The communications (lack of) saga began on Saturday February 15 when a car collided with a telephone pole near the corner of Coningsby Lane and Fifield Road. The Police arrived while the top half of the pole swayed alarmingly - held up only by the web of cables spreading out from it. After taping off the road a Police car remained at the scene for some hours.
Openreach vans turned up to investigate, even one with a new pole. But sadly the pole couldn't simply be replaced because a proper survey hadn't yet been done. So for safety reasons all the phone lines were cut and the top half of the pole removed. Now something like 16 households were suddenly without telephone or broadband.
Fault reports now began to come in to service providers, and for each one another Openreach van was despatched to investigate. By the time 7 Openreach vans had been sent out somebody must have worked out that all these faults from the same distribution point might be caused by the same thing !
Residents of course had to use their mobile phones to report these faults and the 0800 number offered by BT is of course only free on a landline ... not on a mobile. While you are waiting in the queue to speak to someone and visualising the cost ticking up there are occasional useful bits of advice offered to you, like the suggestion that you might prefer to use the internet rather than wait on the phone. That would have been very good advice except that the internet service had just failed, which was part of the reason for the call, and my old brick of a mobile phone was just that ... a phone.
Another piece of automated advice is an alternative phone number charged at only the same rate as a landline - 0330 123 4151. So having given up on the 0800 number I managed to make 2 separate calls to a robot to report 2 faulty land lines and divert incoming calls to the mobile. A resident had been given a phone number for Openreach, who would be responsible for replacing the pole. But of course this is also an 0800 number, and certainly not free for mobiles. I tried this number twice which, along with the frustrating attempts to get through to BT, used up nearly £18 worth of pay as you go credit. When I finally did get through I got the same old story that Openreach does not deal with the public and cannot provide any information of specific infrastructure or engineering tasks. The very pleasant young woman advised me that my ISP should be hassling Openreach ... not me.
But no information was forthcoming from BT - at least not to me. One neighbour was informed that the pole would be replaced on Thursday, another that it would be Friday, and yet another that it would be Tuesday in the second week. I'm still puzzled as to how and why these neighbours managed to get information, even though it was completely incorrect, while I failed miserably to get anything at all.
From here on it becomes a bit of a personal tale. By now I had bought a mobile dongle so that I could carry on earning my living and decided to try and see if my online BT account offered any information or options to get some. Eventually I managed to find an obscure part of the account that did actually display the status of my 2 land lines as being out of order. Not particularly useful information as that was fairly well known by now.
The only option seemed to be to use the online Chat service, which I did. Another very pleasant young lady found my account details and confirmed that 2 landlines were out of order and that I did have unlimited Infinity Broadband and BT TV. She typed that it must be very frustrating not to have any service at all for so long. I was typing that it was rather more than frustrating and could I please have some info on progress ... only to find when I glanced up at the screen that I had been re-queued at number 61 and would be answered by the first available operator in possibly 20 minutes ! So at this point I submitted an online email to customer services, to which I have never received any reply.
The pole was eventually replaced after two weeks on Sunday 2 March and on Monday I finally got a phone call from Mumbai to inform me that my services had now been restored. I managed to ask how I could proceed with sorting out the amounts that would need to be credited to my next Direct Debit bill and was told that someone would be in contact. They were indeed ! Another lady from Mumbai phoned me and offered me £9.66 credit for 2 weeks line rental on one line. I asked about the other line rental. After a long wait she came back on the line to tell me "it is not eligible". To my question as to why not there was no explanation - it just isn't. Then I asked about the monthly fee taken to supply unlimited Infinity Broadband when the service was missing for half the month, the BT TV, the dongle I had been obliged to purchase, and the data top-up for that dongle.
Would I like to speak to someone in billing ? Yes please. The lady in billing I spoke to eventually seemed to be at a loss ...”you are saying that you are wanting money taking off your bill ? Why is this ? You have already been given £9.66.”
For the lack of a service for 15 days for 2 line rentals, unlimited BT Infinity, BT TV, the cost of a dongle purchase and a data top-up for that dongle the offer of £9.66 is quite simply derisory. It verges on insulting. If my clients were expected to pay for 15 days of work even though I hadn’t actually even been available for work on those days I’m sure they would be outraged.
So in the end I have been obliged to write to the BT Correspondence Centre explaining my reasoning and requesting a further adjustment of £76.64, which doesn't even take into account the additional mobile phone costs forced by the lack of service. I'll report if I get any answer ... but don't hold your breath. For so-called Communications Organizations both BT and Openreach are utterly feeble at communications.
Finally, OGAFCA are in need of volunteers for two roles - Communications Work Group spokesperson and Webmaster. The latter requires knowledge of CSS, HTML, file structure management and FTP transfers. Please contact us as soon possible.