A sadly typical tale of home business broadband?

A typical sad tale of home business broadbandI don’t use this blog for rants or grievances. I think it’s unprofessional, and who’s interested anyway? But I’ve just experienced a home worker’s nightmare at the hands of BT, and I think this is unfortunately such a common occurrence among the small and home business community that it’s a valid topic to write about.

For about six months we have had an erratic connection that slows down or goes off of its own accord. A used to work for BT many moons ago, understands their language and systems, and so always deals with our telecomms issues. All this time he has been speaking to a very helpful and patient individual in BT Retail, Niall Murdoch, who has been trying to get to the bottom of the problem. Lately we have probably been speaking to Niall as often as we do family and friends.

The trouble appears to be that BT Wholesale and Openreach, who actually do the work, completely ignore Niall’s requests and careful instructions and do whatever they feel like. Just one example – we had a recurring problem at the same time early evening. Niall asked them to come out at that time to check the problem when it was occurring. They rang up at 1 pm to say they were on their way. Andy explained there was no point and asked them to stick to the time Niall requested. Nobody turned up, probably because it’s after the time they go home.

On Friday afternoon our connection had disappeared when we came back from our afternoon break. It just happened to be 5 pm so BT’s weekend had started. But home business owners don’t necessarily stop at the weekend, and we had jobs we needed to complete by Monday. We tried to use Openzone – it throws you off when it feels like it and doesn’t come back for hours and hours. We made a special trip to Bath for dongles – one didn’t work at all, and the other was painfully slow and slowed our computers right down too.

And on Monday morning when Niall was back in the office we discovered that BT Wholesale had ignored his request to carry out the latest potential fix when we are away in July and opened up the order on Friday. The work was scheduled to take three days. Did that mean it would be finished on Monday and our connection back, or don’t weekends count so we were only just starting the three days? Nobody in Wholesale was telling.

We spent Monday trudging round Bath to find a cafe that provided sockets as well as wifi (thank you, Starbucks) and miserably waiting to hear when we could expect our own connection back. I’m glad to say we were back on when we got home, but with lingering doubts about the lasting effects of this intervention, and the level of service available to home workers.

Doesn’t Ofcom exist in order to ensure a good level of service? Why does such a huge company apparently have a split between those who handle customers and those who do the work? How can the UK expect to pull itself out of this recession when small and home businesses can’t rely on the essential tool to keep them trading?

The whole experience induces rage andfrustration, blows concentration to bits, wastes time, and is totally unnecessary. Every time this has happened before I have vowed to write to the Chairman, Ofcom, the Prime Minister, you name it, but then once I can actually work again, there’s a backlog to clear, I’m utterly exhausted, and the whole thing takes too much energy. I’m also well aware that the offices of these people are probably already sinking under the weight of existing complaints, and yet the situation is allowed to continue.

I’d love to hear I’m being unnecessarily cynical and my experience is an isolated one. Have you got any positive stories to cheer me up?

Posted in: Technology

About the Author:

Judy Heminsley is the founder and editor of Work from Home Wisdom. She believes in the benefits of home working for the individual, the family, the community and the planet. Judy set up one of the first Jelly groups in the UK and is the author of Work from Home (How to Books).

40 Comments on "A sadly typical tale of home business broadband?"

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  1. madgiemadge says:

    No positive stories at all, sorry. I am just offering sympathy. We have had plenty of this sort of thing at the hands of BT. Luckily Ian deals with it, there have been times when he has been nearly in tears. We do rely on the internet so much for work it’s a nightmare when it’s unreliable. Booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    • Judy says:

      Thanks, Marg :-) It does drive you to the point of tears, or exploding with rage, because it seems impossible to get anything done and you start to despair of ever having a decent connection again. I think these organisations need to listen more to home workers and try to understand what it’s like.

  2. Kaitlyn says:

    If it’s any consolation I had such a ridiculously similar situation that I had to check you had written ‘BT’ and not ‘Virgin’. The difficulty is that switching providers doesn’t seem to solve the issue which is, obviously, detrimental to working at home.

