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Raw Deal: Plugged in but kicked off after internet provider uses flats’ power

© Jamie WilliamsonJohn Crossan in communal electrical supply room at his home in Glasgow
John Crossan in communal electrical supply room at his home in Glasgow

Housing officials are checking thousands of properties after it emerged a broadband firm tapped into a communal electricity supply paid for by residents.

Hyperoptic has compensated residents in Glasgow after it was found to have wired into the shared electricity supply for the flats to power its high-speed fibre system to 40 properties in the Gorbals.

While some households have taken up a deal to use the firm’s internet services, many have not. New Gorbals Housing Association, which factors the affected apartments, is investigating the incident to establish if any other of the 2,500-plus properties it oversees have been affected.

The association has also negotiated compensation of £1,500 from Hyperoptic, to be split between the affected residents. It is also in talks with the firm about how it will be billed for its electricity usage in the future.

Hyperoptic is the UK’s largest exclusively full-fibre broadband provider, connecting more than 850,000 homes and premises with its services.

John Crossan, who lives in one of the affected flats in Malta Terrace, said residents were shocked when a householder spotted a wire going into the communal electricity supply that was labelled “Hyperoptic”. The supply powers communal lighting in the complex. Electricity is also required to boost the internet signal to apartments via a central router.

“We were asked back in 2019 if we wanted this new service but it would be at no cost and there was no obligation to use the broadband services on offer,” said Crossan.

“It was eventually installed but we had no idea that the company was using electricity that everyone pays for to run their system.

“The energy price rises mean we are all watching our pennies. Our quarterly communal electricity bill had increased significantly but we had no idea we were all also paying towards powering this equipment.”

Crossan, 56, wrote to the housing association in November to complain. Residents received a letter in response from the association confirming that it had instructed an inspection of electricity meters and it was found that Hyperoptic had been using the communal supply without permission.

After securing £1,500 in compensation from the firm to be split among 40 householders, the housing body said it would seek an independent energy consultant to calculate how much Hyperoptic should be contributing towards communal bills, and that the company would be charged directly for this.

New Gorbals Housing Association said: “We are in the process of checking every property where Hyperoptic has undertaken installation and we will ensure any affected residents are fully reimbursed as quickly as possible. We do not yet know how many properties might be affected. Linking communications installations to our electricity supply should not happen without our express permission and so it is not something that we have been looking out for.

“We believe that Hyperoptic did not intend to link to our supply without an arrangement being made and they are working with us to put things right.

“We will be agreeing arrangements with Hyperoptic to ensure that they pay their future share of electricity costs in full.”

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute advised residents to report any concerns to authorities.

Hyperoptic said: “All details of the current installation were agreed with New Gorbals Housing Association prior to build but we are working with them to resolve any concerns.

“The approach is standard for multi-dwelling buildings, where the broadband is a communal feature and a benefit available to all.”