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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:

 BTcredit
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).

bt-kit
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.

bt-16-days
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:

bt-full

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.

BT’s Weak Attempt to Prevent Me Filing a Complaint Over Throttling

BT complaint

BT complaint

MY ordeal with BT is not over. I wrote about it thrice already [1, 2, 3], at least here. I wrote about it elsewhere as well.

At the moment there are several outstanding issues.

  1. They charged me for a hub I did not ask for and which I repeatedly told them there’s no point sending as it would certainly not solve anything. I was right. In fact, it took me 3 hours just to reconfigure everything after they had sent it. And then they charged me for it. Amazing!
  2. They did not issue the compensation they’ve mentioned in the letter above. Kind of odd to forget to deduct such a thing after over 5 hours over the telephone.
  3. I now know for a fact, and can demonstrate with detailed evidence, that BT engages in retaliatory throttling and collective punishment for the use of IPFS, which is perfectly lawful and hardly consumes any bandwidth in relative terms.
  4. They mention in the letter (above) that they are willing to offer an upgrade to “business”, but there’s no reason to believe this will stop the throttling and it does nothing to undo almost a month’s suffering. Not to mention BT’s dishonest denials.
  5. It seems clear they try to just discourage a complaint being filed. In fact, the letter above took nearly a whole week to arrive. Why did they take so long to dispatch the letter? Did they hope that a week passing by would like like a “cool-off” period?

Our connection remains seriously degraded, so I shall phone and demand a resolution, not another phony round of fake ‘solutions’ that only add up to suffering and pointless chores (like setting up a newer hub when the actual problem is upstream, at BT’s own systems).

It seems most likely that at the end I shall carry on with the complaint.

Formal Complaint to Ombudsman/Ofcom About BT Throttling of Connections

Video download link

FURTHER to my complaints to BT [1, 2] we’ve now reached a deadline and a deadlock. They don’t wish to acknowledge their throttling, let alone resolve the issue. This morning I received a letter which is another effort by BT to discourage or prevent me making a formal complaint (escalating outside BT). I made this video within a few minutes and it runs through the background to all this, as well as ways to proceed.

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