BT Broadband finally fixed… maybe BT does care after all

BT speed test results: 16.8 Mb connection to exchange

It has taken me a couple of weeks to write this post. I didn’t want to be overly hasty; I didn’t want to make claims that I couldn’t substantiate. But our broadband connection, which has been a bit flaky since early December, and downright annoying since late January has finally been fixed, after five visits from BT Openreach engineers (one in December, two in February, two in March).

The story so far…

During that time we had the following work done:

  • BT Home Hub 3 replaced for a newer Home Hub 4.
  • Line faults (over 3,000 of them, apparently) cleared from the networking equipment in our street.
  • Master socket changed.
  • Master socket moved from hallway to living room.
  • Changed which pair of wires connects our master socket to the exchange.
  • Powerline adapter changed.

None of this fixed the issue of our broadband connection dropping randomly throughout the day; at most over 100 times a day.

Engineer #5

When the fifth BT Openreach engineer rolled up my spirits lifted a little. This chap—Andy Smith, I think his name is—had visited us about a year ago to resolve a similar issue and he had gone beyond the call of duty to fix our connection by disconnecting all the unused extensions around the house which resulted in a 2Mb increase in download speed.

Like any good physician, he listened to my tale of woe before getting to work checking connections, running line speeds, investigating the BT box in the street. But he returned looking quite glum, reporting that all the tests returned fine: there is definitely not a line fault BUT he could see from his results that there was a problem, he just couldn’t put his finger on it. There was nothing else he could do.

PPP LCP Send Termination Request [User request]

I ran upstairs to fetch a piece of paper that I wanted him to see. It was a print out of the error log the last time it went down. I had noticed that preceding each drop out the error log reported “PPP LCP Send Termination Request [User request]“.

He read the error log and stroked his chin (metaphorically if not literally). “Hmmm…. PPP? Point-to-point protocol. That’s to do with connection not sync speed.”

Then he looked up at me. “That’s all a bit beyond me, to be honest. I don’t understand what it all means…”

My heart sank.

“… but I do know someone who does!” He got out his mobile phone, called a colleague, and then spoke gobbledegook for ten minutes before calling me down the stairs again.

The plan was to “move [me] to new broadband equipment at the exchange”. The engineer at the other end of the phone had already done it from his end, but Andy needed to drive to the exchange and physically swap our network cable from one piece of kit to another. It would take about 10 minutes.

Fixed

And that was it. Fixed! We had a steady, solid, fast connection for over 7 days before it performed another reboot, but it looks like this was just to re-sync the speed; it did it again this afternoon.

And as for @BTCare…

A few weeks ago, in the midst of our most frustrating experience of BT broadband I wrote a very disappointed blog post. I’m sorry I felt that I had to write that post, because as I had said before and as I have waxed lyrical to many people over the years on the whole I’ve found @BTCare to be a world-class customer service experience.

It did the job, however. Twenty minutes after posting that mild diatribe, I took a call from Niall at BTCare. “How are you today?” he asked.

“I’m really disappointed,” I said, quite honestly.

Niall was very apologetic about not getting in touch when he said he would. He never missed another call again. He called each time he said he would, and he faithfully kept up to date with the progress of my support incident.

In short, Niall actually did restore my confidence in BTCare—it just goes to show the difference that one person can make on behalf of the company they represent in changing attitudes. By the end of it I certainly felt that Niall from BT cared, and Andy Smith from BT Openreach cared, even if BT itself was still maybe a little ambivalent about me, so long as I kept paying my monthly bills.

Which reminds me, they offered me a refund on my broadband connection back to the date in January that this portion of the incident was first reported.

A very enthusiastic and heartfelt thank you to Niall at BTCare, and Andy Smith (?) at BT Openreach.

I’ve lost confidence in @BTCare

BTCare on Twitter... although I'm not so sure now that they do

UPDATE 1: About 20 minutes after posting this I got a phone call from @BTCare. I have an engineer booked to visit on Tuesday morning.

UPDATE 2: Engineer visited on Wednesday 18 February and found literally thousands of faults on the line. He cleared these but broadband is still dropping out randomly. He wondered if this was an issue with Repetitive Electrical Impulse Noise (REIN).

@BTCare are sending out another Openreach engineer on Monday morning. They have at least phoned me now on the day they said they would, even if it did require me to poke them via Twitter to remind them. Confidence in them is growing a little, which is a relief.

See post Broadband woes / continued.

