Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Hard sell from BT

It has been a long day, and part of that has been arguing with BT, with Shaun and Alex's help.

We have a very understanding customer with a mostly working service and we are giving him a discount for indulging us on this point. But it has allowed us to push BT on the ongoing issue of SFI engineers yet again. I hope that we will eventually get a straight answer and I can update this post.

Simple story - a phone line working OK for phone calls but dropping broadband frequently. Already engineers have established it is an issue with the drop wire and need to change it, and fit a new anchor to the building, and so on. I.e. the fault has been properly investigated by BT and remedial work proposed. This is all good.

However, the fault has stalled, and last week we escalated to High Level Escalations. On Monday we are told that BT plc t/a BT Wholesale cannot even talk to BT plc t/a Openreach unless we boot an SFI engineer!

At this point it is worth explaining that BT plc t/a BT Wholesale define an "SFI Engineer" as an optional service we can request that will send a man to check the line meets the "metallic path specification" (SIN349). As far as we know the line meets SIN349, and we have no reason to order such an optional service in this case (or indeed, ever!).

We have endured THREE DAYS now of BT trying their damnedest to sell us this optional service in order to progress the repair of a fault on a broadband service. Note that broadband is not measured against the "metallic path specification" anyway, we don't buy a "metallic path", we buy "broadband". So it is a pointless service, and one they know we will be charged for as the line meets SIN349 (they charge for SFI if the line meets the spec).

The fact it has taken three days to make no progress is why we need an understanding customer. We could have booked the optional extra service of an SFI and the fault would have progressed, and then we would have to dispute the charges later. But we want this issue resolved so we don't have these issues and disputes in future.

At this stage I have now asked, at least half a dozen times, of account manager, and High Level Escalations, and other BT staff :-
Obviously you have a process to get broadband faults fixed which does not involve us ordering an optional extra service. That stands to reason, as otherwise you would not be able to meet your contractual obligation to fix broadband faults.

So please, just tell us the process we have to follow to do that, and we can get this fault fixed.


At this point we have simply asked that you tell us the correct process by which we get BT plc t/a BT Wholesale to fix a broadband fault without us ordering an optional extra service.

It is surely a really simple question you can just answer for us right away. Once we know, we can follow it and this fault can be resolved.

Obviously you must have such a process else how would BT meet its contractual obligations to rectify broadband faults.

So please, just tell us..
And variations on that...

BT should be able to just answer that simple question. For some reason they just pass the buck and do not answer. Oh, and magically, 6pm today, they finally think they can progress this fault without us booking an SFI engineer. But clearly a process that involves three days of arguing and BT trying to sell an optional service to us, cannot be the proper official process, so we still await the answer.

I'll keep you posted :-)

P.S. ispreview have picked this up (thanks) and it is worth clarifying...

The BT plc t/a Openreach side is not that daft – they define SFI differently, and they sell that service as a means to help address broadband faults. They charge because (at least for ADSL) Openreach don’t sell broadband, they sell metallic paths.

The issue here is actually BT plc t/a BT Wholesale, not BT plc t/a Openreach. BT plc t/a BT Wholesale redefine SFI as a service simply to check the line to SIN349, and not a service to fix broadband faults. After all, we would not want to buy a service to fix broadband faults as that is already part of the broadband service we already pay for. That redefinition means we would never want to buy that SFI service. However, logically, BT plc t/a BT Wholesale would want to buy the SFI service from BT plc t/a Openreach to help fix broadband faults (as they are the only people that can work on the line), and as fixing broadband faults is part of the broadband service, they should not charge us when they pay for that service. I hope that make some sense.

Update: So far (5th Aug) the best I have is: "BT will take steps to repair a broadband line that is not operating within its contracted specification or fault threshold. The exact nature of the resolution will be determined as part of the diagnostic journey and will differ depending on which component or product is affected. The process for contacting BT Wholesale and raising a fault is contained within the customer service plan." which does not really answer the question.


  1. I have been pulling my hair out recently with BTW they seem to have in the last few months hit an all time low in there ability to progress the most basic of tasks. Our disputes are pilling up with no resolution. I have first hand experience of an OR engineer telling me they are told / forced by managment to put faults down to customer equipment the soone OR and BTW are split the better.

    1. Yes, we have also experienced this. I've seen multiple faults blamed on CPE where the engineer has never even entered the premises and fixed issues on the D side of the line, with the resulting bill and disputes.

  2. This is sadly quite a common problem for us. We have a customer where voice service works. Broadband however is really poor speed (OK, it isn't going to be great at that location, but we know because it can sync at 2 meg that 700kbps or so sync rates are part of a problem). Worse though, broadband is unreliable - 10-20 drops per day.

    It took constant badgering, many many weeks and eventually I got an engineer out - naturally under SFI, but we made it abundantly clear we would not pay if they bill us, because it is quite clear the fault is not with the customer equipment or zone of responsibility.

    I spent a whole day with an OR engineer at the customer site. He was a proper engineer and could see it wasn't actually working. The premises had an old style NTE, so he replaced it. It had an old style junction box, so he removed it, and then renewed the entire drop wire. To do this he had to get a cherry picker. This took 3 hours to arrive, and he tells me that he will get a kicking from his boss because he did way more than the 2 hours permitted work, and called for an "assist" (eg the cherry picker) and thus tied up 2 people.

