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.

Grant Shapps – need for speed?

Used with permission from
Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP

People (e.g. the Guardian) are clearly out to get Grant Shapps MP, and given their bias you can see why. But he’s not helping with the publication of his recent report, which he and British Infrastructure Group of MPs have wittly titled “Broadbad” (PDF format).

It’s calling for Openreach to be made independent of the remainder of BT, in order for the public to get the “super-fast” broadband we need if we’re not to revert to the stone-age. They claim that BT has wasted 1.7Bn on rolling out this technological artery to rural areas, yet 5.7M household’s don’t have the “minimum required” speed of 10Mb.

I say wrong, wrong and wrong.

First off, Openreach hasn’t received 1.7Bn for the rural broadband project. It’s only received about a third of that, and it’s a project in progress.

Secondly, I’d dispute that 5.7M households have yet to be connected. This is based on an old Ofcom report using figures available before the project got under way.

Thirdly, the case for 10Mb+ Internet connections to homes  h as not been met. It’s justified because the UK will “lag behind” countries like Japan and South Korea. So what?

The UK lags behind the USA in gun crime; should we therefore relax restrictions on firearms ownership? “Lagging behind” per se does not matter a jot. Their justification as to why we need higher speeds amounts to “Ofcom have shown that as consumers get better download speeds, they consume more data”. No sh*t, Sherlock!

So what is this data people are consuming? Basically Netflix. Only video has the “need” for high throughput Internet connection, and although this might help the bottom line of OTT media providers, it’s hard to see any other economic benefits to anyone.

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According to the report, Spain also has faster connections than our unlucky punters; so if they’re trying to correlate domestic broadband speeds with economic virility, they’ve shot their fox.

As I’ve said before, the whole concept is insane. Streaming video requires about 2Mbps. How many streams does a household need?

Most other high-usage domestic customers are, basically, pirating media. They need fast upload speeds for that, which aren’t really mentioned in the report. Why should the public purse be subsidising either OTT operators or pirates?

A few weeks ago I tackled someone from the Home Office about this crazy idea, and the reasoning behind it was more cynical than I thought. It’s only one civil servant’s opinion, but my contact has a pretty good idea about how government really works.

Consider all the infrastructure projects we could be working on; things that would benefit the country. There’s road and rail networks (HS2 is a drop in the ocean), the national grid, water supply and sewers. How about a sustainable transport network, as it’s a certainty we’re going to need one. All these cost serious money, with the exchequer hasn’t got. But the government has to be seen to be investing in infrastructure. The cheap option is to roll out mad-speed Internet. They can claim it’s needed for business; voters have no idea what a megabit of data can actually be used for. And the public want it. They don’t need it, but that’s not the point. They want it.

If you tell Mondeo Man his broadband is lagging behind the Spaniards, he’ll want something done about it. (If you tell him to wire up the house properly instead of using WiFi, it’d be in one ear and out the other.)

So, by making a fuss about broadband speeds and then demanding action from BT, and throwing relatively little money about, the government can look like it’s dealing decisively with a pressing issue.

As for Mr Shapps, he claims to have been in the Internet business before becoming an MP. He should know better, but it turns out he had a web development company so probably doesn’t know the difference between a kilobit and a megabit either. If only he’d asked.