bt bashing

This week I finally did it. After years of looking at the green cabinet outside my home, I finally got Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) installed. I also finally, have gone with Zen Internet, after many years of recommending them to just about everybody – I finally switched from Eclipse who in my humble opinion have took a downward slide since being bought out by Kingston.

Now, us IT guys love a bit of BT bashing and nothing ever goes straight forward when they’re involved, however contrary to my blog title, I’m probably going to put up a bit of a defence – as in all the years I’ve worked in IT, I’ve never come across a bad BT Openreach engineer…

Those telco watchers amongst us have probably seen Kelly Communications vans flying about on the roads increasing in number over the last three years or so – in essence during the proper roll out of FTTC. Now the price is coming down and other ISP’s are getting a bit more realistic on FTTC there is obviously an increased demand and Openreach took a controversial decision to engage a sub-contractor. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with this – I actually think it’s a commercially responsible idea, it also allows some degree of getting skills into the telecommunications industry in the UK much more cheaply than before and we really needed that.

However, I’d spoken to many BT Openreach guys on various jobs over the last year or so and they’re certainly not happy with Kelly Communications – well they wouldn’t be. These poor guys get paid on piecework, regardless of how long a job takes. The harsh reality of that is if a job’s taking too long, some may mark it is complete and move on and probably not in a state that if I was working for Openreach would like to find. I had been made sufficiently nervous about and even said to my colleague – I hope it’s not a Kelly Communications guy coming out to do my install! You know what happened don’t you?

I obviously have some experience with this telephone malarkey. So rest assured the set up coming into my home, was a little “non-standard” but absolutely perfect, I had a line that was clear as a bell, some nice wiring blocks kindly donated to me by a friendly BT Openreach guy and the rest of the extension wiring going into flush surface mount BT/Cat5e faceplates – very neat and was giving me excellent ADSL. Of course, when you do this, you know you’ve not got a proper BT NTE in place. So this week I have mostly been putting a yucky surface mount box back on the wall for the FTTC installation.

The Kelly Communications chap turned up early, very polite professional and friendly – even let me go and have a nerdy look at how they’ve wired the cabinets up (from behind the safety barrier, of course). He gave me a few faceplate to go and install and I tidied up the internal NTE whilst he did the cabinet work outside.

Unfortunately when we got it all hooked up, the damn thing wasn’t holding in sync. I grabbed some gel connectors for splicing cables off him, which was about the only way of improving the quality of the line that I could see – but again, personal experience and gut feeling for me, was that wasn’t the problem. I said to him it’ll probably settle down – wanting really to get on with my day and let him on his way.

I had a few things to do too – first things first, I had to get my ADSL router into PPoE mode so that it could talk to the Openreach modem. Which unfortunately reset it back to factory default (thanks Cisco). Eventually once I got it all up, I rung my ISP as despite me getting a connected DSL light on the Openreach modem, I didn’t seem to be able to log in. Zen were great, I don’t regret moving from Eclipse. Not that I ever had a problem with Eclipse – their tech support was always first class. Us IT people really need an ISP where you can call up and cut the crap. My only issue with Zen was the chap, didn’t really understand what I’d agreed with the engineer nor really what I was talking about with jointing boxes.

A real bugbear for me is really dealing with call centre people who don’t have the real-world experience that helps you articulate a problem to it fullest.

One of the things that really winds me up though is how much they push the liability on to you – if the problem is with your equipment or anything that you’ve done then you’ll get charged. I needed to give a verbal yes too – when I said I guess, I have no choice, that wasn’t good enough! This happens with all telecoms companies but does really wind me up.

However, to their credit, then organised a BT Openreach engineer to turn up on the Saturday morning and with a sore head (I had no internet so I left the house for the pub) I let the Openreach guy in and he proved that I was right about my wiring and the fault was in the FTTC link. All back up and running by mid-morning.

Despite the bit of a mess the Kelly and the Openreach guys have left trying to track down the fault, I’m fairly relaxed about it all – I could kick up stink about having no internet for half a day – however I’ve worked in IT&T long enough to know things don’t always go to plan. But first things first – just talk to the Openreach guy, no matter who he works for and most of all offer them a cuppa and the more interested you are in what they’re doing, the more interested they will be in doing a good job.

We have all bashed BT’s systems and processes over the years, but you know what the two guys I had out this week were fantastic and they’re just two more examples of a relatively positive experience I’ve always had with Openreach. Don’t blame the people turning up to do the job for the rubbish that they’re also having to put up with.