BT Broadband service revelation – be advised

Yesterday, with For Argyll’s broadband down from early morning [and not restored until mid morning today], our efforts to get reconnected led to an important discovery that is in the public interest to know.

BT chooses not to ‘see’ an area-wide fault until 40% of its subscribers in the area have reported a fault.

They instruct their call centres in India not to ‘escalate’ a fault to the attention of BT Wholesale unless 40% of subscribers with the same telephone area code report a fault.

This means that they avoid any reason to make even a simple electronic check to the local exchange to establish if there is a local, as opposed to a single property, fault.

Our experience yesterday

Our provider is BT and we reported the fault as soon as we found it, just after 8.00am yesterday – after having gone through the self-diagnostics programme with no positive result.

We spent an hour on the phone to the BT call centre in India, fruitlessly going through the usual series of questions and checks. A third of this time was taken up by the [well meaning] operative’s lack of understanding of the nature of built-in telephone extension sockets – one of which connects our newsroom wifi system. She kept asking us to ‘pull out the extension’, clearly thinking it was a mobile extension cable from the main socket.

With a ‘nil’ result from this exchange, we discovered, first hand, that ten other properties in the same village were without broadband, each reporting friends and neighbours with the same problem. Those we discovered at first hand included the local Sub Post Office and the Primary Health Care Centre.

Since the BT helpline which gives notice of known areas suffering broadband faults was yesterday mentioning only two – one in the south of England and one in Newcastle-upon-Tyne – we phoned them back to let them know of this one – again via the call centre in India.

The [different] operative  simply refused to accept that there was a local problem since whatever she could see on her system was showing no outage for the telephone area code concerned.

We pointed out that we were living in the outage, which certainly existed and repeated the fact that the Health Centre had no broadband and was unable to access its systems, that the Post office was also out – both key local services – and on a Friday; and that it looked as if the entire village had no broadband service. [The local primary school alone was unaffected - because it is on the local authorities' taxpayer-funded superfast broadband system, Pathfinder North.]

The operative still refused to accept that there was a local outage.

The revelation and the issue

When we pressed the matter, she informed us that there was no outage because the way BT instructs its call centres is that unless 40% of subscribers on an area code report a fault, no local fault is deemed to exist.

We clarified that, until and if this level of fault reporting is made, the matter is not ‘escalated’ to BT Wholesale and therefore no technical checks [which are easy and remote - to the relevant exchange] are made to establish if a fault is indeed at local rather than  property level.

In any small village like this one, business and service interests will report such faults – but most householders assume that the existence of fault simply needs to be reported. Knowing that the Surgery and the Post Office will have reported theirs, the likelihood is that few others will have made individual fault reports.

On top of this is the fact that, in any community, a hefty proportion of broadband users will not even be BT customers but will have the service provided by another supplier.

Such suppliers – like the popular TalkTalk, for instance – do not report an individual fault to BT at once. They wait until they have several faults reported from the same area – and if they don’t, the individual suffered goes on the long finger.

The issue here is that BT charge the other service providers using their network for each fault they are asked to check. So rather than pay for one fault check, the profit driven suppliers wait to see if they get more fault report from the same area code, meaning that one fault check [and fee] may solve the lot of them.

So, even if everyone in this little village had reported their loss of broadband supply yesterday morning, a healthy proportion of them, reported to non-BT providers, would not have reached BT to add to the known volume.

It is beyond reason – and certainly beyond any service ethos – that in the 21st century a broadband outage is defined by the number of fault reports and not by a simple and quick electronic check to the exchange.

We were offered a booking for an engineer to come and check out our line and property.

We pointed out that with a known volume of other properties in the immediate area also without broadband, booking an engineer to respond to a local fault would have a higher operational priority than a booking for a single property – which would be days away.

We were again told that each of these other sufferers might well have an individual fault at their properties  – and were assured again that there was no outage in our area.

Surreal? Fully.

What to do

The key message for this is: if you lose broadband supply:

  • report it at once;
  • if you know others locally who have also lost supply, make sure they report their fault as well;
  • if you are an essential service or a business – report your fault and be insistent.

If you don’t bother, neither you nor your area will get the fault fixed in an acceptable time.

It is usually a simple matter of a failed card in the local exchange, carrying a number of local accounts. All that needs to be done is for an engineer to go in and reset the card – which we understand amounts to pushing it back into place – like resetting a domestic trip switch.

But,  since BT only choose to ‘see’ the existence of a local fault by the number of fault reports, this simple restoration of service will not be done without the logging of every single fault – and repeated calls to check on progress.

So how did we get on in the end?

By wearying persistence and several calls, we eventually got the [third] operative to persuade the supervisor at the Call Centre in India to agree to ‘escalate’ the matter to BT.

