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back to article BT warned: Speed up Openreach repairs or face PUNITIVE FINES

BT's Openreach division has been repeatedly slammed by other telcos for failing to adequately fix faults in a timely manner - and now the UK's communications watchdog has waded in. Ofcom said this morning that it planned to impose new rules on BT that would force its Openreach engineers to "meet minimum performance standards" or …

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Anonymous Coward

If you want to compete

We need a state owned or highly regulated network holding company that supplies access to the the network in a non discriminatory way to all service providers, BT included.

The new company should be completely separate to BT and no service provider linked companies should be allowed more than a token shareholding in it.

BT should receive the same non market rate at which they acquired the assets when sold off via the Govt's privatisation policy, as they have had plenty of time to generate high profits from squeezing their customers via the virtual monopoly the process created.

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Re: If you want to compete

I agree with a separate network holding company which supplies access but as for state owned, no thanks, I wouldnt want each gov cutting funding or bribing us with stupid wet dreams of the left or right and I dont want it striking every time we have a recession. I would prefer entities with a single motive, to get paid. Having a single entity could be ok as long as it was heavily regulated or multiple entities in a market which is very easy to enter.

I prefer a market and the best punishment would be to take the business off a poorly performing business (must be proven) and the public sector take the infrastructure (maybe keep on the workers too). Then the public sector group holding it would have to sell it on to any new provider breaking it up if necessary. This brings in public funds, allows start ups of any size to get into the market and resolves poor performers.

Monopolies tend to be bad. Especially state owned ones

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Anonymous Coward

Isn't this whole problem

because somone decided to split the network side from the retail side, and in the process gifted the network to a faceless entity who answers to no-one and does what it wants when it wants???

The company may be BT, but BT retail have no more say in the running of things than Sky, TalkTalk or anyone else.

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Ever seen an Openreach van in a hurry ?

Nope.

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Re: Ever seen an Openreach van in a hurry ?

Me neither, but I can say with 100% certainty that when I do see one, my internet connection will be down shortly afterwards.

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Re: Ever seen an Openreach van in a hurry ?

There's one parked in the road opposite. I assume he works 9 to 5. He goes very late and he comes home very early.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ever seen an Openreach van in a hurry ?

"Ever seen an Openreach van in a hurry ?"

Don't see that many in my little part of the back of beyond, but if they're like most van drivers I've seen it's 40mph in the morning and 70 on the way home ...

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Re: Ever seen an Openreach van in a hurry ?

Rubbish! I saw one go into McDonalds car park at quite some speed last week!

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Re: Ever seen an Openreach van in a hurry ?

Yes. Yes I have. Seen 5 (3 normal vans, 1 big un, and one really big truck with a cable trailer on the back).

The gossip was that a new instal of an underground telephone line had broken the waterpipe and taken out half the town. They were there and got it fixed in a few hours, with full repairs taking a few days.

Though about 3 of the mains water pipes had broken over the last 3 weeks. So it may not have been BTs fault originally, just old pipe.

The water company was quicker though. So I guess I must just be looking from the wrong relative point... from my standstill, they seemed to be moving. ;)

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N2
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Re: Ever seen an Openreach van in a hurry ?

Or its "Oh Christ theres a man up a pole" waiting for the inevitable browser error & searching for that USB dongle thingy.

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While I'm not a fan of BT, surely the reason why they're missing targets is due to underinvestment somewhere in the business (e.g. number of engineers).

How will taking money away from them help? Isn't likely to make the situation worse, not better?

It seems that an alternative to fines is needed, perhaps OFCOM should have the ability to cap profits and force re-investment of any excess rather than taking more money out of the system.

Feels like there should be better options.

BTW, I'm not saying fines should not also remain as an option, just that they shouldn't be the only option.

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Anonymous Coward

It's simple mafs:

Fine them around £400m.

They won't have enough money to splosh £900m on people kicking an inflated bladder around a field.

Wham: £500m free to invest in the network.

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If they invest potential fine money in more staff, then they might well meet their targets, and therefore not get fined.

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"How will taking money away from them help? Isn't likely to make the situation worse, not better?"

Simples - take more money off them than they might have saved by cutting corners. It takes away the incentive to cut corners.

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Anonymous Coward

Not the correct approach

As a customer who is regularly disconnected 2 or 3 times a year and who waits up to 7 days for reconnection. I want to see BT forced to pay me the standard fault charge they gouge for a fault on my equipment. I'm sure this would change the BT attitude overnight! The problem is not really Openreach, it is the lack of maintenance investment in the existing cable network and hardware.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: it is the lack of maintenance investment in the existing cable network and hardware.

