Communities being short-changed with ‘painful’ BT performance

Moray communities finding Superfast is not all that it is made out to be

A COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST in Moray has written to BT outlining the “painful” experience he and many customers in Portgordon have been facing.

Last year neighbouring Portknockie suffered a complete communications blackout that saw both telephone and internet services blocked for weeks.  Now Portgordon residents are reporting that the arrival of ‘superfast broadband’ to their local exchange has done nothing to improve the local mood with the telecoms giant.

Rainer Herbert, who is a business and information technology consultant living in the village, has written a damning complaint to BT on behalf of himself and many customers in the area that he says is being badly let down.

Mr Herbert said that like many people in Portgordon he was delighted to be told that the long-awaited Superfast Broadband would roll out to the village courtesy of updates to the local Buckie exchange.

However, weeks of complaints that follow the similar “round in circles” route faced by many Moray customers over BT services has resulted in no progress – and painfully slow broadband.

Mr Herbert told insideMoray: “As a freelance IT consultant I have some insight into BT Broadband support – I even worked on a BT customer support automation project some years ago.

“Since Buckie now enjoys the Infinity Broadband technology I was one of the first customers to order it in Portgordon – and initially I appreciated the download speed that allowed me to work effectively from home.”

In his letter to the under-fire telecoms provider he said that he has been forced to re-evaluate the service being provided: “About three weeks ago the speed suddenly went down to much lower levels, with a traceable pattern from just two to 10Mbs during weekday mornings and less than 1Mbs at evenings and during the weekend.

“After many hours of analysis on my side I had to assume that the problem is based on congestion and is not located within my reach.”

Mr Herbert then found, as many have, that talking through the issues with BT’s overseas-based support staff was painful – even more so for someone who knew where and why the problem existed.

He wrote: “I was always left with the promise that it would be resolved soon – but always found my fault reports being closed without any further information or contact.”

Mr Herbert added that after being led repeatedly through the same script by BT call centre staff despite knowing there was nothing that could be achieved from it, he finally managed to receive an honest answer from a local BT Engineer.

The frustrated customer said: “A very friendly engineer explained to me that this problem is definitely not on my side and that it is a well-known and common problem for most customers connected to the Buckie exchange.”

Using his own experience and locating potential communications problems, Mr Herbert has highlighted exactly where he believes the problems are: “After some research I found that there is an open problem with BT Wholesale regarding ‘link 18’, with the reference TSO Wholesale AF-MF-44667 that seems to be responsible for all the congestion trouble [in Buckie].”

Editor’s Comment

insideMoray has received similar tales of woe from communities throughout the region.

In many cases where BT have updated local exchanges for fibre optic broadband, customers in the surrounding area are informed that they are able to receive Infinity Broadband. That is not, however, always true, as old underground cabling carrying the signal to homes and businesses is all too often not capable of sustaining Superfast data.

BT’s Help Desks are either not aware of this or have any intention of passing such information on to customers, instead providing mis-information and stalling tactics in the hope that customer complaints will simply go away.

I have personal experience of this.  After contacting BT’s Chief Executive and providing him with a script in which an overseas-based helpdesk employee was quite happy to lie about the quality of service I was receiving, a third engineer visit was arranged to my own home in Lossiemouth.

That concluded – as a previous two visits had, but were not accepted by BT Sales – with the information that while my local exchange had been upgraded to Fibre, the cabling over the approximate 2km between it and my home was degrading the signal to an extent that was not actually capable of delivering the promised (and paid for) services.

This is clearly very, very common in Moray and throughout the Highlands.

So what should BT do about this?

Well, they should start by not billing customers for Infinity until such time as it has proven it can deliver on the service customers are being asked to pay for.

They should review their pricing structures to meet the actual service being delivered, and not some (often fictional or ‘best guess’) theoretical maximum/minimum speeds.

BT, HIE and the Scottish Government should take note of what people are saying – the latter two make much of ‘consultations with the public’ when delivering new services, well how about taking the feedback from customers in Moray as being part of a consultative process that is clearly showing the Highland Superfast rollout is not as effective as they are leading people to believe?

At insideMoray we have already contacted local MP Angus Robertson on the issue, we look forward to learning what he, BT’s Chief Executive and HIE intend to do about it.