back to article East Midlands network-sniffer wails: Openreach, fix my outage-ridden line

An irritated techie from Nottinghamshire, in the East Midlands of England, has hit out at Openreach after what he claimed was a year-long series of daily micro-outages that make it "often impossible" to work from home. Ian Sampson of North Wheatley got in touch with The Register after being driven to distraction by what he …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He also claimed that his ISP, with which he has a consumer line subscription, was not as fast as he would have liked in getting Openreach – which looks after the wires, ducts, cabinets and exchanges that hook up most of the UK to its broadband and telephone network – to fix the problems.

    He has my sympathies, and I know from first-hand experience that ISPs and Openreach can be troublesome to deal with. However, if Internet connectivity is such an important business tool for him, why does he only have a consumer subscription and not a business package? I would expect the latter to come with better service levels and opportunities for problem escalation.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd

      Nope.

      why does he only have a consumer subscription and not a business package? I would expect the latter to come with better service levels and opportunities for problem escalation.

      You'd have thought wrong.

      Openreach are just as useless with business customers as domestic. Particularly if you aren't using BT as your ISP. They blame everything and anyone (ISP, customer wiring, etc) before they eventually capitulate and fix the problem no matter how many times you tell them the fucking dropwire is down!!!

      1. Luuta

        Re: Nope.

        Same here. Year upon year. Micro outages, very slow or no connection, broken routers, Indian call centers, no getting away from the useless script they're given, copper cabling that's failed because the paper they're wrapped in has got wet and shorted the lines, continuous line faults, and yet when they do finally consent to do something and someone turns up a month after that, nothing. It's because it's ancient copper cabling. The small exchange boxes weren't built for high speed internet, there's always an engineer tinkering away in them, causing more issues than they solve with great blobs of botchit solder. The engineers are basically frantically putting sticky plasters over everything. Someone else complains and you lose your connection so they can have theirs. The whole thing is a shambles.

    2. msknight Silver badge

      Consumer or business, no difference in our village

      Openreach installed fibre to the cabinet a few years ago. On doing so, the analogue copper line suffered such noise that the ADSL kept getting knocked out, and noise was audible on the phone.

      An openreach engineer did a quiet test after diconnecting all my equiment, and confirmed the noise is outside the house.

      No grade of connection is going to sort that. The broadband was changed to the FTC service at a discount, but the phone has been noisy for years with no end in sight. I'm due to renegotiate with the ISP in a few weeks, so I'll be talking with them about VoIP, as the service is a bit of a joke.

      1. Gary Heard

        Re: Consumer or business, no difference in our village

        I now have a FTTC connection so no longer suffer this, however...

        Back when I was running an ADSL broadband connection to the local exchange, I used to VPN into work, but if anyone called me (only incoming calls) then the vpn would drop and the system would take a few minutes to recover. As I lost any unsaved work, I became paranoid about saving and very angry as I knew my home setup was OK.

        After much to-ing and fro-ing and a couple of emails to the boss of Openreach, an engineer visited, fixed a noisy connection and went to check the exchange. Came back and told me there was a known fault with the DSLAM, they all did it in small exchanges and they were all installed about the same time.

        After another set of emails to ISP, Openreach and MP, the offending DSLAM was replaced. My ISP was amazed that the change happened so quickly -- and I was told that Openreach would ignore any future emails -- didn't care, I achieved what I needed to do.

        Final note after all that Openreach tried to charge my ISP for the engineers time, they were told in no uncertain terms that payment would not be forthcoming

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      >if Internet connectivity is such an important business tool for him, why does he only have a consumer subscription and not a business package?

      Agree, residential business broadband packages aren't that much more expensive than pure consumer packages. Also if his work really requires him to work from home at times then the cost of having business broadband is an allowable business expense additional to the working at home allowance.

      >I would expect the latter to come with better service levels and opportunities for problem escalation.

      They do, but as a small business you really need to go with one of the alternative ISP's (that have packages for SoHo users), such as A&A, Zen, etc. Because these will then chase Openreach to get your line fixed - interestingly recently went through this with a Demon customer, who is still a Demon (and not a Vdf) SoHo customer.

      Question now is has he and his neighbours invested in the SamKnows lline tester box.

      1. David McCarthy

        Totally agree. Our ISP is Beaming (based in Hastings, but who cares?). When there's a problem with the infrastructure, we call them, speak to an engineer (no waiting, no call centre), and they do all the chasing and kicking of Openreach.

        Costs more (£38 + VAT per month), but provides the level of service needed by a home-based business reliant on the internet.

        Average download speeds mostly at 70+, but occasional periods as low as 45

        Average uploads mostly around 17

        But it's the service we get that has kept us with Beaming over 14 years and three locations.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Exactly the same situation

    I have BT internet service as a customer in Nottingham with daily outages at the Hub.

    The BT complaints process is a joke. 3 times they've sent Openreach engineer out only for them to say that I need BT cable lines to be replaced, for them to record this on their system and put a note on the pole, yet it takes a different part of BT openreach has to fix it!

    The kicker is NO-ONE in BT complaints has any record of this on the incident ticket despite 3 visits and BT themselves having pinned a note to the post.

    BT are a cluster-fucking omnishambles.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Exactly the same situation

      When I had a line problem BT sent the bloke out with the sniffer who found the break and drew a rectangle for the digging contractors. A week later, after nothing had happened, I complained. The next day another bloke with a sniffer came out and found the same break and drew another rectangle, which overlapped the first one, so it sort of looked like a shadow of it. Next day the diggers arrived and it took them ages to dig a the 8-sided shape which was the aggregate of the two overlapping rectangles. I kept making them tea, just so I could go out and watch the progress.

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Exactly the same situation

      BT are a cluster-fucking omnishambles

      We've still got a lot of legacy BT lines at work and we're constantly getting billing issues. But despite their name ("British Telecommunications") for business customers, you can't phone up their billing department. You have to send an email and hope to $DEITY that, firstly, they read it, secondly, they understand it, and thirdly, actually resolve the issue.

