-up fee, charged to connect any two callers, and to which the per minute charges are then added, will rise from 13.87p per call to 14.76p.
BT says customers' calls bills have decreased by 14% in the last five years. This is partly thanks to inclusive calls packages, but during this time many conversations that used to take place on landlines now happen over mobile phones or on email and instant messaging services.
In its letter to customers, BT says Sky put up some prices in September, while TalkTalk and Virgin Media are increasing prices in October.
The new monthly cost of line rental, up 3.5%. Customers can save pounds 50 by paying a year in advance
The increase in the cost of making calls to some international destinations
The cost per minute for calls to 0870 numbers and landlines during the day for customers not on a price plan
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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