back to article BT Openreach's founding father quits job

BT Openreach's boss Steve Robertson is leaving, after six years heading up BT's network access business. "His achievements at the helm of Openreach have been tremendous," said BT chief Ian Livingston. "He decided a while ago that, after six years running Openreach, it was time to pass over to someone else to take the business …


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Not that I'm implying I pushed him over the edge, but quite funny this happened 12 hours after I emailed Steve Robertson the below (and CC'd in Ian Livingston, a number of Openreach, BT Retail and BT Group exec's, OFCOM, Otelo, TalkTalk and BBC Watchdog).

Got a reply from most exec's and 3 calls from Ian's PA!!!

Dear Steve,

I apologise for contacting you directly, however due to the stubborn nature of Openreach refusing to talk to the public and their poor customer service to communications providers I have exhausted all other avenues of interaction.

After ordering a phone line into a newly converted flat (1st floor, above an estate agents) that has an existing linebox installed with my LLU provider of choice – TalkTalk – back in November I was hoping to have ADSL within a few weeks – maybe a month at most.

4 months of talking to TalkTalk has resulted in nothing other than two Openreach engineers onsite – unannounced - back in November. I wasn’t there so I have no idea what they did or said, and I can’t find out as I can’t talk to Openreach. TalkTalk escalated my request with Openreach no less than 6 times in the 4 months I waited for a new line to be connected. Eventually I gave up and cancelled my order under the advice of TalkTalk(!), thinking that maybe it’s just TalkTalk who are being amazingly poor at delivering communications. As such I contacted BT Retail for a new line instead. This was in January.

As you can probably guess by now, I still do not have a line. No less than 5 appointments have been made with Openreach, none of which have actually resulted in an engineer being at my premises. The latest date from BT Retail is the 28th of March.

My original request was that on the 5th November 2010 I have a line installed with TalkTalk being my provider. (This is still my provider of choice – but been denied so far due to Openreach. How competitive!)

So far I’ve been told that I may have a line by 28th March 2011 with BT Retail. Maybe.

Obviously I was overly ambitious to assume that a multimillion pound business whose sole purpose is to provision and repair the local loop would be able to provision me 2 copper wires in under 5 months. I guess I’m just an optimist.

Anyway, I appreciate you are a busy man, and I doubt very much that this message will even reach the ‘complaints’ or ‘service delivery’ department knowing the chaotic mess that is in my experience Openreach; so far both professionally and in my recent personal engagements. (I work as the Infrastructure Manager for a multimillion pound company so have the pleasure of dealing with C&W, NTL/Virgin and of course Openreach)

Therefore whilst actually getting a copper pair between my flat and the exchange (0.35km away) would be a bonus (as proud guardians of the ‘last mile’ I’m sure you have your top people on it already), the purpose of this email is to notify you of a small publicity campaign that we’re planning regarding BT – Openreach and BT Group (just so I don’t miss anyone out).

I’m in discussions with a radio station based in my region that covers West Norfolk. After speaking to a friend that works there, as well as someone else I know that works in the office of my regional newspaper (Lynn News) we are planning on a competition, where listeners (135,000 population coverage according to the radio station) / readers can place ‘bets’ on if my line will be active on the 28th March. All proceeds will be going to Comic Relief of course (officially it’s a donation) – but as this will be generating some publicity I thought only fair to advise you.

As I’ve already taken 5 days off work for non-existent engineer visits my company is allowing me to take the 28th off work as a community day, and we’re already planning on having a photographer from the Lynn News with me in case by some miracle I actually get a working line! How exciting!!

Obviously an article will be written regardless, but I thought it would be only fair to offer you the option of placing a donation. For or against? I’ve put five pounds in myself as a for – but that’s my optimism again!!

Naturally I’ll be CC’ing this to Otelo, OFCOM, BBC Watchdog and anyone I can find for BT and for TalkTalk / CPW. I have obviously already raised a complaint with Otelo (Ref: 656884) and OFCOM. If it takes more than another few weeks I’ll try the angle that Openreach isn’t fulfilling its Universal Service Obligation with Otelo to see if that will make a difference. Whilst I realise I can’t do much damage to Openreach – due to the HUGE lack of choice people like me actually have – I can try my hardest to remove or prevent as much business going into BT Group as possible. It won’t be much, but it will make me happy. The first step will be moving our multiple ISDN30 circuits and leased lines from BT to Virgin Media. We have NTL fibre running along our road so I’ll ensure our company has no ties at all to BT. (Both Retail and Openreach) After that it’ll obviously be a case of getting as many people as possible to move to LLU providers, badmouth BT and if they have VM fibre get them to move ASAP. I know of 20 SME’s that will move as I provide their IT services for them. If it loses any part of BT Group just £1,000 I’ll be a happy man. (Which it will, just by my company moving supplier)

You may be interested in a rather enlightening article I found regarding an engineers opinion of the business you run, although it is rather old now. It echo’s my own personal and professional experience of Openreach... it’s not the engineers (they are generally rather nice chaps doing a reasonable job), but the red tape laden backoffice staff that royally screw things up for everyone.

Yours, unbelievably annoyed,



TalkTalk Ref

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Nice idea

Can I place money on the option:

"Yes, because you made a fuss and we had cameras in our faces, but the poor guy in the flat next door will have the same trouble next week when *he* wants a line and, without the publicity, will also wait 5+ months for his bit of copper (the length and quality of which is surpassed by the stuff I regularly buy from my local Cat6 cable reel supplier) to appear."

Last time I asked for a new business line from BT, they fitted an ADSL faceplate that was completely useless. The follow-up engineer took it away to the exchange (which is over the road) and hunted around for an hour in there to find a replacement faceplate (because they no longer supply that one at all, apparently, despite it coming from a new install only weeks before). What he came back with was thicker than War and Peace and consisted of three disparate faceplates that mated into each other, which he said was all they had and he'd had to salvage that from the "bits box". At least it worked, though.

Then they tried to bill us for the visit, which had already been rescheduled twice (and that was *after* all the initial installation fiasco). I wouldn't mind, but I could *literally* throw an Ethernet cable across to the exchange that serves the whole town from the window that we wanted the new line in. And that's for a private school that does several million pounds of business a year. God help you if you're just a guy who wants to get on the net.


I’ll ensure our company has no ties at all to BT

I find that an extremely good philosophy & have achieved it for a number of years

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IT Angle


"but the red tape laden backoffice staff that royally screw things up for everyone"

It's the so-called expert systems that are used to process orders.

One of the common ways to do this was for ISP's to be sent a job asking for further details and they would just send the job back again with no further information - simple stuff like customer availablity or alternative customer contact. The other great one was for ISP's to mark the job needing the attendance of a BT engineer when they were not required. All this is done within the remit of the order but is actually a way of just tagging the job as having been handled and ensuring that then ticking clock on the job belonged to someone else.

The back office staff tend to not have time to actually deal with anything as thier managers are hassled as part of a numbers game. Occasionally employees take matters in to their own hands and try to get things moving but if it means having a job on your screen for more than 10 minutes they'll get hassled. Calling an ISP's customer is a no-no for Openreach, the regulations do not allow it, meanwhile the job gets passed around the system and the 'expert systems' once again say it needs another engineers visit or another test. Then it goes back in the pot for someone else who's never seen the job to pick it up and rely on the 'expert systems' to think for them (as they are not allowed to think for themselves).

(I took the money and ran like fuck a few years back)


Good Riddance

I believe he's responsible for the bullying management style now compulsory at Openwretch..... along with a sharp downhill dive in staff conditions and morale.....

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