    3. Electricity_Guy

      Re: Exactly the same situation

      Politely send a pleading email to BT MD Gavin Patterson, they will most likely assign an individual to your problem who will coordinate the relevant departments to get to the root of the problem. It's worked for me.

  3. David Lawton

    Its for reasons like this i have Zen as my home ISP. Yes it would have been effected the same as the others BUT when raising faults they do not read scripts, are actually knowledgable and technical , and last time i had a nightmare with my line they even laughed a little and said we now have to open a case with open reach and now things can get difficult.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Consumers typically want "cheap" & "good". Unfortunately, they are opposites.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Devil

        Opposites!

        "Consumers typically want "cheap" & "good". Unfortunately, they are opposites."

        But BT & Opencrotch provide "expensive" & "bad".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Unfortunately I'm finding Zen's support sliding downhill. It used to be outstanding, to the point once a chap liaised with other ISPs to determine an obscure exchange fault was indeed real, but most recently the response to some unexplained PPPoE discovery timeouts was a very informal, chirpy response telling me how to guess my router's IP and turn it off and on again.

      I shouldn't be paying a premium for 'TalkTalk level' support. My line also has ongoing intermittent audible noise issues but I can't escalate it without threat of a fine from BT so long as their line tests reveal no problems.

      Starting to wonder if there's really any point now in 'premium' ISPs, even with the best will in the world (which I'm not sure Zen has now), they can't do anything with problems like that.

      1. Glennda37

        Email Richard

        Email Richard Tang, having actually met the bloke. He would love to hear your feedback. Having used to work for a partner of theirs he hates to hear situations like this. https://ceoemail.com/s.php?id=ceo-10544&c=Zen%20Internet-Chief%20Executive

      2. Rasczak
        WTF?

        <quote>

        My line also has ongoing intermittent audible noise issues but I can't escalate it without threat of a fine from BT so long as their line tests reveal no problems.

        </quote>

        What is it with such ignorant people who don't believe they should pay where they have created a problem?

        Get an Openreach engineer called out, and the problem is provider or Openreach kit that isn't picked up in remote testing, no charge. If it is because you have bought a cheap set of fairy lights that are spewing out interference then you pay.

        It is exactly the same as having a maintenance contract for your central heating. Thermostat in the boiler fails through age, engineer comes and fixes it under contract. You try bleeding a radiator and break the thread on the bleed valve and there will be at least a call out charge. You don't hear people bleating about British Gas threatening to fine you for their problem.

        Or would you prefer that you aren't advised that they will only fix their own kit and then send you a surprise bill you when it is your fault?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          And how do you know I've created a problem? Is that the only possible explanation?

          I want to know what constitutes a "fault" before I know whether to accept the risk of getting them out to 'look' at it - what will they look at and consider as faulty - but nobody can tell me that. So for all I know they might just run the same automated test, perform a quite line test on a nice dry still day with no noise, tell me there's no fault, piss off and send me a bill. Next day it rains or the wind blows the wrong way and nothing has changed except I've got a big bill.

          I still have enormous fat twin core cable running down the front of my house too which I think is long obsoleted. I think it's joined somehow to the overhead run of newer stuff. Maybe that's where a fault is, maybe it's miles away, but I don't know if it'd get changed regardless just by virtue of its age or possible fault condition. Nobody can tell me, so nothing has ever happened. I don't really use the phone anyway but that's beside the point.

          I don't see how this fits with your analogy.

          1. Rasczak

            <quote>

            And how do you know I've created a problem? Is that the only possible explanation?

            </quote>

            I don't, but that is irrelevant. If the issue is with the provider/Openreach kit there is no charge. if you have created the problem you will be charged. Not rocket science.

            <quote>

            I want to know what constitutes a "fault" before I know whether to accept the risk of getting them out to 'look' at it - what will they look at and consider as faulty - but nobody can tell me that. So for all I know they might just run the same automated test, perform a quite line test on a nice dry still day with no noise, tell me there's no fault, piss off and send me a bill. Next day it rains or the wind blows the wrong way and nothing has changed except I've got a big bill.

            I still have enormous fat twin core cable running down the front of my house too which I think is long obsoleted. I think it's joined somehow to the overhead run of newer stuff. Maybe that's where a fault is, maybe it's miles away, but I don't know if it'd get changed regardless just by virtue of its age or possible fault condition. Nobody can tell me, so nothing has ever happened. I don't really use the phone anyway but that's beside the point.

            </quote>

            If you ask them what is covered and not then you will be told, try it. Simply put though, if the issue is on the exchange side of the main BT socket then it is provider/Openreach, if it on the premises side it is your issue. The cable you mention will be exchange side, so anything there could only be charged if they could show you had done something like cut it when gardening for example. If you haven't touched it then it is their responsibility

            Some people are obsessed that they will be charged for any call out at all, that simply does not happen. If they do charge when you can see that it is on their side then dispute the charge

            <quote>

            I don't see how this fits with your analogy.

            </quote>

            Because is both cases you pay for someone to provide and maintain equipment, and in both cases they repair anything that goes wrong with their kit without further charge, but will charge you if you call them out to fix something else.

            1. the hatter

              <quote>I don't, but that is irrelevant. If the issue is with the provider/Openreach kit there is no charge. if you have created the problem you will be charged. Not rocket science</quote>

              But that's not how it works. More like one of these outcomes

              (1) if they detect an issue with the provider/openreach kit, there is no charge.

              (2) If there is a problem with the provider/openreach kit but they don't spot it, you get charged.

              (3) if there is a problem with your kit, you get charged

              (4) if there is a problem, and they can possibly blame it on anything other than their kit, regardless of being able to provide any proof, you get charged.

              (5) the intermittent fault is not occurring when they attend, you get charged.

              How many times would you like to pay BT £180 or whatever it is, for them to continue tell you simply 'it's not our problem' before you can finally find an engineer to actually diagnose a problem, that's happening when they attend ?

              I doubt most reg readers have a problem with (1) or (3) but there is a strong incentive for openreach to push engineers not to try too hard, as then they get paid, and there's a strong incentive for engineers to close tickets ASAP because then they can get onto the next job.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Some people are obsessed that they will be charged for any call out at all, that simply does not happen.

