Broadband dead? Perhaps BT's reused your line

31 Mar 2014
BT engineer

BT engineers accused of ripping out active broadband lines when installing new telephone connections

BT has been accused of cutting off customers' broadband by not carrying out proper checks when installing new telephone lines.

The accusation comes via the blog of Adrian Kennard, from business ISP A&A, who claims that slapdash procedures by BT and its contractors are seeing engineers rip out active lines to hand them to new customers.

Instead of checking the records, the engineer simply connects a test telephone to pairs looking for one that he can use

When BT installs a new line, the engineer is required to find an unused copper pair - two wires twisted together - to form the telephone service. This effectively involves finding available wires running from the exchange to the local telephone cabinet, and from the cabinet to the local distribution point (the little grey boxes).

"Now, you might think this is a process of checking the records to see which of the pairs in each cable/cabinet are spare, allocating one, and using that pair," writes Kennard. "Indeed, this is the right way to do it and what you will often find is done by the engineer."

"However, there is another way, and this seems to be done quite often - instead of checking the records, the engineer simply connects a test telephone to pairs looking for one that he can use.

"If he finds a pair that is not in use, then he acquires it for the install, and updates the records to say he has done it."

No dial tone

The engineer will normally check for a dial tone to see whether a line is active or not, or sometimes make a test call. But as he explains, many lines installed purely for a broadband connection don't have a dial tone and will have chargeable calls blocked on the line to prevent their being used for unauthorised telephone calls.

"Unfortunately this means any line used for something other than normal telephone service can get nicked," Kennard explains. "We have seen this on SDSL lines that have no dial tone. To avoid this, when we install lines 'just for broadband use' we do set them up to have a dial tone, and even allow free calls to be made. That helped a lot in avoiding pairs going missing."

A spokesman for BT told PC Pro: "Openreach is fully focused on connecting new customers and helping restore service to those experiencing a fault. We do not condone impacting one customer's service to restore another's, and we take such allegations very seriously. We would encourage anybody with any evidence of this activity to report it to Openreach immediately and we will investigate."

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