BT’s Infinitely useless Infinity call centre in India


In the middle of last week I was expecting an important call. It didn’t come. Then someone said they’d been trying to get me on the phone and couldn’t. It turns out I’ve got a line fault. And OpenReach’s response so far is an object lesson in to how to get things wrong.

First off, the fault results in the caller hearing a ringing tone but nothing ringing at this end. This means the caller simiply thinks your not answering. BT’s automated system quickly identified that the line wasn’t working, but I had to ask that callers got an “out-of-order” message. Is OpenReach reluctant to admit that it’s lines could be faulty?

The line provides VDSL and an analogue telephone, which goes in to a PABX. Therefore its lack of dial tone wasn’t noticed; the PABX simply skips until it finds a working line when you’re making an outside call. But on plugging a handset direct to the line, it’s as dead as a doornail. No voltage across A-B, no dial tone, no crackle. Nothing. Except, strangely, the VDSL is still working.

Now anyone with half a brain will realise that the pair is good, and the fault is going to be in the street box or exchange. My guess is that it’s in the green cabinet up the road where my line connects to the FTTC service.

So, several days pass and I notice it hasn’t been fixed. Then I get a call (on one of the remaining working lines) from BT; an obviously foreign accent. Apparently they have determined that there is a fault outside of the exchange (and by implication in my cabling). It’s not with me. The first thing anyone would do is disconnect the PABX and the VDSL modem (and its filter) and test the incoming socket. Just try explaining this to an overseas call centre reading from a script. To humour the hapless fool I eventually I again removed the NTE5 face plate (she didn’t even know what an NTE5 was!) and plugged a handset direct in to the incoming socket. Only then would she agree to send an “engineer” to look at it.

I did explain exactly where the fault was likely to be (remember, the VDSL hasn’t been interrupted – it’s not difficult to work it out). Apparently an engineer is now booked for Monday afternoon. I pointed out that he’d need to call me to get access, should it be needed (it shouldn’t) but I’m not sure she took it in.

And then, insult to injury, she sent a text message to the landline!

I told them about the fault days ago, and exactly what the problem was. It was flagged as fault on their own self-diagnostic. And OpenReach couldn’t even mark the line as out-of-order to callers until I moaned at them. BT makes a lot of money implementing overseas call centres. Yet even they can’t get them to work on a human level.

BT Parental Controls Hack

In a move of spectacular incompetence, BT Broadband has hacked the HTTP data stream to customers in order to pop up a message concerning it’s “Parental Controls”. It’s done this without seeking any permission from the customer, and to add insult to injury, the code they’re injecting is buggy.

The injected popup  says “How to protect your family online with BT Parental Controls”, with an “Are you keeping your family safe?” online in order to worry the ignorant. It goes on “Safeguard all the computers, tablets and phones(sic) connected to your Home Hub”. The “Home Hub” is the weak and feeble excuse for a router they send you “free” when you sign up, and which anyone who knows anything about networking will have kept in the shrink wrap.

BT Parental Controls Popup
The popup you can’t kill. BT appears to be injecting this in to the HTTP stream of unsuspecting customers

As you can see from the pop-up above , there is a “No thanks” option, but it simply doesn’t work. Several commonly used websites such as Amazon have become unusable as a result – you just can’t get rid of the BT popup. Even clicking on “Yes please, Set it up” leads you nowhere except to a login to which the credentials are a mystery. Quite possibly because I’m not one of the lusers with a “Home Hub” (or business hub).

And this is on a standard Windoze 7 PC running the current version of the Chrome browser. And no software firewall to blame it on.

I called BT to complain and ask for it to be removed. They don’t even know what I’m talking about, which is odd because there was a spate of this stupidity earlier in the year. Fortunately they stopped before a full roll-out, but you can’t keep a good idiot now – the same idiot has resurrected the idea and rolled it out, possibly wholesale this time. Whoever it was should be publicly named and sacked.

Getting Caller-ID with BT Inspiration or Pathway PABX

For years I’ve thought that caller-ID was broken on BT Inspiration switchboards (which are almost identical to BT Pathway, so this applies to both). More precisely, I assumed that BT’s Caller-ID signal was either not working on my POTS lines, or was not of a standard compatible with the Inspiration. It wouldn’t be the first one – note the nonsense with the default “Guarded Clear” mode, which isn’t actually implemented on any BT lines I’ve ever come across.

