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27 Minutes to Cancel BT Order (Even Though I Was Very Clear It Needs to be Done as Soon as Possible), But Still Not Done on Compensation

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II, What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

IT has been confirmed that my order is now canceled. I’ve had enough! I was so patient and forthcoming; I was willing to wait and forgive, but everybody has limits and this is well past the “third strike”…

I phoned BT at 8AM when the lines opened. I spoke to a guy to whom I made very clear it needs to get done as soon as possible and I don’t want delays and obstruction; he attempted to pass me to the “customer retention” team (cancellation team; they use other euphemisms) and I made it clear to him it would need to take less than 5 minutes.

As advised, he said he would speak to them about it first.

I waited on the line for 7 minutes before giving up and hanging up.

I phoned the number again.

It did not go through to an advisor.

I phone the number again (third time).

Once again, it did not go through to an advisor.

Weird. Is that like some ‘DDOS protection’ or something?

I phoned a fourth time and finally got through to a lady, who after further questions said that the order has been canceled. But then we proceeded to cancellations and finally, after 27 minutes, she said she would need to speak to a manager.

I said she would need to settle that and would phone me back when it’s all confirmed.

So, in summary, it took half an hour, even in a rush (I made it clear several time it needs to be done quickly) just to cancel an already-problematic order. That’s not even counting the compensation.

They make it really hard for people to cancel things like impending orders, even if they are assertive yet polite. I kept apologising to the lady in case that seemed tone-dead, knowing it was not her fault and nothing for her to take personally. I know they’re subjected to tough working standards. Here’s a new article about it. They’re human beings, unlike the corporations.

I kept my manners and composure and went through it as fast as I can. I knew they would probably try to slow things down, tire me, and so on. As I type this she has phoned me back to confirm the compensation, assuring I will hear nothing more about this case and won’t be bothered by it. Time will tell if that promise is kept. I want to spend not a moment more on this. I never even asked for this service. BT pushed it onto me. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. Don’t become an early adopter or an experiment of corporations. They’d lie to people for their consent.

The Optical Fibre Experience — Part VI (I’m Canceling my Order and Why You Should Never Make the Mistake I Made)

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II, What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like, Part III, Part IV, Part V

IN Part V some correspondence from BT has been shown/shared (with sensible redaction; no names and addresses included), basically explaining what a rollercoaster ride it can become when you get things wired up for fibre in 2021. In many regions/areas you become their experiment. The sales people, who try to compel you to move to fibre, make it sound like a quick and painless job (even when you challenge them on such a claim, as I did). After arguing for almost an hour on the phone (there would be more hour-long conversations with BT after that) they managed to fool me into accepting the offer by giving discounts*. Little did I know what I was truly getting myself into…

Unfulfilled promises of calls, requests that I call them, waiting at home for a person to show up at unspecified times (this limits what you can do on the day), several entirely pointless scheduled downtimes, not counting all the time spent corresponding, the hole in the wall, and strangers inside the house at a time of a major pandemic. Yes, pandemic. Which then means having to clean things up afterwards (sanitising).

People showing up without the required (and promised) equipment, contradictory advice (they cannot even keep a consistent story), lousy compensation that’s a drop in the ocean compared to what I pay, and still no end in sight. The last thing one needs during a heatwave. I could, instead, write dozens of articles or record videos — the type of stuff I really want to do instead of making calls to phantoms and ghosts with their false promises. Closing complaints without resolutions (or without addressing the underlying issue) was the cream on the cake and serves to show a certain degree of arrogance (as if it’s for them to decide if the customer is satisfied or not).

After further considerations, taking into account the inability to reach anyone over the phone (details below in the footnote), I seriously consider just canceling the entire order. But that won’t stop there; I will actively discourage other people from falling into the trap of potentially empty promises and remorse/regret. Maybe it’s a BT problem, maybe British Internet issue (maybe Openreach), but whatever it is, I very much doubt we’re truly prepared for a smooth transition to fibre. We’re no South Korea; declaring “freedom day” (mass infection) and “independence day” (brexit for racist reasons) isn’t the same as technical excellence. And heck, even from a customer support perspective there are many failures all along the way, as hopefully documented already in Parts 1-5. If cancellation of my order goes through, this will hopefully be my last post in the series, which can instead be summed up in long video form. This 7-part series wasn’t pre-planned or anything; I sincerely hoped things would work out and go smoothly (the tone in earlier parts was a lot more understanding too; I was being very patient). As for the price of compensation, it’s not negotiable from my point of view and the level of compensation was stated very clearly over the phone (they record all the calls) by the person who assured me things would work out. They didn’t. Strike three; you’re the weakest link, goodbye.