Mid morning today, the service was silently restored to us and to the village. But it took us over three hours in total yesterday – in pursuit of the obvious with a ‘service’ in official denial. And we lost a day and a half’s working time and public presence.

Not nearly good enough.

For us, when our BT contract for our newsroom is up, we’ll be moving on. We’ve heard of an ADSL supplier called Zen – reliably reputed to get you back up fast in the event of any fault; and of a satellite service our own techroom uses – Avonline Broadband. We’ll choose between them for the publishing wing when the time comes.

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20 Responses to BT Broadband service revelation – be advised

  1. Franz Kafka would be very much at home with the BT ‘way of doing things’; – from your discovery of ‘massaging’ the reporting of faults, to their automated menu of responses to phone enquiries that so often sends you round in slow circles and threatens to drive you round the bend – right down to their amateurish mobile service, with no retail outlets so that if you’re needing to replace your BT mobile you have a very limited choice and can’t ‘see’ before buying. I had my new BT mobile ‘freeze’ while I was away from home, and had to rely on the goodwill of a mobile phone shop to find out what had happened.

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  2. It does not surprise me, last year (or was it the previous year) there was a fault in Inverness that caused problems over a wide area. The call centre just went through all the usual tests even though I told them I had checked a completely separate router and PC.

    I checked on the BT Forums and others were having the same problem. Eventually the moderator saw the messages and checked with their network control centre who were completely unaware of the fault. It was the intervention of the moderator that got things moving.

    A week or so later the BT Customer Services Manager took part in a live chat about the incident and several people suggested improvements. I remember I commented that they should be able to detect a drop in traffic on the network and also an increase in people using the BT Speedtester should indicate something is wrong.

    When there has been any problem, rare fortunately, I don’t bother with their call centre and just go to the forum. I suggested they have an automated reporting system so they can get data on a fault as quickly as possibly. Calls to the call centre either get Busy or if you do get through then they take up to an hour just to test your router and PC even when you know that is not the fault.

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  3. My father’s had similarly Kafkaesque problems with BT; he had some success writing a snottogram and posting it directly to the Chief Executive by name.

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    • It’s quite a while since I contacted BT to report a broadband fault (because there’s no point). The last time though, the gentleman sitting deep in the sub-continent told me that I could not be who I said I was because my address did not exist and therefore I couldn’t be a customer. I said I was sitting at my desk speaking to him via a BT telephone line.
      ‘No you’re not,’ said he, ‘That house does not exist.’
      ‘But it does’, said I.
      And so it went on, seemingly for ever, until I could no longer hold the phone to my ear.
      I called my broadband supplier, Plusnet (owned by BT, I think). Oh, how good to hear that no nonsense South Yorkshire voice from my childhood home.
      ‘We’ll have a quiet word with them’, he said. And so they did and broadband speed was restored – though it did take six months.
      It’s slowed down again recently. This time, I’m letting someone else be told that the house they’re sitting in doesn’t exist.

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      • Don’t worry Tony, I’ve been told by a computerised voice that I’m not calling from a BT line (and that was before I was asked if my query was regarding the number I was calling from). Perhaps the Stones could do a rejig of ‘Rollover Beethoven’ in the honour of Franz Kafka and the geniuses who designed the systems at BT.

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  4. Sadly the retail arm of BT have now become a joke, they have outsourced virtually everything to the other side of the world. I don’t care what anyone says, but there IS a language barrier between us and these call centres, despite them supposedly speaking English. I would love to phone one of these call centres and try to only speak Gaelic. That probably wouldn’t get you very far anyway, no doubt almost as far as it would if you spoke English.

    As far a Zen is concerned – I have been with them for more than 5 years now and they are excellent. Not the cheapest on the Broadband side, but you do get what you pay for. They seem to be able to escalate faults immediately to the wholesale side of BT, who actually run the comms infrastructure, and they appear to have some clout there too. I can absolutely recommend them to you as your future broadband and telephone supplier. BT Retail no longer deserve to remain in business with their current business model.

    The only downside with Zen is that their helpline is not 24/7 as BT supposedly is, but does that really matter when BT are as about as useful as a chocolate teapot when you do contact them.

