/ Technology

Why pay for line rental when you only use broadband?

Phone line cut

Why should we have to pay for a service we’re not using? It seems a little unfair to say the least, and for many, a landline phone falls into this category. If you only use broadband, why must you pay for line rental?

The landline is dead. Even if you don’t quite believe that, you have to admit it’s definitely on the wane. Not only are 15% of households mobile-only, many of the others probably only have a landline for their broadband connection. And that’s despite them hardly ever picking up the phone (maybe to the odd nuisance call!)

In my house of five we have a landline that comes with our broadband bundle, but I honestly can’t remember the last time anyone actually used it to make a call. On the rare occasion it rings, no-one bothers to pick it up as we know it’ll likely be a marketing attack. So why do we have to pay for it?

What if you have fibre optic broadband?

Up until now broadband providers could use the excuse that you need the phone line for the broadband to run down. But there’s a gaping hole in this argument if you have fibre broadband, rather than you’re old-school ADSL copper line.

Which? Convo’s very own Patrick Steen was recently offered an upgrade to fibre optic broadband by BT, still the largest broadband provider in the UK. He started to ask some probing questions. Did a new line need to be installed for fibre optic broadband? BT’s call handler answered ‘yes’. When he asked whether this meant his phone calls would go through this new line, they needed to do some checking. Eventually (apparently it’s not a common question) they said ‘no – all phone calls would go through the existing copper line’.

Patrick then explained that he wouldn’t be making any calls and would only be using the broadband. That meant he would be paying line rental for a copper line he wouldn’t be using in order to use broadband on his fibre optic line. When he asked why he should have to pay line rental, BT’s call handler replied with ‘that’s just how it works – we have to charge line rental’.

I don’t want to pick on BT. This argument would apply to any broadband provider in the same situation. You have to pay for line rental if you want broadband, whether it’s a copper line or a fibre optic one.

The way we use our landlines and make our calls has changed beyond recognition in the past decade – so perhaps the way line rental is charged for broadband should change too? And, in some cases, maybe the charge should be dropped altogether.

ChrisW says:
9 July 2015

Why should we pay BT line rental? We dont pay cable rental for our electric.
We dont pay pipe rental for our gas or water.
We just pay for what we use. And thats what BT should do. We cant get our internet cheaper without all companies paying this rip-off charge.

Mrs A Flavell says:
11 April 2020

If you look at your electricity and water bills you will see that they do, in fact, make a charge for something called a ‘standing charge’ in addition to ‘what you use’. This is charged on a daily basis, and is intended to cover maintenance the underlying infrastructure, ie the wires/pipes that supply your service.
So, I am not at all sure that your argument holds water (no pun intended!).

“We dont pay cable rental for our electric. We dont pay pipe rental for our gas or water.”

Yes you probably do* and it is called a standing charge, Check on your bills.

* some energy tariffs you may not have a standing charge but you pay more per unit for your energy to make up for it.

It seems to me that no one on here actually has a clue about how things work, so before screaming and shouting, maybe take a look at the bigger picture. Openreach have to pay bills, buy tools, pay engineers wages, buy vans, pay for fuel etc. ALL service providers use Openreach lines including Virgin, if they don’t have a network in place so someone has to pay for all of this, if you take away the copper/ Aluminium cables from your properties, what physical connection do you have with your exchange? none is the answer, so you won’t get phone or broadband. For a fibre connection you will have to have it put in direct to your properties, which will be more expensive than paying line rental. The line rental covers other aspects aswell, Openreach is part of the BT group and not part of BT Consumer, Wholesale or Retail.

Jeff Newman says:
18 November 2020

Yes – but the point is, what if you don’t have a phone connected to the metal cables? I don’t have one and don’t want one, yet I still have to pay for the landline. You are right – I don’t get phone or broadband through this line and have a fibre connection. It may well be more expensive than the line rental charge, but so what? I already pay it, so why should I also pay for the cable that I don’t use?

Dave says:
31 January 2021

The key is go to three UK and get broadband which will cost you £17 per calendar month and even. they don’t use line rental or charge you for it because it comes by the same signal that you use on your mobile phone but yet I’m sure this post will be deleted because they don’t want anybody else to buy it they want to control you and what you are getting, why do you think the CEO ect of the company go and do what ever thay want, that’s why we are on lock down, to control us, no more cash all digital so they know where your money is going, mobile, cheque out 5d portal on the Internet, and listen there’s a bigger picture,

Virgin does not use Openreach. it has its own network.

Ian slater says:
20 November 2015

Rip off that is the only way to describe it I entered a contract with by so they say at the time it landed at £130 per month. With in 3months £199+per mth .so as they have broken contract I felt that I should change company’s. But no no but have said that if I break contract it will charge me £300+ it’s a great world high time it’s changing.