* Technically speaking, copper works well enough for me and for many others. It’s not a great technology, but as many people still depend on it the support for it can be better. Sure, it can be expensive/hard to the ISP, but that’s their problem, not ours. I never asked for an upgrade and didn’t even petition for it to become available here (it only very recently got extended to our part of town and they hand-picked me). Someone told me that “no one makes the switching equipment for copper anymore” and so even though they market fibre as ultimate benefit to clients the reality is that those ISPs look after their own interests. Judging by the way it went on so far, “they sound like they are being run by Americans,” one person told me. I told them on July 6th (on the phone) that I would be first in my area — a claim that they decline to comment on but later turned out to be true, based on what Openreach told me. I asked them, what if there’s an issue and it affects only fibre (i.e. me)? I said something along the lines us, would you fix that within minutes? I am safer with “the herd” (copper users). Sure, it’s more economic for them, not for me, to put me on a new kind of service. After speaking to the managers, oddly in the background (caused awkwardness), the sales representative said copper would be more expensive than me moving to fibre, basically convincing me to judge and decide against my intuition/gut feeling only after a discount (they said it would save me about 80 pounds in 2 years). It’s funny how fast they are to make/secure sales, but after that it goes downhill (“our advisors are available 8AM,” said an automated message/voice when I tried phoning at 5AM; I guess the sales team they have not yet sent to call centres in Asia because when it comes to money, not technical issues, they want better spokespeople/reps). Red flags all over this! What if fibre breaks down? Or the wiring has issues? I can phone any time, 24/7, and get a useless kind of technical help (person who follows a template/manual and solves nothing). Remember that a faster connection does not imply it is also more reliable. Speed and reliability aren’t opposites, but choosing something just for speed doesn’t somehow (magically) ensure it’s stable and available 100% of the time. Each time we move or transition from one generation of technology to the next there’s a period of flux with retraining, tuning, and addition of failsafe/redundancy to ameliorate/prevent future recurrence. The trade-offs may be elusive in this case (lack of data at early phases of adoption), but there’s risk associated with changes. As the saying goes, don’t try to fix what’s not broken (many sayings along those lines). From a customer service perspective, it already seems apparent that there’s a considerable gap and poor handling of a situation that’s likely to recur (e.g. if any of my neighbours tried the same, it’s guaranteed they’d go through the same pains). I wish they hadn’t picked me; make sure they don’t pick you, either. It was “planned” or “designed” to fail.

The Optical Fibre Experience — Part V

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II, What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like, Part III, Part IV

BT has failed, after 16 days, to deliver what it promised would be a trivial job. It was BT pushing me to accept the offer, which I wish I never accepted (their sales people were super-eager for me to move to fibre; I never asked for it!). In this part I want to show segments of communications, excluding addresses but not reference numbers (which BT has anyway and only BT can make sense of).

My hope is that for the many people who are going to have similarly bad experiences there will be more information available online. Yesterday even Openreach took note of my complaint and sought to intervene:

Openreach tweet

Openreach in an ‘outreach’ (PR-ish)? This is only a day old.

In part 4 I explained that there was poor communication with the client. BT was supposed to get back to me later in the day. That never happened. Instead, the following day (as before) I was asked to phone them, probably for a very long call.

BT reply
BT: Just phone us because we’re too busy to phone you and please speak to a machine until you get through to an actual person (who likely knows nothing about your case, so wait on the line some more and get ready to tell us stories)

The prior message to the same effect (a week earlier):

BT first reach
I’ve already had to explain my case to about 5 different members of staff (BT and Openreach)

This is quite telling:

BT complaint
They keep closing complaints without actually solving the problem and without asking for the client’s consent to do so

They think dozens of hours of my time (and two scheduled downtimes, in vain) are worth a couple dozen quid:

Nowhere near enough to compensate for loss of time, nuisance, and many other things. Bear in mind I’ve paid BT about 5,000 pounds this past decade.

They have sent several such messages already:

BT engineer
It’s tiring to have appointments in vain (waiting for up to 5 hours for a person to show up and get nothing done)

BT install
As if it’ll get done this time around

As noted before, they didn’t even bother sending the bag/envelope for this until I phoned them to request one (we finally got it only a couple of days ago or about a week late).

