A few weeks ago I got a friendly phone call from British Telecom (BT), leaving a voice mail on my answering machine, saying that they now have fiber-optic cable in my neighborhood, and that they offer me an upgrade, as one of the first customers. Well, great idea! So I called them, and yes, this new BT Infinity was indeed available, and they referred me to the web site where I could find out more. I entered the phone number, and yes, the estimate of my speed would be about 20 Mb. So I followed the online instructions, everything quite easy and straight forward, and after a few minutes I got a confirmation email that the equipment would be sent soon and that an engineer appointment has been set up. Great - really good!
So in 1.March I stayed at home in the morning between 8:00-13:00, when the engineer would come and connect everything. I should have gotten suspicious when there was no package being delivered with the promised equipment, but then I thought the engineer might bring it. I checked online, and yes, the order was being tracked ok, and the appointment appeared to set up properly.
When nobody showed up that Monday morning, I called BT. And the nice lady with her strong Scottish accent tells me that there was a problem - the order never had "gotten through". What about the confirmation email? And the online tracking? Nope, somewhere in "the system" the order was not processed, and no actual work order had been issues. Well, since this is such a new service, I could understand some glitches. So we rescheduled for the next week.
This time everything appeared to be scheduled properly: Got a confirmation SMS, also received a very nice custom-printed announcement, on glossy paper, individualised for my address, looking very posh! And the new BT Homehub arrived in the mail too. Great, was looking forward to get upgraded. So on 8.March I again stayed home in the morning, waiting for the engineer who was supposed to come between 8:00 - 13:00 (pretty long time window, but I can understand that sometimes the planning and scheduling cannot be done in smaller windows, due to possible delays and unexpected problems). When at 13:15 still nobody had shown up, I called BT; they tried to ping the engineer, but while I was on hold he actually called on the other phone line - he would be there in 20 minutes. Ok, I am a patient person.
He comes, sets up the equipment. There needs to be a new splitter installed, to separate phone from data lines. The data line goes into a white box which is probably the DSL modem. Then there is still the new BT Homehub, which now simply acts as a hub interface for the ethernet network, the WiFi, and the BT Broadband Talk. Works all fine, but the engineer's measurement only indicate a data rate of about 4-5 Mb. It turns out that the fiber-optic connection is only going up to the last connection box, from where the data signal then is transmitted over the conventional phone cabling.
This speed is of course lower than advertised, but is about 8x more than the line supported before. So I am happy to leave it at this lower speed. The engineer drives away to check something at the exchange or the last connection box, maybe the speed could go up. He thinks that this low speed is due to the distance of my endpoint to the connection box, and he says that probably nothing can be done.
Ok, so far, so good - at least this is a much faster connection than before. And if the story ended here, I would have never posted it, despite the few little kinks in the process.
But wait, this is not the end of the story: after an hour, the engineer comes back, dismantles the whole setup, and puts back on the old previous connection which is at about 500 kB. What? "For legal reason, BT cannot give customers an access to fiberoptic cable at a speed lower than 15 MB". Despite the fact that the line would support 4MB and was working ok without errors on the "fiberoptic connection", I was not allowed to get this speed.
So all the grieving and tolerating of those BT delivery failures - for nothing. Hence the headline of this post - I hope many people read it!
SummaryWhat BT needs to fix in their rotten internal procedures and policies:
- They need to make sure that the BT Infinity service is only offered to people who actually will receive the promised speed. This requires both to revise their telephone marketing and their online phone test tool for checking available speeds.
- BT further needs to revise their online booking system for the BT Infinity offer, to ensure that customers' orders actually are being processed.
- BT finally needs to revise their current "legal position" which robs the customers of the possibility to increase their broadband speeds by at least a modest amount. The policy of "all or nothing" is not customer-friendly at all.
Having said this, I will concede that all the people I have spoken to at BT appeared friendly and competent - so I have not given them a hard time at all but remained friendly and patient in my interaction with them. I chose not to complain to them by a phone call to their customer service - this would only hit the wrong person, the poor chap whose ears probably fall off from all those customer complaints. Instead I want to bring this disaster to the public, and I hope that it helps to change something at BT - this company simply does not appear to be able to fulfil its vision of providing adequate IT services to Britain.