              Not what I've been told by Zen on several occasions (and Be before that). I can even quote from Zen:

              "Engineer Charge of £130+ VAT, which would only be applied if the cause of the fault is due to damage to the line within the property boundary that has been caused by yourself, if you have placed equipment on the line that is causing the fault or if BT cannot find a fault on the line"

              If BT's policy has changed, hurrah, but this is what's grinding my gears. I've no objection to paying for damage I've caused or dodgy wiring after the master socket (there is none). I object to being threatened with a charge if something they can't define and isn't always present isn't found.

              1. msknight Silver badge

                Save yourself some cost...

                Get a good handset, disconnect everything and plug the handset into the master socket.

                Pick it up and dial 17070 Option 2 for the quiet line test. (this might have changed... look it up) Listen for a while. If noise comes on the line, then there's a good chance that the fault is outside.

        2. Da Weezil

          Ive had issues with this line all the way back to dial up. They can see it has periods where it disconnects repeatedly but are not bothered, according to an engineer one problem here is that they have no spare good pairs in the trunk that feeds my place and dont plan to replace anything. despite the new build down the road whewre I hear they have huge issues.

          Should I be charged for reminding them that the line keeps dropping for no apparent reason? I wont bore you by pointing out that I've changed everything several times over in my 20 years here, and in that time every other property has changed hands (as mine is about to). But each time we have a period of repeated drops I feel they should be pestered as they are in effect charging my isp for a crap service.

          I wont even mention the fight I had to get refunded for a visit where they actually found an issue that required exchange work - for which they still billed me. for far too long they have been able to pal us off with low quality lines that have defects which they refuse to fix properly, and outside of cable areas you are pretty much stuffed if you dont go with openjokes wet string nOtwork.

          Openjoke are protected by the stupid rules that prevent us from direct access to them.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            But each time we have a period of repeated drops I feel they should be pestered as they are in effect charging my isp for a crap service.

            But are you (and your neighbours) pestering your ISP?

            Remember if your ISP isn't BT they will be able to assert the Ofcom agreed SLA against Openreach, which includes provisions for Openreach paying your ISP for non-delivery.

            Aside: In sorting out a line issue for a deaf person, I discovered that if you are with EE and visit one of their shops they will send out an engineer, whilst there is an initial charge for this service, which will be refunded when the problem is confirmed as being with Openreach, the benefit is that EE take ownership of the resolution and liaison with Openreach; something my friend found very useful.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You must be joking !!!???

          Rasczak,

          I can only assume you are in 'Troll' mode for a laugh.

          1st problem is the disconnect between you and OR, you cannot escalate anything to OR after a callout and OR will only respond to the ISP raising a call for a specific set of criteria that match the support contract the ISP has with OR.

          If you don't match the criteria OR does not respond, even if the problem is a follow-on from a callout they will not respond. Each callout is a separate issue and is judged on the specific criteria in isolation.

          BT/Openreach & ISP's decide what is or is not a fault, the game they play is that 'if' the Openreach Engineer cannot find a fault then you are charged a callout fee.

          The problem is how hard the fault is to find and if not found it makes any future attempts to resolve it harder.

          If the OR Engineer has already decided there is no fault they tend not to look too hard !!!.

          It has taken 18 months to get a problem resolved because the ISP did not have a 'script' to match the issue so I ran into a brickwall trying to log the fault to begin with. OR then sent 4 sets of Engineers [over 18 months], First set of OR Engineers did not understand the issue and left the line in a worse state than it was in before he arrived. The next OR Engineer (6 months later) had already decided there was NO Problem and was gone in minutes. Two other sets of Engineers did find a fault that was only resolved because the last OR Engineer was prepared to invest a little more time and eventually improved the line.

          The line is still NOT completely fixed but I cannot afford to waste months chasing the ISP/OR when I may get a worse line as a result. (That is what I got with the 3rd set of Engineers who stated it was the best I could get BUT the 4th set of OR Engineers thought otherwise.)

          Full saga much much longer and with lots of detail but it will be TL;DR :)

          Lots of reports of people being charged for a callout which does not fix the fault BUT as it cannot be found, problem does not exist ....... Ka-ching Pay up !!!

          It does tend to put you off attempting to convince the ISP to push a problem to OR in case it costs you and the problem is NOT fixed either.

          All the tests are based on 'what I can detect now !!!' yet if you have historical data logging the fault it is ignored, usually with the parting line 'It appears to be working now !!!'.

          The ISP & OR have historic data on the line and DLM is monitoring the line continuously, yet the OR Engineer does a 1 time test and declares the line is working. They often say just log another call if the problem comes back BUT most ISP's will only escalate to OR if forced and having a call that was 'proved false' makes them even more reluctant to escalate in the future.

          P.S.

          Don't get me started on the nonsense that is DLM and how it is more a problem than a solution to getting the maximum speed & quality from your line.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I told the call foreign call centre that if I accepted their threat of a fine and they did find it was their problem that they must pay me the same amount! We went round in circles for an entertaining 10 min before he stopped insisting on the charge. As others have said, email Gavin P (MD) and you should get one of their “executive level case workers”.

    3. LozWhat

      +1 David. I too am with Zen and I find them to be the best around (I have tried BT, BT Business, Talk Talk and Sky).

  4. Eponymous Cowherd

    I consider myself lucky....

    not to have to deal with these tosspots.

    Switched to the rather excellent WightFibre.

    Surely there must be other, similar, local providers?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. ProperDave

      Re: I consider myself lucky....

      Not in North Wheatley. I live in the major town just round the corner, and am forced to use OpenReach based services as cable's never reached the Bassetlaw district in North Nottinghamshire. The surrounding villages including North Wheatley have only had over 2MB speeds for the last couple of years.

      I have even heard a couple of new housing estates in the area have started forming residents associations to club together for satellite links (they don't get anything over 2MB because you know; building a brand new housing estate doesn't guarantee anything better than legacy copper lines these days).