The message caused confusion on numerous levels; in fact, it contradicts what the sales people from BT said (they don’t like disclosing the less convenient facts that allude to future hassle)

Then there’s this:

BT feedback
Oh, trust me, you don’t really want me to do this

It has now been 16 days (mind date of this E-mail). I’m still waiting.

16 days and counting

The Optical Fibre Experience — Part IV

Previously in this mini-series: Part I, Part II What Bad BT Engineering Looks Like, Part III

BT and I have talked on the phone 2 times since Openreach had left. I spoke to two people; one of them twice already with another call soon to follow. It seems to have been escalated further up, knowing it might become a PR disaster to their “Fibre” team, apparently wholly or partly based in Scotland.

They now say they have additional equipment they may be able to use to complete the job, but the last time they said they’d send a person with a hoist they sent out a person without it. Very serious oversight.

I asked the lady whether they can complete it by day’s end, noting that scheduled downtime happened twice already in vain. She said it would be almost impossible to complete today, especially if additional equipment becomes necessary.

Regarding compensation, I stressed to her this wasn’t really the point; I’ve lost so much time over the past 2 weeks due to all this and I have a massive hole in the wall, along with equipment I do not need. I probably wasted well over 10 hours already on this ‘project’ and this isn’t how it was initially marketed to me if not pushed onto me (I resisted for a long time and then they started offering managers’ discounts).

If they do complete the job at the end, which is probably inevitable, I still would not recommend anyone agrees to fibre, not this year anyway. There’s poor coordination between Openreach (infrastructure) and ISPs and what may seem like a simple installation can soon develop into a nightmare. They’re just really desperate to move people off copper — to the point of trying to convince people to ‘upgrade’ to something they would barely use. Copper is fast enough for most people. For me, personally, the benefits would be rather small though I can learn to take more advantage of higher throughput in due course. For example, remote nightly backups of my sites would be nice. For most people, the benefits would be less practical and almost impractical; the nuisance and trouble they risk going through simply isn’t worth it. My father told me they keep trying to get him to switch to fibre and he always turns them down (albeit mostly because that would entail a price increase).

I will follow up again when there’s additional information, but after 3 strikes (“you’re out!) all I can say to people is, do not move to fibre (UK residential), at least not yet. Also do not ever believe what their salesman say about it on the phone; they’re just desparately trying to secure the “sale”, leaving aside all the chaos that might thereafter come.

The Optical Fibre Experience — Part II

Previously in this mini-series: The Optical Fibre Experience — Part I

BT sent me an E-mail this morning (not specifying much in it, it was just a template with a reference number), asking me to phone them when I am ready to do so. It’s toll-free (0800). So within less than an hour I phoned and had to answer a bunch of security questions. Fair enough, security first. To BT’s credit, they didn’t put me in a queue or anything; after diversions through a voice menu I was directed or passed directly to an advisor, who was nice and spoke with clarity. She had sufficient knowledge of the nature of the work, not merely a person following a manual or templates.

We discussed what happened days ago (see Part I, link above) and she was understanding. She offered an apology and more. I clarified that I was misled about the complexity of the task (fibre, in my case, is not quite available in my area, except very very recently). I told her that we didn’t have to get another router, but she insisted that for fibre it’s another kind of router, so we would need to swap over. I wasn’t told this on the phone by their sales people who were just eager to sell this product. So we will have to change routers and reconfigure everything again (I checked if it’s possible to import/export settings, or detach an external card with settings on it; I was too optimistic) . I checked whether I can still have a public-facing IPv4 address; Openreach said it would be possible, but BT did not know. Strange…

BT really needs to know such finer details.

Anyway, they ended up agreeing to reimburse about 45 pounds for the trouble and disappointment (a compensation for the loss of time mostly), albeit only after 55 minutes on the phone.

I said I would need a bag sent for the old router to be returned; why didn’t they send one in the first place? Openreach said they would not accept such returns on behalf of BT. This seems like a case of miscommunication, which causes unnecessary confusion.

The call to BT involved an Openreach escalation; they really seem eager to just resolve and close our case, so probably some time this Tuesday the job can be completed.

I’m glad to say that the way BT handled this situation this time around was reasonably good. They apologised and also reimbursed. Hopefully Part III will be about the connection itself, not getting it set up.

I could say lots more, but maybe that can be spared until future parts. My experience is documented here because we need some vocal critics; that may help the voiceless, whose agony is easier to suppress. Getting fibre installed isn’t the picnic they tell you about; they just want you to agree to some contract and assure you — probably falsely — that copper would be phased out within 3-4 years. It is a marketing strategy of inevitability; the same tactics are used by pushers of so-called ‘smart’ meters.