Exactly! My village is served by 1930's vintage paper insulated wire. Only a few wires in the centre of the bundle are dry enough to give more than derisory performance.

Universal service 2Mbps by 2017 – we’ll see!

The OpenReach engineers I've spoken to seem reasonably competent for their pay grade.

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Re: it is the lack of maintenance investment in the existing cable network and hardware.

Astonishing. Last time I saw paper wrapped and lead sheathed telephone cable was in the early 1960s. I watched the guys doing the jointing - work of art!

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Re: it is the lack of maintenance investment in the existing cable network and hardware.

BT have repeatedly told Ofcom that there is no paper-insulated cable left in their network.

Thenthey modified the meaning of "in their network" to mean "everything from the cabinet to the house demarc point doesn't count"

Ofcom swalllowed it, hook line and sinker and has been refusing to reoopen that case.

Someone with photos would make them _extremely_ uncomfortable

Then again, given the paper insulated cable doesn't exist, BT can't prosecute any pikeys who may come across such non-existant cable and make off with it.

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WTF?

BT Sport

"She said that "improvements come with a price tag," and that BT was concerned that Ofcom's "few pennies per month" remark was woefully inadequate"

They do come with a price tag don't they? So how can BT afford to spunk nearly 900 million quid up the wall to pay for Champions League footy?

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Anonymous Coward

Watchdog growls headline

But thata all it does. Keeps growling, only. Barking dogs dont bite and paper tigers dont scare.

2016 ? WHats the logic for 2 plus years timeframe for imprving services ?Where did they pick up those dates from ? Surely given by a BT executive to bring the house in order OR keep the growling dog at bay for at least 2 more years.

It will still be growling afterwords and another date will be given to bring the house in order.

What a joke OFCOM are.

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I hate the way BT have a monopoly on the infrastructure but the government dont help, I know lets get loads of people to bid for the fiber contract and then give it all to BT even though they were by far the worst contender going on previous track record etc

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Agreed

I am with Sky and have been bumped down the queue by Openreach.

Not the engineer's fault, it is what he was told to do.

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Re: Agreed

TT, Sky and the rest get substantial kickbacks from openreach for no-shows (which they don't pass on to the customer)

They get even larger if a company agrees to be given lower priority (which is why you got bumped).

Customer-service-focussed outfits (they do exist) pay more, but you get the cusomter service - and people have proven quite willing to pay extra for a better grade of service.

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You can't teach an old wire new tricks

It is a pain, especially when the semi-rural areas appear to be last served by a fibre upgrade.

It does appear they have wasted £900m on a football contract. Their infrastructure certainly would have benefited over a temporary, short-term bet.

Line rental is also overpriced, considering that they do nothing with it.

I also agree that ALL exchanges should be opened up to other LLU providers, that way I wouldn't have to pay a premium to use another service provider - the industry would then be on a level playing field (excuse the pun).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: LLU for all exchanges

Good luck with that. A good few exchanges just don't have the space for more kit. Often these places are in the middle of a builtup area with little or no room to expand the premises.

If the likes of Sky,TalkTwat, VM etc were to club together I'm sure they could build their own places but that would mean competitors working together and that ain't gonna happen now is it?

I had a problem with the TT LLU kit in my exchange and they wouldn't call BT out to fix it. The result was that we were without Phone and Interweb for five days. In the end I cancelled my contract with them siting breach of contract and moved to another ISP who has more than one spotty nosed kid who know owt about comms in their support organisation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You can't teach an old wire new tricks

I think you will find ALL exchanges are LLU - but LLU operators have no regulation forcing them to serve high cost, low revenue rural exchanges - so guess what - they don't!

You force BT to serve every back of beyond exchange the country over (which is fine, no problems with that) but nobody seems to have a problem that the LLU operators are puely market driven and only operate in high population density areas where they can ensure high percentage usage and higher revenue.

One has to subsidise the other - simple, but while BT is forced to do that and others aren't the business model is lop-sided. This is why BT will never be cheapest.

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Anonymous Coward

Lack of investment for sure.

I have the perennial wet weather problem. Crackle on the phone line, poor/dropping internets some time after its rained., like.... NOW!

I'm with Talk Talk and I can now quote their script sheet verbatum but I do end up being passed to second line support who confirm they can see an "issue" with my service. By the time OpenReach get there the conditions have stabilised and they can't detect anything...... sigh....