LouisBlanc says:
13 December 2015

The basic BT infrastructure has been in place for last 50 years that I have been paying the line rental. So NGS dont come with the crap that they have all these costs etc…. All companies have costs but they arent a monopoloy. About time BT stood on its own 2 feet instead of getting handouts to run its business.

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i pay 57 a month for 76mb downloads speed on a bt unlimited fibre package
i get just under 7mb downloads and everytime i phone up i get the same reply that there is a fault in the area iv tried going with other providers and i got a email saying id get charged 324.86 if i swapped to end the contract so silly bollox here stayed with them i dont even have a landline installed but yet they have the cheak to tell me to just wait for the service and i carnt lower my costs at all …

tbh i think we should hack the s**t outa bt and give every household free internet for life lol could u imagine a world with free internet everywhere

anyways is there any possible way to get rid of the line rental with bt as it would really help me out

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Should be no line-rental charges. You should only be charged for the phone calls you make. You may have to pay a bit extra for each phone call, but it would be a fairer practice.

Abolish land line rental fees and I’ll purchase home broadband. I am not paying for a service I won’t use or require to access digital content. My mobile serves as my phone and my broadband. It may not be fast but it serves it’s purpose well and I’ll continue to use mobile Internet until this antiquated con is done away with. The major broadband companies need to lobby BT and parliament to abolish this unacceptable charge.

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Well said, Duncan – people overlook these “minor details”. We continue to rent a landline even though we make very few calls on it largely because many of our friends and relatives prefer to call us from their landlines and it is much cheaper for them. The call traffic on our landline is probably inwards 80% outwards 20%. Telecoms are a two-way service as well as a safety net and, in the overall scheme of things, not too expensive; there are many items higher up on the list of things we could manage without before giving up the landline.

A similar argument applies to standing charges for home energy – irrespective of the amount you use you get the maintained supply. You still need the pipes and wires connected and maintained, and the support for your account. Or should telephone line rental be paid for in each call – so low callers pay next to nothing and high callers pay a large amount?

The point of this discussion is that people should not be expected to pay for a landline that they do not use. That would be as daft as charging phone users for the cost of a broadband service.

The cost of providing a broadband service should include the costs of the infrastructure plus usage.

I they don’t use the landline they should have it disconnected. They would not then pay. If, however, the landline is necessary to carry broadband then they need to pay for the facility. Or have I missed something?

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Looking at BT as an example, you pay for some calls even if you don’t have a phone. On the other hand, no-one is asked to pay for broadband services unless they pay for them.

I don’t see any option to have a phone service disconnected.

The infrastructure is required to be provided and maintained to allow you to use broadband isn’t it? It costs money.

“no-one is asked to pay for broadband services unless they pay for them.”. I’m not sure what this means, nor what calls you pay for without having a phone.

If you are saying you should bundle the phone line cost in with your broadband subscription, would you pay by time – so heavy users pay much more towards the cost of the fixed equipment than others? It is a way but complicated and I don’t think fair.

Have a look at BT and you will see that they provide weekend calls even if you just want broadband. That applies to both copper and fibre broadband.

It is not just the provision and maintenance of copper or fibre cables. If you use the phone you are making use of the telephone exchange service for routing calls. If you use broadband you are making use of whatever equipment is involved.

If you use gas you don’t contribute to the cost of electricity cables and if you use electricity, you don’t pay for gas pipes.

I’m happy with paying for both my phone and for broadband because I use both, but there are many who use mobile phones who are not happy about contributing to the cost of a phone service. It is high time that the charging system was updated to accommodate these users.

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Duncan – I did not say that anyone is paying BT to use a mobile. The problem is – as explained in the introduction – that people who don’t use landlines for phone calls are paying line rental, which will include the costs of maintaining the telephone exchange.

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Those customers who don’t use a landline phone don’t want to pay for what is termed a line rental but will cover a variety of costs including that of the phone network.

I suggest a fixed charge for broadband and another for landline phone, plus usage charges. If you use both services then pay both fixed charges, less a discount because of those costs that are shared.

It might not be long before there are fewer landline phone users than landline broadband users. I will carry on using both for the foreseeable future.

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Jeff Newman says:
18 November 2020

This is, simply, wrong. Why would you think it would be acceptable to be charged for a gas supply, when you only use electricity? I don’t have a landline, or use the line for broadband, but still have to pay for it. It’s a con.

Jeff Newman says:
18 November 2020

Yes, you are missing something. You can’t just disconnect it and not pay. They still charge you for it!