  5. M0PLT
    Boffin

    It could be an EMC issue!

    There have been cases in the past where an entire village has suffered regular outages of their ADSL signals thanks to local REIN sources. Power-Line-Networking/Power-Line-Technology is a known cause of interference that leaks from the mains-wiring with the very same frequencies DSL services are trying to use (same modulation techniques). I wonder how many in the village are using Sky Q with the PLT switched on (as it is by default!)? Poorly maintained electric fences can also act as spark-gap transmitters which generate large regular wide-band electromagnetic pulses which affect the 3 to 30 MHz HF band. Openreach "engineers" I have spoken to do not know the first thing about EMC, or the hoards of junk electronics that can cause it. They are not going to find a REIN issue with a casual visit to the end-user's home; and neither with Ofcom with a casual drive-through as their equipment is not sensitive enough to pick-up the interference!

    1. Jabba

      Re: It could be an EMC issue!

      Need a radio ham to track that down these days... 73s...

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: It could be an EMC issue!

      Well, a few weeks back, we had terrible WiFi, network connections getting lost, recovering then getting lost again. So I set up the analyzer and discovered it wasn't just my WiFi but all the neighbouring 2.4GHz WiFi networks (regardless of channel) going through the same process in sync.: start signalling, broadcast for 15~30 seconds and then turn off. Talking to my children, their friends in the wider village were also seeing the same effect. This went on for the best part of five days and then everything returned to normal and WiFi has been rock solid since, so I never got to the bottom of what was going on.

      Fortunately, the powerline circuits still worked, so in my house I could use 'wired' connections for the laptops and the iPads carried on using the 5GHz. Only the 2.4GHz only devices - mainly android phones were unable to connect to the WiFi.

      1. PeeKay

        Re: It could be an EMC issue!

        "Fortunately, the powerline circuits still worked"

        Unfortunately, this can tend to cause the issue as PLN devices leak at the same frequencies as ADSL (as mentioned a couple of posts up).

        Get rid of the Power Line Network devices and wire it up properly instead.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: It could be an EMC issue!

          >this can tend to cause the issue as PLN devices leak at the same frequencies as ADSL

          Agree, that was a big problem with the older lower speed (sub 500Mbps) adaptors, not so much with the newer higher speed ones - I have a portable radio plugged into the same outlet as one adaptor and only occasionally get noise - like when I let the power lead get too near to the antenna...

          >Get rid of the Power Line Network devices and wire it up properly instead.

          The only reason for the adaptors was that I needed something fast (son's Xbox Christmas present a few years back) and being a post-2000 house, installing new outlets and cables is a real hassle...

      2. M0PLT
        Boffin

        Re: It could be an EMC issue!

        2.45 GHz and 5 GHz used for Wi-Fi are license-free Industrial, Scientific & Medical bands. They can be full of noise generated by ZigBee, Bluetooth, A/V senders, Baby monitors, and microwave ovens (at 2.45 GHz). Wi-Fi should not be seen as reliable or protected spectrum. Only a physical cabled connection - where practical - using Cat5/6 and clean Ethernet can be considered reliable. Powerline devices should be thrown in the nearest WEEE skip. They may not be affecting your radios. They will be affecting someone else's!

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: It could be an EMC issue!

          Re: 2.45 GHz and 5 GHz used for Wi-Fi are license-free Industrial, Scientific & Medical bands. They can be full of noise...

          Agreed, however, that wasn't what I was seeing: my analyzer showed a clean spectrum, just every AP starting transmitting, increasing signal to full power, holding it for a short while before turning off/dying. As my AP was also one going through this cycle, I could confirm the problem wasn't related to power or DSL line events (or malware as did a full factory reset on my router). Unfortunately, I didn't have a WiFi protocol analyzer to hand and so couldn't see if the effect was being caused by a 'rogue' AP (*). I'm also confident that noise wasn't the cause as I didn't see AP's auto channel hopping in an attempt to find a less noisy channel.

          (*) I suspect this was possibly the cause, as in a final test I turned on my ancient b/g+3G backup router

          which proceeded to work normally and within 24 hours the others stopped failing...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just Openretch

    I've had the same problems with France Telecom. We had a flaky line that was erratic in hot weather, it took 5 calls and 3 visits before they finally sent out a competent engineering team instead of a pole monkey. They found and fixed the fault (an intermittently flaky connector).

    As noted above, people want cheap internet, so frontline help desks are staffed with script-reading "have you tried switching it off and on again" types. Once you get past them things start to move.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Had the same problem

    When my former local area were campaigning for proper broadband, I wrote a circular explaining things like how to check for packet loss and how to describe it when reporting the problem, to flood their fault reports with one small area so they'd do some upgrades.

    To their credit they did the upgrades. To their discredit they started them on a friday before a bank holiday weekend and left us with dialup equivalent speeds for the whole long weekend.

    1. Caver_Dave
      Unhappy

      Logic and engineering don't always work

      I was able to provide BT and the County Council (as it was they who were handling the BDUK money) with a whole sheaf of diagnostics, which basically said the pre 1930's cable from the exchange to our village (paper insulated wires!) was completely shite, even for voice; the 1950-60's cable was crap and the 1980's cable might get 5-8Mbps after a spell of dry weather. We even showed how the 1980's cable fed line unit was where people were put when they complained - at the expense of someone who was already on there!

      My village and two adjacent ones topped the County Council consultations as to who wanted their broadband upgraded by a huge margin and I even had meetings with the BT East Midlands Sales Manager.

      Do you think that it helped at all? Of course not! The money was spent on a waterside development in the middle of Northampton. Engineering proof and public support are still not a match for BT and County Councils.

      We went our own way in the end and got an outside company Gigaclear in to provide Fibre to the Premises to our 4 local parishes. When the County Council person in charge of the fibre roll out turned up to the launch of our privately funded scheme I nearly lumped him one!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Logic and engineering don't always work

        No, this wasn't logic and engineering, it was noise. Lots of noise. A whole village who knows what to put in their reports so that the BT engineers will have to record it, informed by a former BT tech support guy.