    This is why I have staked out multiple Free WiFi cafes that take no more than 15 minutes for me to get to from my house.

    • Judy says:

      You’re right, Kaitlyn, it seems provision is just generally bad, and I can’t understand why Ofcom doesn’t appear to be tackling it.
      Cafes are a good resort for those near them, but I feel for people in the country who don’t have that option, and of course if you’re used to working from home, it’s as disruptive to uproot yourself and try to work in a new environment as it would be for an office worker to suddenly have to work from home.

  3. Sharon says:

    BT keep sending me offers to switch but I hear too many stories like this to even consider it. I pay over the odds to Demon but I rarely have a problem and the times I do everything is sorted practically before I realise there is a problem.

    Part of the BT problem I think is that, if it’s a home address then you get the ‘home’ service – I wonder what a business premise gets in the way of service?

    • Judy says:

      As an ex BT man Andy insists we pay extra for a business service because you do get a quicker response. I’m not sure what would happen if we had a home package!

  4. Paul Graves says:

    I agree with Sharon. We have Sky broadband here, and it may not be the cheapest or best, but it’s been pretty reliable for us, so I dare not try to change it!

    At work the serious networks we use are managed by a huge company who can provide just as bad service as people here are describing. If you are lucky enough to contact a helpful person then a problem may get sorted out quickly, but otherwise you’re back to sobbing and screaming down the phone.

  5. Peter Domican says:

    Similar experiences with BT. Speed varies from ok to dog slow. Investigation seems to come down to ‘Your line dropped out at 7am but it’s ok now.’ I don’t need mega speed but much below 2Mb and it becomes difficult to work from home.

    • Judy says:

      That sounds horribly familiar, and there seems little chance of pinning down a fault if it occurs outside the 8-5 or whatever it is. Doubly infuriating if you’re a home worker who doesn’t stick to those hours.

  6. That’s not a good story there and you have my sympathies. I don’t think I’ll moan about our connection again now as my problems are insignificant (we live in the countryside without ‘real’ broadband).

    My advice for the day would be

    1) breathe

    2) Have a ‘broadband not working plan’ where you have an on-going project to do that doesn’t involve being dependent on BT

    3) As already mentioned, have a plan for where you can get connection elsewhere but see it as a treat or an escape from the usual routine

    4) Just to say that I know these are easier said than done :)

  7. Liz says:

    Sorry to say I don’t have any positive stories for you either. I’ve been without a working phone for the best part of a fortnight with no end in sight and no explanation or apology either (the first chap who came out said he’d never seen a fault like ours before – and nobody’s been back since…).

    Fortunately – and this is the odd thing, and I’m crossing ALL my fingers as I write this – the broadband still works. But I’m reduced to making expensive calls on a mobile in a village with a very unreliable mobile signal, or using Skype which can be equally dodgy and which not all my clients can cope with. I’ve rerouted my office number to the mobile, which is ok when I have a signal…

    I like Kate’s advice!

    • Liz says:

      I just have to give a tiny update on this. Our phone is now fixed. And the reason? My other half emailed the CEO of BT last night to complain.

      Cynical, us?

      • Judy says:

        Go straight to the top – usually works, doesn’t it? Is this email address available to the public, or perhaps from yourself for a small fee ;-)
        Another tip for those on Twitter is to tweet about BT and it will get picked up by BTCare who will try and sort it out for you. It’s worked for us in the past.

    • Judy says:

      That’s always a really comforting thing to be told, isn’t it, whether you’re talking health, cars, phones or anything else – ‘Mm, well, I’ve never seen anything like this before…’ We don’t want to know that, actually, we want to hear you are going to fix it, and right now :-/

  8. Caradiaz says:

    We have just switched to Talk Talk following the advice of a friend who lives around the corner and told us he had superspeedy internet. Despite my fears about the change over, I am pleased to report that it took place yesterday and it was totally stress-free: we were only without phone and internet for about 5 minutes and we do indeed have a very speedy connection now.

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