The Optical Fibre Experience — Part I

BACK in January I wrote many articles in this “Web log” (or blog) about network capacity issues. Half a year later BT contacted me out of the blue, offering fibre. I was baffled. Only months earlier they had told me explicitly that it wasn’t available where I was, so clearly something has changed since then. And, as it turns out, I’m the first person in my area to be offered this. It was confirmed to me on the day (based on physical evidence; in fact, the cords did not exist yet). Is it possible that my experiences motivated BT (or Openreach) to extend this service to this area? Without me applying or formally expressing interest? Was it a combination of factors? That does not matter much. But they seemed desperate enough to move me to fibre — to the point of offering considerable discounts — following escalation to management — after 40 minutes on the phone (they initially failed to convince me to become an early adopter and were evasive when I asked some questions about it; I told them I preferred something predictable and familiar).

In any event, yesterday I had an appointment with Openreach. A nice person a lot younger than me showed up and started working on setting up fibre for our home (he showed up on time but failed to reach by phone beforehand, maybe due to incorrectly-supplied landline number). I underestimate the complexity of the task, seeing everything had to be set up almost from scratch, drilling deep holes through our wall (about 40 cm thick), installing boxes with panels both indoors and outdoors, then having to extend a new wire through the entire row of houses. The investment in this is likely high (costly), so I appreciated it. Days earlier they also shipped a new router — one that we neither needed nor asked for. No worries, we can return spares and maybe keep one. It’s hard to recycle or re-purpose such proprietary equipment.

We unfortunately could not complete the migration to optical fibre on the day; BT did not tell me they’d need to ask for permission from all the neighbours (consent strictly needed to install new wires). We managed to get permission from all except one (not at home at that time). Basically, they need to climb a ladder for this (in people’s garden) and also drill a small hole for the ladder, as a matter of safety regulations. So it’s not a small job and although the holes would be filled later they would still leave a mark.

To BT’s credit, they did offer all this for a reasonable price. But they made it sound a lot simpler than it actually would be. Hopefully we’ll be done soon; they can all get it finished next week. I scheduled downtime for yesterday’s work, but there was no downtime as there was no switchover. Cable/copper would remain as ‘failsafe’ regardless.

I’m not upset, but I was given some false expectations (they said it would take one hour or less, but after 2 hours it’s not even done yet). We could not complete the last step. I’ll need to ask for bags to help recycle old routers (we have many), I’ll try asking for a static IP (at no extra charge), and in Part II I’ll hopefully be able to tell my experiences with this new service (in our area). I am particularly interested in improved upload speeds.

BT UK: You Must Work From Home, But We Won’t Provide a Connection Suitable for Work

Biden the Pain Harold: They say I must work from my desk in the kitchen, but it's not even a desk

Recently I said I would write about the latest formal letter from BT (got it hours ago by post). It raises many questions about right to Internet access and forced home working. The correction in the letter, which I requested, is in page two. It made incorrect assertion about what I had said. So they have removed that bit and resent the (new) letter. I’d like to draw attention to a statement made in page 1. As many people worldwide are aware, Britain takes lock-downs very seriously. All the stores are shut (except for food and few other things) and people are forced to work from home. For those of us who work in “IT” (a bit of a buzzword) that means that there are technical demands, which cannot always be met/satisfied when connections are slowed down or crippled [1, 2, 3].

Here’s the latest letter:


Compare to the previous version of page 2 (I never said that my connection speed was zero, that’s just false):

BT correction

For the time being, seeing that I have IPFS issues further upstream in the network (that software does not scale too well and it is fast-growing, apparently), I am laying aside my grievances with BT. They’re refunded the costs wrongly incurred and may soon issue the compensation promised. I remain largely dissatisfied on many levels, but I’ve come to accept that once in a few years there will be a major ordeal if not catastrophe with the ISP. It’s inevitable. Nothing is perfect. I’d like to get back to writing about things, rather than this networking/Internet ‘activism’, which is somewhat outside my scope of expertise (I’ve worked on networking/routing/engineering before, but it’s not my strongest domain).

Making the Web (and the Internet) work better in a decentralised fashion is a big if not truly massive challenge, which goes beyond the limitations of ISPs. Unlike Bitcoin, it’s not an energy hog and probably not a traffic hog. In a sense, we try to make datacentres obsolete; that would be greatly beneficial to the environment.

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