As I see it, I could pay Virgin about £25/month for a broadband only service or I can continue to pay PlusNet £25/month for a package that gives me a landline and broadband.

Hence, currently, the price I have to pay is the same, whether or not I have a landline that I’ll seldom ever use.

To save £25/month, I could go without either, but only if I were content to put up with the low speed of mobile broadband.

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Different people have different requirements and our choices are sometimes dictated by others. Until a couple of years ago I seldom used my PAYG mobile phone for outgoing calls. Unfortunately, it was expensive to call mobile numbers from my landline, so it became cost effective to get a SIM-only mobile contract. The people I was calling either did not have a landline phone in their home or they worked between offices and their employer provided them with a mobile rather than landlines.

Speed is not always an issue. At home the 4G service is usually two or three times faster than my landline broadband and it is easy to tether computers etc to the phone or use a broadband router. What makes this impractical for most people is the download limits on mobile broadband and that 4G coverage is still limited.

There are a growing number of people who want landline broadband but not landline phones and they are looking for a discount on the fixed charges from their service providers because they are not using the phone. I am not one of them, but I do support their efforts in interest of fairness.

If you want a landline, how do you suggest paying for its provision and upkeep? You would, of course, somehow have no provision for accepting incoming calls. So no phone number. But can you have broadband without this? I don’t know – Duncan – your view would be helpful.

I do question the logic for many of only using a payg mobile as, to call a landline number, I’d suggest the payg costs outweigh the line rental if you do more than have very brief calls.

For the sake of clarity, let’s call it a broadband line – whether that be wire or fibre. There would be a charge, but less than the charge for a line used for both broadband an telephone, because the user would not be paying for telephone exchanges, phone directories and relevant staff. There are many people who want landline broadband without a landline phone, without having to contribute to the costs of the phone service.

Three offer a PAYG tariff that offers calls to landlines and mobiles for 3p per minute.

PAYG at 3p a minute means £1.80 an hour to a landline. We often make long phone calls to family so if we do that twice a week it costs the same as a landline rental – where all such calls are free.

The fact is that the number of landline users is falling and will continue to do so. Mobile contracts that allow you to talk as long as you want are not expensive these days.

PAYG at 3p per minute is invaluable for a phone kept in the car for emergency use. My mistake was to forget to use it and I lost the £10 I had paid when I bought the SIM. 🙁

I am starting from the assumption that technically a broadband-only service is far simpler than a fully integrated telephone system. A broadband system has to connect a multitude of subscribers to a handful of ISP’s whereas a telephone system has to be able to connect every subscriber to every other subscriber [the multitude squared]. A broadband line will still need switching centres to make the connexions between customers and their ISP’s. Whether partial segregation of the overall telecoms service would make economic sense to the telecom service providers is unclear There will still be quite a bit of admin and technical support involved as well as quite a lot of apparatus to maintain – it could lead to duplication of resources.

A broadband-only service should be cheaper to provide than a broadband plus telephone service and the monthly rental should reflect that; if so, there would be a rush of customers to drop the landline element. A telephone-only [landline] service would then probably cost significantly more to provide than a broadband-only service and the consequent rental adjustments due to market shift might impact on certain sections of the population disproportionately. It would be interesting to see how costs would compare for adding a telephone service to a broadband-only service in the future and the other way around. Another potential hiccup when moving home.

Of course, once the mobile service providers no longer had to compete against landlines for personal communications they would be liberated from that price restraint.

Your last paragraph makes a very salient point John. You need competition – both in providers and systems – to keep some control and prevent exploitation.

What happens with the fabled “cyber attack” when all mobiles stop working. Will I have a queue at my door asking to use the (landline) phone? 🙂

What a money-maker! It’s tempting to get a blocking transmitter and put a sign up on your front door.

I’ve found a red telephone box to put by the gate. I’m ready!

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I can recover the costs from my usage charges Duncan. I wonder if the box will have the familiar smell of the original boxes, just to make it authentic.

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The smell is optional or a customer-supplied item [you have to keep refreshing it anyway to maintain authenticity]. You will also need to get a collection of typical calling cards to stick up inside to give it the Central London look.

We have a local who put one in his garden and the reason given was because he and wifey could reminisce about their youth??. . . . Everyone noted that it is in a very secluded/secure spot and we have always wondered just how far the reminiscing was going??. . .They are not as slim as they once were I might add

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So it seems the old red phone box was near as multi use as some modern smart phone’s.
The goings on of a nation. . . .Never tried it but I imagine there must have been a considerable urgency to achieve such

Probably why they were red? I wonder when affordable housing in London will be the size of telephone boxes? Maybe they will be making a comeback. Watch for them on Homes under the Hammer.