CLI on ISDN worked fine, incidentally. It was just an irritation that it didn’t on the POTS lines.

Well, it turns out that it does work just fine, except it’s called CDR, and for some reason, it’s not enabled by default! Technically, they’re right not to call it CLI, which technically, is the standard used on ISDN. However, in the real world the term is applied to caller ID on analogue lines too. As a user of the telephone, why should you care about such technicalities? But you do, and you will have to enable it separately, as CDR, for any lines you want it to work on. IN the menus go to  System Programming/Lines/PSTN Programming/CDS Detection and turn it on. After which it just works.

In other places the terms Caller-ID and CLI are used interchangeably (for example, the CLI History refers doesn’t care whether it was ISDN/CLI or POTS/CDS). Don’t let common sense put you off.

Do also make sure that Caller-ID is enabled on the line – from BT dial *234#. Sometimes this is a “paid for” service, and has to be enabled. If you ask them nicely, because you’re being plagued by nuisance calls, they’ll enable it for free. I think it’s free if you renew your contract for 12 months too, but I have caught them starting off  at no charge and then billing you for it later. Watch out.


Government “boosts” broadband at everyone’s expense

The government has moved to further line the pockets of telecommunications companies by relaxing planning laws requiring council approval before installing communications cabinets on public land. According to the new Culture Secretary, Maria Miller this sweeps away the red tape holding the country back. Ms Miller’s background as a advertising executive has obviously primed her well for a proper understanding of the issues involved in the telecommunications business.

The government’s aim, inherited from the previous lot it has to be said, is to wire up the country for “superfast broadband”, whatever that means. They reckon domestic users need at least 24Mbps for the UK to extract itself from the dark ages, and 80Mbps would be better. But does the Culture Secretary, or anyone else in government, know what 80Mbps means? Well in real terms, if you’re going to abuse the internet by streaming live high-definition video across it, you might use up 2Mbps of data rate. that’s 1/40th of an 80Mbps line. Okay – if you reckon that celebrity TV shows to people’s homes over the net is important to the country’s future this is still massive overkill. Video calls will use up about 1Mbps at worst and nothing much else comes close apart from downloading entertainment media.

Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Culture Secretary
Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Culture Secretary

I’m not saying that the people of the UK should be denied the chance to download music and video content at high speed if they want to it. I do question the government’s imperative for those who don’t want it to share in the cost of paying for it. If some people want high speed file downloads, those people can decide whether the cost is worth it and stump up the cash. If there’s a subsidy going it should be to promote 100% availability of a reliable 2Mbps service to rural areas – the data rate needed for business. We want to make it easier for rural business to do work, not city dwellers to watch TV all day.

Relaxing the planning laws is undoubtedly going to make it cheaper for the telecoms companies to install infrastructure  but it’s also going to make it impossible for local residents to object to unsightly and badly placed street furniture. You may feel this isn’t a big problem now, but this is simply because they’re going to think through the idea properly before submitting it to the local council in order to avoid delays if the council objects.

According to BT, it takes currently takes between four and eight weeks for councils to approve new boxes. this is not unreasonable. Are telecoms company planners turning up for work on a Monday morning, deciding to install a new cable somewhere and then having to sit around for a month while waiting for approval? I hardly think so; these things need to be planned well ahead of time and thought through properly. There’d be something very funny going on if the planning application was on the critical path.

In May this year, Kensington and Chelsea council did deny BT”s request to install most of the 108 new cabinets it applied for. The council’s reason was that the new cabinets were unsightly and that BT had made no effort to re-use existing locations or place them in inconspicuous locations (a move which would probably have cost BT money). The council cited the historic character of the proposed sights; BT’s bullying response was to declare that the residents of the borough would therefore have to put up with “historic” broadband speeds – it then packed up its little vans and announced it was going to install fibre in other boroughs until the Council came around to their way of thinking. Other cable operators have been able to install high-speed internet lines in the borough, so BT’s argument is very thin indeed.

Our new culture secretary’s first act appears to be putting the interests of bullying big business ahead of local democracy.