        Pointing out the exact problem isn't going to work, everybody pointing out the same symptoms throughout an entire village using BT's own terminology, that gets noticed.

        Not that we got good broadband, but 3.5Meg that stays up was an acceptable compromise.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Logic and engineering don't always work

        @Caver_dave - Not sure which villages you are referring to, but I also found Superfast Northamptonshire a bit of waste of time. The villages I was advising also went Gigaclear. Unfortunately in my village (adjacent to these villages) people were less vocal and so we ended up with BT FTTC...

        With the impending demise of NCC, I'm not sure what will happen to S.NH..

        Aside: I see this is your first post, welcome to El Reg.

  8. Ian Emery Silver badge

    Three Mistakes

    Obviously chose a cheap ISP; went cheaper still by paying for a consumer package, and ignored all the evidence telling him OR only talk to the ISP's; makes you wonder how good he is at his job.

  9. lsces

    Ditch the BT hubs ...

    Since being upgraded to fibre I was getting outages every day. The BT hub was then taking 5 to 10 minutes to reconnect. Was on a HUB5 and then supplied with 3 HUB6's over some months. All to no avail. I'd even dropped the analogue phone and just pluged the hub in direct. Currently there is a Netgear hub on the line, the analogue side is connected back up, and I've not seen a dropout I can't explain. 30 days clean before re-plugging the analogue gear, and another 24 days clean since. The annoying thing here is that BT paid for the Netgear unit early on because their original installation engineer did not know the hub I was using then would not work with fibre! SO I had to go out late on a Friday to buy something to get the line working again! Should have just ditched the BT hub when it arrived ...

  10. steviebuk Silver badge

    BT are shit...

    "Engineers have visited Mr Sampson twice during the last 12 months – in April and July. On both occasions they carried out a successful full test of the local network, without experiencing any issues."

    Yeah like the 2 fucking engineers you sent out to a site we supported. Both engineers said the line "had no issues". Then they sent a 3rd. Luckily the 3rd engineer did his job properly and said

    "It is showing fine at the bungalow but I'll go down the road and double check the box". And there it fucking was. He said "I've found the issue. The box this line is connected to out on the secluded street is opposite a pub. I think a lorry must of reversed over the box at some point crushing it. Then someone has come to fix it and instead of fixing it properly, just spliced it together so that it would report a "I'm fine" signal. Which of course, then sometimes fails in your case".

    1. Alistair Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: BT are shit...

      "I've found the issue. The box this line is connected to out on the secluded street is opposite a pub

      I thought the next line would be "the dumb drunk patrons are stopping and pissing on it on the way home...."

  11. Ol' Grumpy

    I had an issue with BT a couple of years ago where my speed (Infinity 2) dropped from 80Mbps to around 55Mbps over the course of a few months. I logged this with BT support a couple of times where I was helpfully told to reboot the Homehub I wasn't using.

    Long story short, I moved to PlusNet and queried the speed I was getting which they agreed didn't match the profile my line should have been capable of. Cue three visits from Openreach engineers.

    The first one said everything checked out and left - no improvement.

    The second one said everything checked out, replaced the master socket and left - no improvement.

    The third guy had been to a wedding the previous day and I think was nursing a hangover. This one did a full end to end line test, disappeared off to the cabinet, came back, did more testing, went off to the cabinet again, sat in his van and ate sandwiches, went to the cabinet again and then advised the port on the line card in the green box was knackered. He moved me to a different card and I was back to near enough 76Mbps.

    It took about three hours and I still the guy is a legend.

    All the time he was commenting about how Openreach don't give their engineers the time to diagnose faults properly before they have to be on to the next job so the experiences listed here and in the article really don't surprise me unfortunately.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      with BT ... where my speed (Infinity 2) dropped from 80Mbps to around 55Mbps ...

      I cannot help but notice how small infinity has become these days.

    2. Chloe Cresswell

      There's a set of these engineers in my area - as we do support for multiple local customers the weirder faults where we see them often now start with the OR engineer going "I've met you before, haven't I...?"

    3. Chris King Silver badge

      "It took about three hours and I still the guy is a legend."

      What you had there was an "old school" engineer who actually understands how telephones work, rather than an "appeasement" engineer who just plugs in a JDSU (the little machine that goes "ping!"), can't find a fault and reports the line as "right when tested".

      This happened to me three years ago, when my line got dumped into a "hot" VLAN after an exchange upgrade, and peak speed/latency went down the toilet in the evenings. BT sent out multiple SFI engineers, including some poor sods who didn't even know WHY they had been sent out ("Have you got a problem with your line, mate ?")

      Fortunately, I'm with AAISP, and they gave BT a jolly good kicking (as is usual for them). They took it up to High Level Escalation and eventually got it fixed.

      Even the MD got involved with that one

      Yes, they're bloody expensive, but if something breaks, it gets fixed. Or BT/TT get another kicking.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        What you had there was an "old school" engineer

        Or like me when I worked on a BT helpdesk, someone who has done the assessment and decided that if management want to kick them out for fixing the stuff they are supposedly employed to fix then they may happily use that decision as a suppository. Tolerate the job while it tolerates you but they're hardly a good employer.

        My worst offense was teaching my colleagues that if the customer doesn't know the IP address of their router then ipconfig probably lists it as the default gateway. Or reassuring a customer who was worried about blocking her wireless router's line of sight by listing what my own signal at home had to go through. Using personal experience to inform your support was a massive no-no.

        Funnily enough my usual response to customers swearing never got a response from anyone.

        "Please be aware, these calls are monitored, so please don't say anything to me you wouldn't say to a little old lady, because some of our managers are right old women."

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        @Chris King

        AAISP are ace. End of.

        1. reprobate

          Re: @Chris King

          herewith another vote for AAISP. Worth every penny of their slightly higher charge.

  12. macladd

    Hate to say this, but....

