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May 14, 2005

On Getting Rid Of NTL

That's it. Thank heavens. They're gone.

NTL are no longer my TV and broadband provider. Hello BT Broadband and Freeview.

A few lessons learnt, madnesses discovered along the way...

On Changing Home Networks from NTL to BT
Thank Heavens I Used The Internet When It Was Little. Otherwise I'd have been absolutely stuffed. (By the way, some people will find the following section bleedin obvious. This is a howto I'm leaving for posterity - after all I still get emails about the howto on fixing your washing machine. Skip to the bit on NTL's call centre.)

The NTL box used to produce its broadband on an ethernet socket on the back of the set-top box. That was the WAN. So you just set it up with your computer, then hooked up a router (using MAC cloning to copy the hardware ethernet address of your computer into the router, so NTL wouldn't spot the difference) and you were away.

The problem came though, with the BT ADSL modem. Well, with the pairing of modem and router.

They both wanted to be

Which they kind of could be, as long as I never wanted to administer them.

Also, the BT modem has its DHCP very narrowed down and *really* doesn't like having its IP address changed. (Full factory reset to cure that one)

Even when I cured that and had the router and modem on different IP addresses, I couldn't get out to the internet. And couldn't get to the modem through the router either. Setting ranges just wasn't helping. And then I remembered what I needed...

Subnet Masks

One of those things you used to have to actually type in ten years ago, and so bothered to find out kind of what it was.

The issue is that the router thinks, by default, that it has control of all addresses beginning with 192.168.1

But it also knows that the DNS and primary gateway is via the BT modem on So when your computer connects via ethernet and gets the connection details via DHCP, the router blithely passes them on.

However, the router thinks that is on the LAN side, not the WAN side. i.e. it's on one of the many ports on the back that it looks after, not on the side of the bigger network it's connecting to.

So what you need to do is to restrict the addresses that the router knows are its own. Which you do with a Subnet mask.

Set the router's IP address to be, the DHCP addressing to start from, and the subnet mask to be The router now knows that anything which ends in 128 or higher is owned by it. And should be routed around inside its own network.

The ADSL modem, being, is compared to the router's address with the subnet mask. The first three bytes are identical, so we're looking good, but then the first bit of the finaly byte shows that this is a foreign IP address, and should be sent out of the WAN port of the router.

This is great news, because the router has told your computer to send all DNS lookups via - and the computer can now connect to that to resolve www.bbc.co.uk into an IP address. Which the router will know is outside of the network, and you're away.

So, in summary:
i) Don't go out and buy a new bit of kit
ii) Set the router to be
iii) Set its DHCP to only use and above
iv) Set subnet mask to

And now you can use your old router with your new BT ADSL modem. Woohoo.

NTL's Customer Retention
When I finally rang up to cancel my NTL account, the chap on the other end was genuinely mystified why I hadn't rung through first to say I was going and was there anything they could do. He then proceeded to offer me all sorts of increasingly good deals to stay - full family pack for price of base pack for a year, discount on broadband etc. He was genuinely affronted and mystified I'd not done this.

But this was, because of the miracle of call centres, he didn't know that I'd been waiting on the line for twelve minutes already to get through to someone.

When I cancelled my family pack a while ago (we only watched MTV and Daily Show, and I now have more than enough of the first and Lisa Rein provides the remainder) nobody offered us any deals whatsoever.

So I wasn't about to spend twelve minutes of my life trying to get through, in the hope I could be talked out of leaving.

This is what happens When Businesses Measure The Wrong Things.

Humax Fox-2 Freeview Box
Oooh it's lovely. And E4 is coming too, because ad revenue has increased so much they don't need to be on topuptv. And, unlike the Pace NTL box, it actually works with my TiVo.

For some reason our prior box was an absolute nightmare, and had about eight layers of bodging in the code that let the TiVo act as though it was the NTL remote. So it would often a) crash, b) stop changing channels, c) change to a completely different channel indeed. (We lost quite a few episodes of Green Wing to the NTL Preview channel on 0)

One strangeness though - they've separated out radio and TV on the box. So you have to press a radio button to hear the radio channels, and the tv button to watch TV. You can't just change from 4 (channel 4) to 74 (radio 4). Which the TiVo doesn't know about, so all of those old season passes for I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue will have to go. :-(

Posted by Tom Dolan at May 14, 2005 08:52 AM

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