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Friday, July 16th, 2021, 6:52 am

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.

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