    After similar lengthy problems with Plusnet/Openreach I sent an email directly to Clive Selley, Openreach CEO. He answered me personally within 10 minutes, apologised and set in motion a fix, I was then contacted by one of his team to oversee the work required. Problem was fully resolved a few weeks later. Fast forward a few months, relative told me they were having a nightmare with Plusnet over degraded overhead lines causing them and their neighbours to go off every time it rained, Plusnet dragged their heels blaming everything else. I sent another email directly to Clive Selley and again he answered personally, I provided further details, his team then got in touch with my relative, an Openreach team were out within 2 weeks to replace the rotten pole and brand new lines to every house on it. The laughable thing was Plusnet had to contact us to get an update! It may not be the correct process but it worked! His email address is freely available via search engine. I believe Clive is a no nonsense person, having worked his way up through BT to the top. Certainly, in all my dealings with him he has been very approachable and apologetic for the issues, a few cages were also clearly rattled at Plusnet for their utter incompetence resulting in a selection of Plusnet branded chocolate bars arriving unannounced as well as financial compensation for the loss of service. I'm not saying that everyone should start emailing Clive as that would obviously shut down a very effective last resort option but if you are at that stage like we were, I would give it a bash.

    1. fnusnu

      Re: Hate to say this, but....

      "I sent an email directly to Clive Selley, Openreach CEO. He answered me personally"

      50p says it wasn't actually him...

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: Hate to say this, but....

        "I sent an email directly to Clive Selley, Openreach CEO. He answered me personally"

        And his email addy is? ... for the Greater good...

        1. macladd

          Re: Hate to say this, but....

          as I said, search for it online, it is there.

        2. Ivan Headache

          Re: Hate to say this, but....

          The Greater Good.

        3. Keith Oborn

          Re: Hate to say this, but....

          --publically available if you care to do a quick Google search for, say "CEO email".

          BTW, in my time at Virgin Media I once had a phone call that started "This is the CEO's complaints office". Most companies now have a department like that, and believe me a call like that to a member of staff concentrates his or her mind wonderfully.

          1. Nick Kew Silver badge

            Re: Hate to say this, but....

            You're doing better than me if you could contact Virgin in the first place. And when I tried, I had evidence like speedtest results.

            I must've been lucky with BT. When my line died, I got a fix within a few hours.

            Could it be because I'm a "boiling frog" customer, and don't trouble a provider just because the speed I'm getting is only 10% of what's advertised, but only when it fails altogether?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hate to say this, but....

        50p says it wasn't actually him...

        I'd agree, but who cares it it works. The sad thing is that these companies don't see any value in "service recovery", by which I mean handling a complaint well. Bad stuff happens, that's the way of the world. But how you respond to that is what defines a customer's experience.

        I work for a large customer service experience, and my boss's PA has to take part in the duty rota for CEO complaint handling. It is done very well. But the organisation doesn't manage to see that if people didn't need to escalate complaints to the CEO, then they'd have a lot happier outcomes. In fact, I'm trying to get a process change to handle long standing complaints that'll save us £1.5m of external costs. As you can imagine, there's no traction

      3. macladd

        Re: Hate to say this, but....

        Sorry, it was 100% him.

  13. Gideon 1

    Electricity insulator failure

    We had these symptoms in our village. It turned out to be a cracked electricity insulator arcing intermittently, and not a fault in the phone/broadband network. A thermal camera can help find that kind of fault.

    1. Daedalus Silver badge

      Re: Electricity insulator failure

      Thermal camera? More than their job's worth, mate!

  14. Daedalus Silver badge

    ObPython

    Every time I read these sad complaints I remember the sketch with the endless line of men in flat caps and brown work coats, cig in mouth and pencil behind ear, debating which form to use to get the gas line fixed.

    Nothing changes.

  15. Fred Dibnah

    "But given the problems being reported, we're going to investigate further. "

    What they really meant was "Given the bad publicity that this article could generate, we might get off our lazy arses and actually make an effort to fix the problem. However, if we don't see the story picked up by other news outlets, we'll make a carefully considered decision to not do anything at all."

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: "But given the problems being reported, we're going to investigate further. "

      What they really meant was "Given the bad publicity that this article could generate, we might get off our lazy arses

      Also known as the Watchdog Effect, or the You and Yours effect (other consumer advice programmes are available...)

      M.

  16. Steve 53

    AAISP

    Try A&A. Pricey but decent support and very effective at dealing with openreach

    https://aa.net.uk/broadband.html

    We'll fix your line even if you are with another ISP!

    If you are migrating your service to us, even though you know you have a problem with your line, we'll take on the fault. We'll tackle the problem and get it fixed within one month. If we don't then you can migrate away and owe us nothing for your migration to us and your service charges for that month. Details.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: AAISP

      ... and here is the relevant link

      There is a catch though, which I guess might apply in this case "DSL requires a working PSTN line, if the PSTN line has a fault then this will need to be resolved first."

      1. Steve 53

        Re: AAISP

        Well, you can always call sales and ask. I suspect the type of fault here would be considered a broadband fault, not PSTN.

  17. anothercynic Silver badge

    This is why I pay a premium...

    ... Before Eclipse... sorry, KCOM, went all 'sorry, but we don't do Consumer even though we do', I had my line through them and to be fair, they were very good with handling Openreach when they developed cable faults (first dodgy connections in the local cabinet and then a cable break).

    Now I am with another independent provider who are absolutely brilliant. They suffered a DDoS attack recently and the staff (up to senior management) mucked in. I have complete confidence in them if another glitch happens on my line... :-)

    1. Keith Oborn

      Re: This is why I pay a premium...

      Well, I'm still with Eclipse and have always been a "consumer". The service is labelled "business" and is priced accordingly, but to this day (he says, tempting fate) on the occasions when there's been a fault they step up and fix it intelligently. You get what you pay for.

      Note: I used to work for Virgin Media, and I've seen the insides of almost all the main UK ISPs. Always go for the small operator, and leave if it gets too big. But that applies in almost any area of business-.

  18. Electricity_Guy

    You can barely make up the stuff that goes on with these ISPs.