UPDATE 3: Engineer booked out for another visit on Monday 24 February between 08:00–13:00. It’s currently 14:00 and no sign or word from him. Although @BTCare have just kindly tweeted to ask how the appointment went… except that he’s not been.

UPDATE 4: Engineer booked for Saturday 1 March.

UPDATE 5: Engineer booked for Monday 10 March. It’s FINALLY FIXED!


The last few weeks have been the most frustrating I’ve ever experienced with BT’s customer support channel on Twitter, what I’m experiencing as an ever-more ironically named @BTCare.

In fact, I might go as far as saying that this has been my worst experience of customer service full-stop.

For the last few years I have enthused with anyone who will listen about how excellent I’ve found @BTCare to be. With a simple tweet or two I’ve found them to be engaged, interested, and conscientious; I’ve felt cared for, I’ve felt that they owned the problem and they haven’t stopped until it was resolved.

I have found myself in training sessions at work about world-class customer service raving about I see @BTCare as the paradigm of the level of support and professionalism that I would like to offer our clients.

As a web professional people regularly ask for my advice on internet service providers, and I have always recommended BT on the strength of their excellent support.

But after these last three months I can’t do that any more. I now find myself, three months into this current issue with our broadband connection randomly dropping out, and increasingly getting worse, feeling not only disgruntled but wondering if they are now purposefully ignoring me or at worst lying to me.

Having been such an advocate for what was a first rate customer service experience, I am now feeling disappointed and angry.

All I am asking for is the service that a) I’ve had, and b) that I’m paying for.

So BT tell me, what has changed? Why have I found the last few months to be the most excruciatingly frustrating experience I’ve ever had from any company’s customer service team? Why have I found myself contacting you again and again asking for feedback? Why have you replied to me time and again saying that you’ll be in touch with me soon, that you’ll phone me shortly, that you’ll a colleague “will be in touch with [me] today”.

Why am I still waiting?!

Timeline

You said that you’d be in touch on Wednesday.

I was in, but I’d just got back from the hospital and was in a lot of pain and couldn’t get to the phone in time and my phone was set to silent/vibrate. I tweeted back immediately saying that I was available…

No reply. Nor the next day. So I contacted you again:

No call.

So I contacted them again yesterday and was told:

There was then a flurry of activity, none of which was useful. I felt like I was repeating myself. I’d already explained what was going on in one of the many emails that I’d written.

But I don’t know how these things work at their end, perhaps they didn’t have access to the information that I’d sent. There also seemed to be a misunderstanding that the issue was simply a drop in WiFi connection rather than the connection to the whole hub dropping out (the blue light turns to a flashing orange light).

Then late last night, while the connection was dropping out every other minute I was asked to send another email.

I finally found a few minutes where the connection stayed up for long enough to write a long, detailed explanation of what is going on.

The issue: my broadband connection keeps dropping — orange light flashes… connects (blue)… drops… repeat. Not just WiFi – the lot. My main PC is connected via LAN cable to the hub via a powerline. My phone and tablet are connected with WiFi (2.4 GHz, channel 6). I have changed the channel… no effect: still drops out.

Here’s a record I’ve kept from the HomeHub 4 logs:

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1778315/broadband-outages.txt

Connection during the day is solid, from about 08:00–23:00. Today it started dropping every few moments after 21:00.

We had an engineer visit in mid-December. He tested everything and said that our internal wiring (from master to one extension socket) was fine. He recommended unplugging everything and reconnecting in case the issue was static on the line. I’ve done that… it hasn’t fixed things.

He suggested that if it continue then the issue is likely to be the Home Hub 3 we had. This has now been replaced with a Home Hub 4. The connection was absolutely fine for a couple of weeks, and was faster than the HH3 but now it has started dropping out again and only in the evenings.

We have not changed anything in the house. Same equipment is on and switched on. The only change is the Home Hub and filter, swapped for the one that arrived with the Home Hub 4. But like I said it worked for a few weeks.

I now have the [brand new] Home Hub 4 plugged into [a brand new microfilter plugged into] the master socket in our hallway. I’ve also done a factory reset on the hub.

This strikes me as being an issue that is external to our property.

I got this reply this morning:

It is now 17:22, I have stayed in all day, on Sundays they close at 18:00 and so far no call despite an assurance 9 hours ago that you would be in touch.

So, please tell me BT… what has happened? Please turn around this experience for me. Please make me believe that you can offer world-class customer service again.

