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Wednesday, April 11th, 2012, 3:54 pm

BT Downtime for a Day, a Week, Maybe More


When BT goes down, it goes down big time. A year ago BT erroneously disconnected my line, which only took 3 weeks to restore [1, 2, 3]. Great job! This was rectified after I had contacted BT’s head of support and got someone to come around and fix it, then issue compensation. But even since then, it has been a bumpy ride too. Previously, it was down for a whole day, making any uptime statistics quite embarrassing for this giant telecom company (the customers were given misinformation regarding estimated time for restoration of service). This time not only does broadband go down (for a whole part of the neighbourhood) but the phone system too goes down, affecting a large area as well (several families and family businesses). Promises that the connection will have been restored by 5 PM (it went down a 8:15 AM) were more harmful than useful because they delay people’s reach for contingencies. It has been a day and a half and I still have neither a phone line nor Internet, which are vital to my jobs (I work remotely from home). Once again BT is very unhelpful, even on the phone. Ethnicity at the call centre is not a problem at all, but there is no personal touch, no appeal to authority, no way of actually making things happen; everything is very procedural. It’s like talking to a book. I spent about an hour in total talking to reps on the phone, I also left contact details for updates, but I never heard anything back. It’s like talking to a wall while being discouraged from talking any further (they say there is no need for me to call, which I guess makes sense since I don’t even have a working phone so I resort to using booths in the streets). It’s all very, very frustrating, with serious effects on jobs, personal life, and so on.

To have a contingency in such a case may help, but when time of arrival/restoration of service is unknown, then it sometimes makes sense to just go elsewhere for a while. With mobile broadband (dongle), once it’s used there is a bandwidth cap and a 30-day usage timespan, so even if it’s only used throughout one hour of downtime, it can be extremely expensive (one dongle can cost 25 pounds, 10 of which for credit).

The bottom line is, BT downtimes are extremely costly, they can be very lengthy, speaking to an actual person is a challenge and when the line too is down one needs to rely on a mobile phone, in which case the 0800 numbers are no longer free. I use booths instead, as waiting in the queues can make calls very long (like half an hour each, making the cost prohibitive on cellphones).

BT has been OK for several months (no downtime), but when it fails, it does damage that is quite serious. When the exchange falls down, as in this case, it doesn’t even matter what ISP one uses for Internet because BT has a monopoly on the line. It can take days for BT to address the problem, but why hurry? When there’s a monopoly on the line, who’s to compete on service quality?

Nothing is perfect and equipment sometimes gets damaged, but it’s unclear to me why it should take so long to fix, especially when a lot of people are affected. The telecommunication infrastructure these days is really vital to business and to personal lives, it’s not a mere luxury and a matter of entertainment.

The BT call centre says people will have addressed the problem only by Friday, but why the delay? When pressured to say if work is already done on the exchange, they said yes, but the building’s manager has seen not a single person from BT. It seems possible that BT reps say stuff just to get people off the line, making them optimistic in vain.

My phone line is down along with the Net. My neighbours have the exact same problem, but some are not even with BT as an ISP. This needs to be addressed more quickly. By Australian law, a company like BT would be ordered to also issue compensation in this case.

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