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Broadband dead? Perhaps BT's reused your line

BT engineer

By Barry Collins

Posted on 31 Mar 2014 at 10:13

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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User comments

Number Porting

As BT do not allow keeping your number when you move exchange, I can see this becoming more and more of an issue. For businesses transferring numbers to VOIP allows continuity of service when moving offices.

By tirons1 on 31 Mar 2014

If ...

"Openreach is fully focused on connecting new customers and helping restore service to those experiencing a fault."

Then it is hardly surprising if faults are sometimes created in the process!

The other hidden advantage BT has is owning the copper pairs from the street cabinets to the customer's phone. This effectively prevents other operators supplying fibre to the cabinet services forcing suppliers such as Hyperoptic to expensively rewire apartment buildings.

By JohnAHind on 31 Mar 2014

Quote "Openreach is fully focused on connecting new customers and helping restore service to those experiencing a fault...."

As I commented recently under in the report concerning BT as the worst ISP:-

"We had a fault with the phone. An "engineer" came out and fixed the fault by transferring our phone service to a different cable.

That nobbled our broadband speed which dropped from 3.5Mbps to 500Kbps.

No amount of cajoling or complaining to BT would see them get our broadband speed restored.

So no iPlayer (doesn't stream fast enough); no video downloads (at half a meg speeds you have to be joking).

No other network supplier where we live so we have just had to lump it.

Thanks BT."

Am I the only person that thinks that, somehow, my experience with the degraded broadband service doesn't seem to tally with the BT spokesman's comments in the article above.

By jontym123 on 31 Mar 2014

@jontym123

A classic British business run by people who can play politics but can't deliver and don't care.

By tirons1 on 31 Mar 2014

The Real BT

I live in a Park Home and one day saw two BT workers reapairing a grey box. One was obviously an apprentice and he asked, "Why are you replacing the unit with an old dirty one?" Hi colleague responded, "We don't bother with trailer park trash." How I wish I had filmed that. And yes, I pay for 8MB and am lucky to get 1MB - that is when it is actually working.

By einstein9 on 3 Apr 2014

The Real BT

I live in a Park Home and one day saw two BT workers reapairing a grey box. One was obviously an apprentice and he asked, "Why are you replacing the unit with an old dirty one?" Hi colleague responded, "We don't bother with trailer park trash." How I wish I had filmed that. And yes, I pay for 8MB and am lucky to get 1MB - that is when it is actually working.

By einstein9 on 3 Apr 2014

lack of provision

This points to a total lack of provision on the primary trunk, it's been going on years due to lack of investment and has all been part of BT's dogged insistance of going down the ISDN cul-de-sac years back.

During the late 90's trying to get a spare bundle of Copper anywhere near Yorkshire TV on Kirkstall road was nigh on impossible for small business.

Secondly it links in with another issue being that city's should install primary ducting and conduits along brown or greenfield corridors, rather than stick with the mess of shoving them willy-nilly under primary road infrastructure.

By Gindylow on 3 Apr 2014

Contact openreach!!

Yea right
Has anyone tried that.

By golland on 3 Apr 2014

Walter Willcox

Network engineers must cope with the ongoing maintenance operations which are significantly more complex that has been described above.

If a twisted pair become defective, then just the faulty section between two joins is swapped to any other pair discovered to be free. The engineer also has to come with DACS line splitting units which carry two PSTN services on a single pair before splitting into the two terminating NTE5 sockets. Note now that a pair which is still serviceable for a 4 kHz voice circuit can prove far too noisy for a VDSL "superfast" circuit so has to be swapped if the end user can complain sufficiently strongly.

Now add to that the mayhem caused by subcontractors installing new VDS services with no test equipment at all; just relying on the modem DSL in sync light.

The UK is being very seriously short-changed with subsidised VDSL installations but the really experienced engineers attempting to maintain an under-funded, ageing and inadequate PSTN surely still deserve our praise.

By SurreyHills on 4 Apr 2014

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