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  5. Concentrate your complaint that the surgery cct was down and fix was not immediate,I would have thought that this cct would have a prioritized level of service agreement,(as with the P.O.) and had the fix been urgent the card would have been re seated and all service restored (NOT). I remember not that long ago a cut cable near Prestwick isolated large areas in Argyll. Perhaps BT should check this site, with a view to poaching some of the “experts”on here to help on the technical side of things (just re seat a card indeed, if only). Have you not seen the weather?. BT today is no longer a proud service provider but just a greedy money making facility where the end user is the least of their concerns. Have you not noticed that the majority of complaints on here can be blamed on money saving processes, call centres staffed by people who can maybe speak english,but have no idea what the sounds mean. I know of an example where a caring customer reported a broken branch resting on a BT cable, and after answering most of the inane irrelevant questions was cordially informed that because her line tested OK “vee vill av to charge you for an engineer to visit” Remember it’s all down to the actions of margaret thatcher and keith joseph in the early 80′s. prior to which PO telephones treated the subscriber as paramount with emergency attention to faults and exchange alarms dealt with immediate action 24/7. This mass loss of service would have set off some sort of automatic alarm in the associated exchange and other sites affected by this outage, these alarms would have displayed at some kind of service centre but for money saving reasons, would be ignored in the unlikely chance they would clear in time. Prior to thatcher there were few if any charges, managers knew the job, were not self perpetuating graduate buffoons who do, and are encouraged to, bully engineers out of the job on falsified performance stats.(saving money on wages and release packages)and increasing their own bonuses. So there! P.S I would advise all concerned to escallate their complaints to the highest level possible, to do so you will need details of your individual fault reports such as fault report which will look a lot more impressive than the service you received) time fault report received,(compensation clock starts here) nature of report, when fixed and what was fixed, where by whom, if told was a common fault, what and where was it. You are entitled to all this information. If the fault lasted less than 4 hours it was within their agreed response and fix times agreed for all ccts.

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    • It would be interesting to know whether the dislikers are old tory thatcherites, self appointed comms experts or BT managers, why not make a comment, I’m happy to be corrected on anything in my post!

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  6. “As far a Zen is concerned – I have been with them for more than 5 years now and they are excellent. Not the cheapest on the Broadband side, but you do get what you pay for. They seem to be able to escalate faults immediately to the wholesale side of BT, who actually run the comms infrastructure, and they appear to have some clout there too. I can absolutely recommend them to you as your future broadband and telephone supplier.”

    Totally agree with your comments re Zen.

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  7. whine cry and whine cry, what do you people expect for your pittance, look at the costs you pay and then what you expect, the qupte of four hours , get a life and look at the terms and conditions 3 business days people, so stop complaining and remember there is no right to broadband it’s a service and the only responsibility of BT is to pay the rental back so get over the compensation culture as usual I want I want I want over and over again – Do you seriously expect BT to care if you get fault ref numbers , there is no priority on resedential servces if you want to pay for higher service levels then dig into your pockets and request premium fault repair service – No didn’t think so just a lot of complaining as usual- do what I do and have a broadband backup so there is no loss of business and no interuption

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    • “if you want to pay for higher service levels then dig into your pockets and request premium fault repair service –” don’t know who your getting at with that satement whine, but if you read my post, I did suggest that I would expect the Health centre and the Sub P.O. to be on a premium fault repair service and as such would have qualified for a 4 hour response and if this was the case the fault would have been identified within that time (no guarantee of a fix, just a response and explanation of further action and time required to afford fix) If,in this case as the self made expert suggested, it only needed a card reseated, all faults would have been cleared, only one “total care” customer but couldn’t be fixed alone? Could you please explain how your backup broadband works when your main b/b fails??? always willing to learn. Any thoughts on my suggesting that BT are massaging facts and figures for monetary gain? and have done since thatcher and joseph introduced that culture.

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  8. My brother has been waiting 9 weeks for broadband to be connected in Oban…no kidding 9 weeks…and yet they have a depot the size of Tescos in Oban what do they all do???


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    • Angus, who has your brother ordered B/B from? The depot in Oban has nothing to do with B/B provision, it’s called a Telephone Engineers Centre (TEC)where stores cables and vehicles are located (secure to prevent theft), a muster point where heavy duty teams,planners singleton engineers,etc. muster to be directed to the day’s tasks, the majority of front line singleton engineers start and pick up work away from this secure site,but there you go, it’s big, it’s BT, it must be to blame I can almost definitely assure you that your brother’s problems have nothing to do with the people using this secure location, but no, it’s big it’s BT . If I had burst water pipe in my house which broke a window should I blame my joiner? What explanations have been offered from your brother’s service provider,( yet to be named) to cover this delay??

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      • what’s all this dislike thing about? it’s a forum, state your case, take the flak accept the accolades stop your one handed typing. I’ve had quite a few dislikes recently, so what, I’ve had the gonnads to state my cases and will accept any criticism or correction.Not that it matters a hoot, it only reflects on the lonely,inadequate existence of the thumb pusher!!

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  9. Whine cry : “do what I do and have a broadband backup so there is no loss of business and no interuption”

    Precisely what broadband backup do you have? a spare router?

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  10. This is exactly the same problem I face in a small village here in Argyll almost every three months. Including today and for the last 5 days.
    I’m a good complainer and usually get a resolution within a few days but this week has been horrendously painful in trying to get them to once more reset the card at the exchange – the same solution they have had to do some 6 times in the past 14 months to restore my broadband.
    Surely there is something we can do about this collectively?

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