Except this one time. The engineer turns up, he's outside the house for quite a while and says the problem is 100% definitely the outside wiring, its not in any sort of cable run, just buried in the ground. He said maybe its actually perished, maybe a root is growing through it. He said he can do a short term fix, patch a cable above the ground for the poor quality section or get the cables dug up. He would just have to check with his manager what he was allowed to do.

He goes off and checks, thats the last I hear of that diagnosis.Next engineer doesn't know that the last one had visited, he goes through his checks but I could tell that he was nowhere near as thorough as the previous one.

All I can do now is build up a history of stating crap service when it rains. Maybe one day there will be enough evidence for them to spend some $$$. Maybe.

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Unhappy

Re: Lack of investment for sure.

I feel your pain. I was once in exactly the same situation. I even lost my rag one time when, yet again, asked to 'try a different phone" shouted "It's only when it rains. It doesn't rain inside my house". It took two years to get an engineer who seriously looked at the problem and solved it (perished figure of 8 overhead and several bad joints in street boxes).

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Re: Lack of investment for sure.

"He goes off and checks, thats the last I hear of that diagnosis.Next engineer doesn't know that the last one had visited, "

Yup, That's TT and openbletch.

I moved to the Phone Coop. Same prices and small enough to care.

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Only 80% in two business days? Wow, that's extremely poor, no wonder the regulator is after them.

Oh...wait...

That's what the regulator wants them to improve to?

Meaning they're even lower than that now?

That's just insane! It may even be worse than Bell Canada

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We can't find a fault

We live in a countryside area at the end of the line from the exchange. As a result I end up reporting faults about once a year.

Every time some nice foriegn lady will tell me that BT's equipment can find no fault and that I might have to pay £150 if an engineer comes out.

Now I know full well that the fault is outside my property but imagine if you were elderly or on a low income and not technically minded. It could scare you off from getting them out to find the fault.

They also appear to have no access to your line history or at least don't acknowledge this. Nearly all of our faults have come from bad joints in the boxes at the top of certain telegraph poles. Rather than me have to battle each time to get someone out, you think they might spot a pattern.

The engineers themselves are generally pretty good when they turn up. One said my last problem was a nearby junction box that was too full of cables but his bosses wouldn't let him do anything about it. Cheaper to send someone out once a year to fix it than to do a proper job.

Same line has had a fallen tree sitting on it for a year as they won't do anything about it unless its either a danger to the public or breaks. When the tree fell the electricity people cut it free of their line within 2 hours! Said they couldn't touch the bit on the BT line though.

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Re: We can't find a fault

As the Openreach engineer said to me, my problem is a connection at the top of a telegraph (telegraph??) pole over the road. Screw works loose. Connection drops. If I can get through the callout prevention team in India, he goes up the pole with his screwdriver and tightens it.

Anyone lend me a battery operated soldering iron?

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Re: We can't find a fault

The butane powered ones are better :)

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FAIL

Expert Engineers

A couple of roads in a nearby village all had their lines knocked out a few months back. Openreach fixed the problem promptly, packed up and went home. Then the problem became apparent.....

They'd reconnected all the lines, but not to the right houses. Nobody had their own number!

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Anonymous Coward

Definitely needs to be faster.

I asked for a repair on 6 December 2010. The engineer finally turned up on 17 Feb 2011. Twas a complete farce.

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Re: Definitely needs to be faster.

It took 8 months and 16 failed engineer visits to get my VDSL2 installed...

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Unhappy

Hmm. Lots of AC's. Effective UK Monopolist "Not really bothered how fast we fix competitors."

Now that would be a little more honest.

I agree that an independent infrastructure company would be a good idea.

But then so was Centrica for the UK national gas grid..

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Monopoly?

We had a state-owned monopoly once. It was called Post Office Telephones. I was a maintenance engineer for said government department - and then Maggie Thatcher sold it off, with a name change to British Telecom, putting maintenance and fault-finding on the back burner, as it quite obviously doesn't make any money. In MY day, faults had roughly a 24-hour turn-around. I looked after a rural area and, despite that, I could be with someone within hours of them having reported a problem and, hopefully, also have it sorted in short order. The fault control was staffed by older ex-field engineers who knew the ropes, instead of the current off-shore call-centres who, quite frankly, don't have a clue. My own home phone line goes noisy every time it rains. Nothing wrong with it - testing OK says useless off-shore call-centre wallah. "I think not" says I. I have fibre-to-the-cabinet, which is just down the road, so the fault must be pretty local. I tell the idiot that it needs an engineer to actually LISTEN to the line from my end and work backwards but the words "banging heads against brick walls" come to mind. We argue a tad and in the end, the accent and the dreadful "phasey" line quality to India, or where ever, defeats me and I give up. BT in its current incarnation is useless as far as faults are concerned. All they want is the money for more and more new connections - not to mention broadband.