    I recently had a problem with BT so they said they were going to send an Engineer to take a look at the connection in my home. Said engineer was dispatched, he called me to ask to be let in, I went to the door to let him in but he wasn't there. He said he was at the address for sure, after some back and forth I realized he was at my old address from a year ago, he was in Glasgow and I was in Manchester!

    How I laughed! (not).

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A short lived problem, surely ?

    Since working from home appears to be on the decrease.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A short lived problem, surely ?

      Since working from anywhere appears to be on the decrease.

      {especially tonight}

      There fixed it for you

  20. roger 8

    many years ago working for BT i traced a fault for my mother's internet. the problem was the cable under a pub carpark. It was deemed not cost effective to dig up car park and replace cable

  21. Huw D

    Tell me about it. Client in Nottingham had issues with their VoIP setup. 3 engineers turned up and did the "No Fault Found because we ran a simple check and couldn't be arsed to hang around for the INTERMITTENT problem to happen." routine. The 4th engineer actually bothered to wait and actually witness the fault happening and then things moved pretty quickly.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Openreach aren't allowed to talk to end customers - it's not a matter of them not wanting to. That was a decision taken back when the whole thing was set up, by the telcos who use Openreach's services.

    There were I recall several options under consideration, one of which was where the line was rented from Openreach by the customer and then they bought services from providers over the top. It was rejected by industry and Openreach were forbidden from talking to anyone other than the telco as a result. I think there was a reasonable fear that customers would insist Openreach visit their site, but if the visit resulted in chargeable work - for instance where a customer had damage something - that Openreach had no mechanism to raise that charge with the customer and would charge the telco instead for something they hadn't asked for.

  23. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    Wet behind the ears.

    I used to have this on a DSL copper circuit every time it rained heavily. Switched to FTTC when it arrived and problem solved. #wellyreboots

    1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Re: Wet behind the ears.

      Can you come when it’s raining. Will that be AM or PM? #justdancin

    2. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Re: Wet behind the ears.

      The date? Just checking the forecast! #missedagain

  24. TechDrone
    Thumb Up

    Good results from Plusnet

    A few years later we had line issues and as a previous poster mentioned we had to push past 1st line but soon got to their real fault finders. They were able to send pretty charts of DSL uptime and throughput, resulting in an OpenReach engineer being despatched and spending a few hours monitoring the line, changing to different line cards in the exchange (as Plustnet advised) and a different socket at the local cabinet then topping it off with a new master socket closer to where the router was.

    Downtime due to Plusnet/network is maybe a few minutes a quarter. Downtime due to me playing with router config is hours per quarter depending on what "learning experience" I chose after pub-o-clock - which is often the only way networking makes sense to me.

    I can highly recommend Plusnet for broadband, much better than many others in several countries I've used over the years.

    1. Keith Oborn

      Re: Good results from Plusnet

      They may well be better than some, but be aware of who owns them,

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't Reach

    A good few years ago I did the occassional work for Spitfire and had a call saying that a client had lost his broadband.. Also, the phone wasn't behaving too well! Spitfire said everything appears to be working OK at their end, would I pop round and have a look.

    Popping round was a 30 mile drive to 'out in the country'.

    The client is inbetween two small villages and both the phone and broadband were important for work.

    As it happens they have two phone lines, one for the phone and the other for the broadband, both were provided by Spitfire. After checking all the connections in the house and trying another router I still had no flashing lights.

    On a whim I swapped the router over to the phone line and vice versa.

    Bingo. Flashing lights and the phone is OK. However as a solution it was no good as the broadband line number was unknown to anyone anymore.

    Called Spitfire to say that I had it sussed - the phone and the broadband lines had swaqpped numbers.

    Rubbish came the reply- that can't happen.

    Ok you phone me on the broadband number - sure enough ring ring.

    Now I'm plugging the phone into the phone line - call again. Silence.

    It can't happen - am I sure that the master sockets are OK?

    2 of them firmly screwed to the window-sill with their numbers clearly marked.

    After a bit more to-ing and fro-ing Spitfire agreed that something untoward had happened and that BT will have a look at it. Can I be there in the morning please.

    Next day the BT man arrived at the same time as me. It took him no time at all to verify that the numbers had indeed been reversed. Would I stay in the house while he went to find the nearest cabinet. Nothing wrong there - except that the numbes are reversed. He's going to have to go to the exchange - about 15 miles away.

    About half an hour later he calls to say that for some reason, the modules (?) for the numbers are reversed in the rack. Someone has taken them out and put them back in the wrong places. (Well that's what he said),

    He said he would be back up to the house in about 30 minutes to collect the kit he had left across the lines. Would I wait until he got there.

    Over an hour later he arrived apologising for the problem and also for the delay in getting back - he'd only crashed his van.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hot vp

    Have him Google hot VP (virtual path) it's the pain in the hoop of many small village exchanges. They rarely diagnose it and it can take several different engineers before you get one that realises despite successfully testing that something is amiss.

    A bad news is - they don't fix it despite confirming it as a problem

  27. Dave Bell

    Some of us are lucky.

    It's not a wonderful speed, but I have had a decent ADSL connection since the service first became available here, fifteen years ago. It's way below what politicians say should be the minimum, and the difference would matter for a family. And I don't watch very much streaming media anyway.

    One of the internet services I use is notorious for problems with router/modem hardware, it is supposed to have a traffic pattern that somehow slows the connection. Whatever the cause, a hardware reboot after about a moth shows a speed increase. I reckon there are more than a few tall stories to explain problems as "not our fault". Something happens, but I doubt some of the supposed reasons.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same experience

    I live right next to the FTTC cupboard in central London, and I, too, am plagued by sporadic outages. One night recently, I had 40 disconnections at 2am in the morning within the space of 20min.

    My ISP (Uno) told me they can't do anything unless the line is "actually" down, which of course it wasn't when they checked it.

    I'm lucky enough to have one of SamKnow's boxes, which actually records those outages into lovely graphs. Still, apparently the data SamKnows records is not suitable evidence to prompt an investigation - if I need a reliable line, I should get EFM I've been advised...

