Sunday, 30 December 2012

Bellingham postmistress lends own money after internet loss

The BBC article explains "A village post office could not pay pensions or benefits for 11 days over Christmas after its broadband connection was cut off."

It is obviously not good if BT nicked someone else's copper to install service in a neighbouring property, but it is not unheard of (we have a customer with same problem right now).

What is somewhat more shocking is that a Post Office providing a critical service to its community and relying on an Internet connection, has a single ADSL line only and no backup.

The fault, in this case, looks like a simple human error, but the line could just as easily suffer any number of "normal" faults. It could easily take several days for the fault to be fixed.

We get this all the time with customers that now rely on Internet access. To be fair, they probably got Internet access when it was not business critical and only now find that it is. But really, if something is business critical you need a backup plan for when it breaks. They cry of "but we are losing tens of thousands of pounds a day" suggests that the customer could afford to invest a bit more in their service.

We have offered multiple line solutions for many years, and we even offer 3G backup services. We offer the various maintenance levels that BT can provide for faster repairs. But customers are, understandably, confused by the choices.

So, the plan is that we will be launching a new Office::1 package. This is separate to our existing packages, and is basically an all-in-one business Internet package.

The idea is that we will supply two new phone lines with broadband on them. By making these broadband only and new lines we reduce the chance of faults and interference and issues with extension wiring and so on. It also means one bill and one point of contact (us) for faults. We provide pre-configured and tested modems and a FireBrick, and a dongle an 3G SIM. The whole lot all set up in advance. And on top of that we will have one of the lines on BTs 7 hour fix target maintenance just in case both lines break at once.

It is not going to be cheap - that is the point - it is a proper business service - exactly what should be put in to a Post Office!


  1. That's exactly what they have a single ADSL line which plugs into a Fujitsu managed router then the tills hang off that...

  2. I read this and of course BT don't come out of this well, but even so there are so many questions?

    1) Why does their ability to do any business at all depend on having an internet connection?
    2) If it's really that critical to their business then surely they would have put a little thought into what happens if this breaks?
    3) They appear to have made no attempt to get a working internet connection. I could purchase a wireless device that would give me a connection within an hour, assuming they have a signal on any of the mobile networks.
    4) It says that this broke while the flat upstairs was having broadband installed. So go offer them some money to train an ethernet cable from their flat down to your machine. How hard could that be?
    5) Do they still have a phone line for voice? I'm sure dial up modems still exist...
    6) Is there nobody within wifi distance that has a signal they could use (with permission and perhaps relocation of equipment).

    It seems completely unlikely to me that they couldn't have got some kind of internet access arranged within 24 hours if they'd made any effort to at all.Easier to complain to the BBC I guess... I wouldn't expect someone who runs a post ofice to know all this, but I would expect them to know what is critical to their business and at the least have a plan in place, even if it's only the phone number of an expert.

    1. I'd hazard a guess that for security it's not a vanilla internet connection but links to a private VISP, so simply finding another connection isn't going to get them anywhere.

      But having wasted my money on Easynet xDSL in the early days of LLU and had four week-long outages in 15 months when BT 'engineers' nicked my line to do a new install for neighbours, BT are pretty appalling at reversing the fault they've just created. 'Different department mate', 'I'm just here to do a job' and all that.

  3. Webpage looks good

    I recommend some mention of how you provide monitoring of potential problems (through graphs and statistics) and how A&A providing all the equipment and the lines means that there's no question of "well it's your equipment that's at fault" which they would get from other ISPs

  4. The local post office here has a single ADSL line _and_ a SIM card in a slot in the front of the router.
    This change was only implemented about a year ago. Prior to that it was just an ADSL line on its own.

  5. I'm interested in the 3G fallback idea. I have three AA dsl lines into a Firebrick now. I should have bought the Fb2700 with the 3G NIC i/f. I wonder if the Firebrick could be set up to deliver ipv6 over 3G by tunnelling?

    Yesterday the mains failed, half the island was out, my generator died when we tried to start it up, over current protection probably, but it was too difficult to deal with it in the dark. After about half an hour two EE 3G base stations and a Three one had all disappeared, presumably when their UPSes died. I'm not sure i could have had a strategy for all that. Grrr.

    1. We do indeed tunnel the Ipv6 for 3G fallback, yes.

      And yes, satellite links are horrid, but generally not affected by a local power cut :-)

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  7. With Office::1 isn't there still a single point of failure? Just one Firebrick; you probably need to provide 2 ;-)

    1. Yes, indeed. We did wonder if we could do two, but that would be rather more expensive. There is a work around for a faulty FireBrick which is configuring a router on one of the lines temporarily.

  8. I'm sure I mentioned this before, but once upon a time we had a customer who screamed extremely loudly when their business critical Internet connection went down. Losing tens of thousands of pounds a day, they said.

    I gave them a quote for installation of a leased line with SLA and DSL failback. We never got a go-ahead, but the customer has been silent through the few subsequent BT caused outages they've had since.

    However, that's by the by. What rankles me most about this story was the seeming total surprise from all parties that BT could do such a thing and that causing misery and inconvenience was not BT's standard business practice...

    It has to be said, though, that if BT actually did their job properly, there would be considerably less need for backup solutions in the first place.

  9. Knowing Bellingham fairly well as I do, the reason they won't/don't/can't have a 3G backup is simple. There is no 3G there on any network (regardless of the optimistic predictions of the coverage maps)... the village is in a dip and whilst you can get some coverage at the top of the dip, in the village itself where the post office is, it's very ropey, fringe 2G (on EE/Orange/T-mobile) only.

  10. I can just envisage the next headline when the post office take objection at her actions lending her own money or being them into disrepute via the BBC article and knee-jerk suspend her!!!

    Ok, Office::1, you mention FTTC being an option, how about annex M, presumably it also has all the BTw premium priority routing in that price already etc?

    How about for that price giving some kind of 24x7 support or maybe 8x7 support on a more formal basis; a dedicated priority support number etc. You are starting to get into proper managed service pricing.

    In some ways I would like it perhaps as more of as this is the data bundle (a bit + due to the fixed cost!) and the connectivity and firebrick and presumably the management etc as a pick and mix approach then says DSL only £X, line and DSL £Y, FTTC £Z, EFM(?) - one option that would be quite interesting would be the second line being via L2TP - we have lines onsite with other providers - either MPLS links or even if they aren't always ours - we have an associated business with there own internets from BT Retail (yuk) - and that is provided with a dedicated line - a feature line compact of all things!!! so evidently someone doesn't understand what a POTS lines is $$$

    I am in some way after it more of a managed service wrapper including the firebrick with the site to firebrick agation element if that makes sense.