For an extra £5 a month we get unlimited calls every day and night. Much better than the old days when all calls were biled – and not cheap.

What astonishes me now is the cost of directory enquiries advertised on the radio as if they were a bargain. £3.99 connection charge plus £1.50 a minute (or whatever). Who in their right mind uses this service except in an emergency (or at someone else’s expense)?

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Peter says:
10 August 2016

I think that a lot of people have missed the point regarding line rental costs. You need a line whether it is for a telephone or just for broadband/fibre access.
What should be clear is that one should move to a supplier that is not charging for broadband access, and shop around for deals that charge line rental with fee call packages if you use a telephone.

Hyperoptic phone service and broadband run down the same fibre connection and have nothing to do with BT. Hyperoptic still charge £16.00 per month phone line rental. They do offer a broadband only service but the prices don’t drop accordingly and your hit with a connection charge.

Hyperoptic 100Mb broadband & phone = £38:00 p/m (no connection fee)

Hyperoptic 100Mb broadband only = £35:00 p/m (+£40 connection fee)

Steve D says:
11 September 2016

Why doesn’t everyone just complain to the Ombudsman. If enough people took the time to fill in a complaints form on there web site then someone has got to sit up and take note.

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I recently bought a fiber optic broadband contract, which is fast but I am only getting it via copper for the last leg, is there anyway I can get fiber optic to the house in uk and where do I ask for it?

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Elvis Aaron Presley says:
8 February 2017

I have broadband and line rental it cost me £30:99 a month I don’t even have a landline phone in my house I use my mobile phone all the time and am paying £18:99 for something I don’t use its shocking

If you don’t use your landline telephone then have your landline disconnected. No rental to pay then.

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Geoff says:
2 July 2019

Dunc – this always confuses me tho… You pay £40 a month for fibre only broadband and then another £20 for line rental. Cables, exchanges, employees etc. need maintenance so that’s in the line rental charges. What service are you paying for in the £40?

Jeff Newman says:
18 November 2020

Malcolm R – you still have to pay the line rental. That’s exactly the point!

john says:
30 April 2017

why do i have to pay line rental with virgin my broadfband comes down the same line as the tv would, so no phone line at all needed.

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In my opinion the land line rental should not even exist. I’m from Romania and there you only get charged, once, for the cable length inside your house. IE if I want to connect the TV upstairs, I pay for that cable length, from the entrance door to that particular tv and that’s that. Nevermind the fact that the cost for a meter of cable is something around 20 pence. Now I only pay the monthly fee for the package that I selected and nothing more, no TV licence, no line rental. That is included in the monthly payment. And to top it all off, for the basic package the fee is less than you would pay for a MC Don meal.
It’s sad that such an advanced country like England is mistreating it people by allowing such abominations like line rental.
Lets say for a moment that line rental is ok, don’t you think it is not normal to pay for something that it is already paid for? How many people before me or you, paid line rental for the same actual line?
I will end by saying this. BT, virgin etc. I want you to deliver TV internet and phone to us, the customers, magically… without any physical line. If you want our money, sell us something appropriately. Thank you.

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Interesting comments indeed by many concerning line rental or not and ISP charges

I subscribe to broadband and am paying out £25.50 per month for a fairly reasonably fast connection averaging 15 mbp/s bursting to 20.. this depends on time of day/ traffic and so on
Additionally BT line rental is approx 20 per month making this £45 average, but like thousands of subscribers hardly use the landline for any calls, instead choosing email and sometimes (very rarely) mobile calls

I cannot comprehend how Talktalk only charges 17.99 for fibre per month including free line charge and free telephone calls……am I missing something here as it does not add up
I know someone who makes use of such a facility and apparently he says I am being ripped off by BT for paying the line charge. Can anyone elaborate on how they can operate on such a minimal price. Thanks in advance, your thoughts are welcome

rufusdufus says:
5 August 2019

I was under the impression that fibre optic does not use the copper connection. Recently a company came around installing cable around the outside of our building about ground floor ceiling hight. I’m told it’s fibre optic cable for a specific company (not sure who) Does this mean that as far as fibre optic is concerned some companies actually own their own fibre optic cableing. Perhaps this explains why companies can charge less. As far as your situation is concerned, have you thought about the apparenly recently much improved Satellite broadband which obviously requires no landline. Google “Satellite broadband” and I’m sure you will see the adverts.

Looking at the TalkTalk website, I don’t think they are offering fibre broad brand for only £17.99 per month.

That said, I agree that paying £45/month with BT is expensive – I get a similar service for about half that from Plusnet.