This is not a comment I have heard in a long time, but was quoted to me today.
When BT introduced SFI (Special Faults Investigation) it was a cunning way to charge people for fault repair. The underlying issue being the grey area of how well a modem works on a copper pair which had lead to lots of wasted engineer time and BT wanted to recover that. Rather than fix the underlying issue of the product they sold having a grey area (something fixed by BT supplied modems on FTTC), they decided to charge for engineering investigations and launched SFI. Like many, we think SFI pushed the cost too far away from BT and there has been an ongoing battle between ISPs and BTs for many years now. In practice BT charge if they fail to find a fault in BT's network even though the service was always sold as charging if proved to be a fault in the end user's or customer's control.
There have been many stances taken by each side in this ongoing arms rate. For your amusement, at one point in this arms race BT claimed the SFI charge was for inspecting customer equipment and that a visual inspection was done by the engineer - that led to us instructing customers to remove and hide all of their equipment thereby thwarting BTs argument. The arms race moved on.
Even so, the "SFI2 is an optional extra service" is one I have not heard for some time. The standard argument and counter argument for this are as below
BT: We will, of course, fix faults, but when we can't find a fault using our remote testing you have the option of ordering an extra service to investigate if there really is a fault. If it turns out it was a BT fault after all, we don't charge you for this extra investigation, but otherwise we do if it was customer equipment causing the problem after all.
ISP: We can demonstrate that there is clearly a fault in the service, even though your tests don't see it. We have done lots of investigation already and already replaced all end user equipment. Here, look at out findings - you can see a fault, now fix it, please.
BT: We won't do anything unless you book an SFI2 engineer (for which we might charge you)
ISP: But SFI2 is optional - we don't have to order it. So we take the option not to. Now, are you refusing to fix this fault?
The conversation degenerates in to repeats of "no, not refusing to fix, but you have to order SFI2" and "if you are not refusing to fix it, then just fix it, no we are not ordering SFI2 as it is optional" and eventually "fix it! fix it! fix it!" (literally, in one case).
It is hard work, but the final result is usually BT booking an engineer which we, obviously, refuse to pay for because we did not order the extra optional service.
It was not a very good time, so it rather odd that BT have now moved back to this stance with their latest statement in an email (as reported to us by our account manager - who is a good guy).
This all came up because BT have come up with a new policy with regard to SFI disputes. Basically, if we have reported a fault, and they have sent multiple SFI2 engineers, and eventually they actually find a fault and fix it within BT's network, they don't charge for that final SFI2 engineer. The policy used to be that they would also not charge for all of the wasted previous SFI2 engineers, but the change of policy is that they now will charge for all previous engineer visits where no fault was found.
Now, this is, obviously, totally wrong. If there is a fault, as the final engineer confirmed existed, and it is within BT's network, then obviously it is up to BT, at BT's cost, to fix that fault. A working service is what we pay for in the first place.
If previous engineers failed to find the fault, then that is BT wasting our time (and our customer's), so if there is anything to pay it should be BT paying us compensation for that wasted time (so we can compensate our customer, who may have had to take time of work, etc).
There is no way on earth we would pay BT engineers for failing to find and fix a BT fault.
We have said this one will go to arbitration, or even court, if they do not fix this broken policy.
Let's see how it goes, but I warn other ISPs to check this new policy out. It is supposedly briefed via account managers, but we have not seen any such briefing.
P.S. BT have asked for some discussions that don't go on my blog. This is no problem, and I am pleased that my blog is taken seriously. I am happy to work with BT to resolve issues by whatever means we can. An off the record meeting is always possible and sometimes useful. We normally try to work with BT before blogging stuff anyway, and I have previously blogged about cases where we have worked with BT successfully. But there are, of course, cases where other ISPs need to know what is going on and present a united front to BT - so there will be cases, like this blog, where I feel it is important to spread the word, within the bounds of confidentiality agreements, obviously.
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