    After he renewed the drop wire, the problem still persisted.

    So he then, along with the "assist" went off to each pole for a good 2 miles, and checked, fixed and cleared up each DP and other box along the way, renewed fuses and so on.

    At 5pm, he declared that his boss had ordered him to leave.

    However, the line now drops maybe twice a day, and I can now get about 1.5 meg all the time (although only by getting it on an ADSL2000 profile which is clearly ignored but does seem to stop DLM killing the throughput all the time).

    It's not really FIXED, but it's now much better.

    along the way we bumped into other people and heard from other neighbours with the exact same issue - frequent drops, sync speeds all over the place.

    You can probably guess that as of today, some 12 months on, our customer now has the most reliable connection in the area. It's still not right. None of his neighbours have had any luck in even getting similar work done.

    Sadly, even if you "agree" to SFI, it's very clear that there is no process for Openreach to tackle intermittent faults and common faults affecting multiple properties.

    Good sodding luck!

  3. "unless we boot an SFI engineer!"

    Freudian slip? ;)

  4. When I was on TT ADSL with AA, it was unreliable with multiple line drops per day, tons of errored packets, and slow sync speed. It had previously been a lot better under O2 home broadband, but due to a mistake in switching me over to AA I lost that line to the exchange and the replacement line was rubbish. So I knew it could be a lot better despite the 3km line length.

    Over the course of 21 months, I had about 8 engineer visits. Most of them could see no fault as it was intermittent. Various unecessary changes were made to the local cables to the cabinet. A different modem (Zyxel 660 bridge modem) helped as it tenaciously hung on to the sync speed and waited for the line to come back, rather than re-syncing to a terrible speed like the TG582n or D-Link modem did.

    Eventually, after much escalation from I think it was Shaun at AA, Talk Talk ran some diagnostics on the line and did some proper monitoring. Without anyone visiting my house, they established there was a serious fault on the line about half way between my house and the exchange ie. firmly in the big bundle of wires from the exchange to the village. Engineers can't touch that, it's all sealed with pressured air in it to keep it dry. Anyway, they sent an engineer out to swap me to a different pair on the main bundle to the exchange (which had never been done previously), remade all the connections on the local wiring for good measure, and it was damn night perfect. Result!

    So why isn't reflectometry done as a matter of course on all line faults to find out where the problem is? I doesn't cost anything, nobody has to go anywhere, and it reveals the true state of the line and roughly where the faults are in terms of length.

    In a sad postscript, two months later the line suddenly got worse (but not as bad as it was originally). Fortunately this was due to disturbance in the cabinet when they put the FTTC cabinet in next to it, so I just waited until the FTTC cabinet went live and switched to it.

    The moral of all these tales appears to be that if you're unfortunate enough to have a dodgy line to the exchange, it's the devil's own job to get anything done about it. All BT want to do is extract cash from the worn out old infrastructure they have. If they'd speed up FTTC deployment massively I could understand fixing the old stuff as being a waste, but some people are going to be stuck with it for years.

  5. This behaviour sounds like good old fashioned plain dishonesty.

  6. When Shaun said he'd escalated this to you, I wasn't expecting my phone line to end up on your blog. Fame, at last! Also nice to be described as "very understanding."

    Do you mind if I link to this page from my facebook? (don't want to do that without asking first). My friends have had to put up with me ranting about BT Wholesale quite a bit in the recent past on account of this fault, and I think one or two of them might be interested to read the background from the ISP point of view.

    1. You are welcome to link to the post. Thanks.

  7. Hi just wondering as to whether you could retrieve the terms and conditions from September 2015 for Bt business Infinity? thanks

    1. What? I have no idea what terms BT have to infinity. Is it not on their web site or Why ask me?

    2. Can you get me the terms and conditions that I agreed to when I signed up to British Gas in November 2013 please?


  8. Mark posted (and I accidentally deleted) Today wasn't very successful, after BT decided to progress the fault on Wednesday and gave the job to an engineer this morning as a result of everything above, the engineer assigned the job read the notes ("pages and pages" he told me on the phone, which is no surprise), understood it needed new dropwire as noted by at least two previous engineers, which meant a new pole, asked if one had been installed (no) or I had heard from "planning" about installing one or putting in an underground duct to get the new cable across the road from the existing pole (no) and realised he could do nothing, said he would make some calls and call me back (he didn't). So, another fruitless day off work waiting on BT to do nothing.

    I have no problem with A&A in all of this and get the feeling that Shaun is as frustrated with the situation as I am, but I am really unhappy with BT, who seem to be an utter shambles.

  9. This is one of a few reasons I prefer cable over dsl; there is a clear chain of liability (i.e. VM and VM only) when it comes to getting faults fixed. Of course, If fttp was available I would switch in a heartbeat!

  10. Replies
    1. That fault, slowly but they are working on it. The bigger issue, woolly answers. We are working on other "test cases" to demonstrate that BTW have no process to fix broadband faults, which is what we suspect.