But most of all: please fix our broadband connection.

Set up a cheap network storage with a USB flash drive and a BT Home Hub 2.0 in 4 steps

This evening I put the finishing touches to my new cheap-and-cheerful network storage: a USB drive attached to my BT Home Hub 2.0 (the shiny, black one).

Step 1: USB drive

The first step was to buy a new USB flash drive. I went for this one from 7DayShop.com. It’s a 32GB USB 2.0 drive and cost me £20.99. Usefully the swivel cap comes off quite easily.

20110610-32gb-usb-drive

(When I tried this out at first I used an old 256 MB flash drive that I had in my Big Boy’s Drawer of Interesting Things™.)

Step 2: BT Home Hub 2.0

Round the back of the BT Home Hub 2.0 is a USB port. They’ve even, conveniently labelled it “USB”. Plug the USB drive into the port.

20110610-bthomehub-rear

(The dust is optional.)

Step 3: Connect with Windows Explorer

Assuming that you’re connected to your BT Home Hub, open a Windows Explorer window and enter the following network address in the address bar: \\BTHUB\Disk_a1 then hit Enter.

20110610-BTHUB-Disk_a1

Step 4: Map a network drive

To save you having to type in the network address every time you can map a network drive to that location.

In Windows 7, open My Computer and click on the “Map network drive” button on the toolbar at the top:

20110610-map-network-drive

A dialog windows will pop-up. Select a drive letter and enter the network address, as before, in the Folder input box:

20110610-map-network-drive-dialog

Then click Finish.

You now have a network drive:

20110610-network-location

Security

I’m going to use mine for backing up a few files and as a useful location for sharing documents between PC and laptop.

I imagine that this isn’t the most secure of solutions, as anyone with access to the network could gain access to the files, if they know the network address, but as a cheap and cheerful way to share files across multiple computers without the other PCs needing to be switched on this is ideal.

Update

Oddly, after a couple of weeks of this working fine I can no longer connect to \\BTHUB\Disk_a1, the PC just tells me that it cannot find the hostname.

It appears that this is not an exact science.

BTVision to get a software upgrade

BTVision digital tuner and PVR

BTVision digital tuner and PVR

Great to see that the BTVision box (the V-box™) is getting a software update this month.  The update focuses on three main improvements:

  1. Recording
    All new recordings you set up will add 5 minutes to the end.  This is great news, as the current setup often loses the last couple of minutes from the end of programmes.
  2. Restarts
    On a number of occasions we’ve returned to our BTVision box to discover that for some reason it’s rebooted itself and thinks it’s doing a first-time install.  The new update will “reduce this from happening”.
  3. User interface tweak
    The UI is getting a tweak, making it “a bit more clear”, we’re promised.

All that said, overall as it is I think it’s a really great system.  I need to blog about it at the other place … maybe once the update has gone through (sometime between 6 – 20 October).

Telephone problems mastered

BT master socket, next to a double power socket.

Jesus said “You cannot be the slave of two masters!” (Matthew 6:24). BT said exactly the same this morning when they discovered that someone had tried to wire a second master socket to our original master socket.

At 08:30 a BT OpenReach engineer turned up at the door — not the cheeriest engineer that I’ve ever met — and got to work testing our master phone socket in the hallway.

Open(Reach) investigation

A few minutes later he asked if we’d installed our own Sky TV box. “No,” said I, “Why?” He showed me that someone had wired an extension socket into the back of the master socket, and that it was done in such a terrible way that it was clear to him that it hadn’t been done by a qualified BT engineer.

We assured him that we’d only been living here for five months, we didn’t have Sky TV, hadn’t been poking screwdrivers and wires into the back of the master socket, and that all we had connected was a telephone, the router and an answering machine.

Eureka!

It turns out that the problem was our answering machine. It turns out that the problem was our answering machine because whoever had wired in that rogue extension socket had wired in another master socket (at least that’s what I think he muttered) and that it had short-circuited our telephone line and completely knackered our answering machine in the process.

So now we have a phone line again, but no answering machine (other than the invisible BT 1571 service in the sky … but not Sky, because, as I’ve already established, we don’t have that).

We’ll just have to wait now to see whether we’re charged the £110+ call-out charge plus £99 per hour for someone else’s poor telephone wiring. But if we are and it goes any way towards solving our poor broadband connections — and allowing me to blog about something else for a change!! — then it will be money well spent.