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Thumb Up

Re: Monopoly?

I have signed up to the Reg for the first time just so that I could up-vote David's comment. I am also an ex-Post Office engineer and have seen BT get steadily worse since the privatisation. The Post Office did not have to pay shareholders, marketing departments, or any of the thousands of useless hangers-on who sit in offices dreaming up TV adverts and trying to flog us credit cards, home entertainment and other non comms. related stuff. Oh, and, as just discovered above, wasting our money on bloody football. The Post Office did telecomms only and were bloody good at it. They had the best research establishment in Europe, if not the world, at Dollis Hill, (they were working on digital exchanges in the '50's, experimenting with 100Mbps data systems, and had laid fibre to at least one exchange in the '70s) and all profits made went into infrastructure and research, NOT shareholders pockets. Fault reporting centres were manned by local engineers who knew the area and could speak the local dialect! Yes, there have been great strides in telecomms since the '80s, but I believe that is purely due to the normal advancement of technology, and nothing to do with competition and private enterprise.

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What Monopoly?

I never understood BT to have a real monopoly: I remember those cablecos digging up my road (and crunching my car), and going bust doing it. If you want other companies competing with BT all you need to do is increase the rates so the there's a potential for big profits...

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i had a BT line once, i still owe them £400 from 10 years ago, so i get gold VIP invites to join them again, then its have pay phone on your wall, and they dont then know if you can get the net again

and its yeah, i`ll stick to using web n walk for £5 a month with me 8mbs

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Other telcos are just as much at fault

Beginning of November I lose my broadband. Talktalk insist the fault is within the home and it will take 3 weeks for one of their own engineers to visit. I tried a different modem (fiber), router and replaced the faceplates and all wiring. I don't have any extensions so wasn't a problem. I then spent 4 hours shouting at TT India division before they agreed it was a fault outside the home - took 2 more working days for Openreach to come out and fix it, The fault was between the new and the old cabinets.

Beginning of December I come home to a complete loss of service which I report around 9pm. No phone - or even static on the line, just completely dead. Openreach arrived before 8am the next morning (I was quite impressed) - some bugger had disconnected my line in the box at the top of the telegraph pole the day before whilst repairing somebody elses fault!!!

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Re: Other telcos are just as much at fault

It's your own fault for staying with TalkTalk.

Why didn't you go elsewhere?

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Bod

2 days? dream on

Parent's phone line went dead and it took BT a month and a half to fix it. Most of that was in waiting for people to come round to look at it and then the relevant contractor to be booked and get permission to dig up the road, and another to dig up the driveway to run a new cable, and another to actually connect the new cable to house. They were effectively considered low priority as a residential customer compared to other work the contractors had to do.

In the old days BT did all the work themselves in a day or two, and for a phone line down they were looking at heavy compensation for even just a few days. Now the compensation is limited unless you complain at the highest level and all the work is contracted out to different companies who have to fit into their schedules and coordinate with each other (or rather they fail to do that).

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Appointments

Amazed to see in this article that a target is in the offing of 12 days from contact with BT to get an appointment. When I worked for BT in the early 90s we made appointments when the customer called. Single business lines were installed in 3 days, residential in 4.

So what happened to privatisation and competition being improving the market? I suspected then we would end up with nothing but a choice, a customer choice, of poor services.

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Re: Appointments

When you have a market of 100s, it still means nothing for "competition" to add to improvement if their only desire is to drive up shareholder takings.

Look at most markets, it's cut costs, improve profit, not "improve service". Hence they tend to go out of business, get bought for a £1, "integrated" into the next best performer and rinse and repeat. :/

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FAIL

What!?!?!?

".... expected to meet the requirements "in full" from April 2016" - Time the regulator pulled it's socks up!

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For me, don't see how they could improve

I reported a line fault to the Indian call center who agreed with me it was faulty.

This was at 7pm on a Friday.

I was woken by the BT engineer 10am on the Saturday morning, yes the next day, who proceeded to replace the cable into the cabinet.

15 hours, most of which were when you could reasonably expect people to be asleep.

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Took them 15 days to undo whatever had been done to our broadband service IN THE EXCHANGE (I think we'd been plugged into the wrong provider by persons unknown).

Allow other BB providers to have an enforceable SLA with Openreach - with a fixed, escalating compensation to the end customer

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BT is disappointed that might be forced to provide SLAs, like any other business in any other industry.

I've repeatedly complained to Ofcom about their lack of SLA enforcement, to no avail.

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