  29. Jonathan Knight

    I've had good service from OpenReach

    Perhaps it's unusual but I had good service from OpenReach. I had an intermittent fault on my line which caused the ADSL carrier to drop and forced the modem to re-sync. I logged the fault with my ISP who did the line checks and said everything was fine. But they were happy to book an engineer if I was prepared to pay the cost if there was no fault.

    I logged ping calls to my ISPs gateway using the BT test socket every 10 seconds for several hours to make sure I had the evidence and booked the engineer. The engineer duly arrived and put the diagnostic tool on the line which reported no fault. I showed him my log and he was happy to stay and watch it for a while based on the evidence I had collected. Sure enough the carrier dropped and re-sync'd but the diagnostic box didn't react at all. It kept reporting no fault but we'd both seen the carrier drop and re-sync.

    He looked at me and said "I've never seen that before" and then spent the rest of the day tracking and replacing every joint in my copper cable back to the exchange. He then changed over the copper pair I was using on the main cables finding the best quality pair that wasn't in use. After many hours of work he discovered a bit of the exchange equipment had a fault and needed replacing which happened after 2 days and everything has been fine since.

    When I was stood on the school playground picking up my daughter a few days later I was chatting to the parents who all said they'd noticed the broadband had stopped dropping out on them all the time. They hadn't called it in because they weren't confident that the fault wasn't their problem and the £180 charge for an engineer callout made them live with the unreliability.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About six years ago, noisy line, intermittent broadband. the end of the drive for three neighbouring houses dug up, bit of road dug up, neighbours extremely pissed off. Grass verge outside my house dug up, end of my drive dug up. Fault eventually found with cable running through a mass of tree roots, fault 'fixed'

    About three years ago changed ISP / voice provider, a few weeks later noisy line / no dialtone intermittent broadband, 'fixed' by an openreach contractor allegedly 'Skanska' (see below)

    Two years later changed provider, a month later noisy landline/no dialtone and intermittent broadband. TEN MONTHS to fix involving FIFTEEN OPENREACH visits. Fault eventually traced to a bad termination in the cabinet, the only one it passes through back to the exchange. The same cabinet openreach had 'checked' many times. Broadband provider eventually gave me a years 'free' broadband with the landline rental

    A few months ago, as the 'free' deal ran out I changed provider again, a month later, no dialtone intermittent very low speed broadband. Clear case of one leg disconnected

    Four days after reporting to my ISP a noisy landline and nothing happening they denied me ever mentioning a faulty landline. Despite having the phone in the test socket in the back of the NTE then I was read the riot act about the Openreach charge.

    Over two weeks to fix involving two excavations , eventually revealing the substandard 'repair' from a few years before (jelly crimps to patch in a scrap piece of cable with the joints simply protected by a plastic bag and then direct buried with zero mechanical protection) Fault clearly outside my boundary

    All cabling is copper and underground, much of it NOT in ducts, no FTTC for half a dozen cabinets nearby despite many other being served, a recent update on the Openreach site says this:

    "Your area is currently in our plans to be upgraded with Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), however we follow a different design and build process for FTTP so you won't see updates at each stage. Once the engineering work is completed there is a commissioning period of up to eight weeks before an order can be placed. When you are able to place an order you will see the Accepting Orders message. "

    To complicate things further the pavements have in the last year all been stripped back and relaid which now means a five year 'official' moratorium on any disturbance (the current disturbance count for 200 metres of road and 400m of pavement is three BT faults. two water main bursts and a gas leak in less than 12 months)

    Just wonder if fibre will ever be permitted here, if it will be laid in ducts and if it will actually give an improvement in reliability.

  31. Nairda

    Go straight to the top

    I had a problem for years with my otherwise excellent line losing sync in wet and/or windy weather. I am with one of the better ISPs who did their very best to get it fixed but everytime OR checked the line they found nothing wrong. On my most recent attempt to get a fix the OR engineer said he thought there was a fault on the line and it should probably be replaced, only to hear from OR via my ISP that there was nothing wrong - again.

    So, feeling very frustrated and having just about exhausted all the usual options, late on the Friday I sent a polite e-mail to the CEO of OR explaining the situation and had a reply less than two hours later from one of his assistants who said he had passed the e-mail over to the relevant area engineer who would be in touch. Saturday morning I had an e-mail from the area engineer to tell me they were looking into it further and on Monday morning two very nice OR engineers turned up and replaced the entire overhead line back to where it went underground.

    Since then my line has been rock solid despite what mother nature cares to throw at it.

    I also had a follow up phone call from the area engineer making sure everything was OK and he also gave me his direct phone number in case there were any problems.

    I should add that I have tried approaching the CEO of various organisations over the years and without fail action has been taken but I wouldn't do this until I had tried normal channels.

  32. David McCarthy

    I'm keeping quiet about my ISP

    Whatever you do, don't use Beaming - if they get too many new customers, I might not get such excellent service.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like an opportunity to open a WISP

    Get some proper fibers somewhere in the city, convince some neigbours to help with the cost and start a community Wireless ISP, these days is relatively cheap to start one, the equipment needed is accessible for a small group of people to share the costs.

    If it becomes popular and people start switching over, I bet ISPs will pay more attention!

    In any case this seems to be the typical case of old infra that relies on old and poorly maintained cables and boxes that cause easily instability,note as well that if you are 5km away from central, good luck, it becomes a lottery.

    On top of that I can easily see that the backbone link to BBRAS are as well over crowded. DSL lines have often contractual contention of 1:20 to 1:50. Put all together and here you go. Of course that there will be times in the day connection seems more stable because has less use, but as soon as people start using it more in particular periods in the days, latency and lost packets are expected.

    I work at a large multinational ISP that has multiple last miles with these guys and other folks in different countries and business lines aren't any better, because even in those the SLAs are often best effort, at least this is the SLA we provide to our customers because we know we can't rely on DSL connections for stable service. It is often a hit and miss situation.

    So again, my personal advice, get the community together and create a community WISP up and running and things will likely to be different, or at least people can have an option and like in this case that seems that internet is crutial, having 2 ISPs in actvice/passive/load balancing topology should make a difference.

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