It is time to get your 21st Century act together...
A neighbour ordered BT Infinti VDSL on a copper line from the
street cabinet, connects his router per instructions - and our
TalkTalk service halves in speed at that moment. I tried to talk
sense with a TalkTalk support agent, but getting nowhere.
May 2017: the overhead cables, the trees, the
VDSL noise, and the Openreach ignorance....
The radio frequency interference (RFI) below
10MHz at this location has been gradually creeping up - as it
has everywhere in the UK. The main suspect is the fact that ADSL
is delivered on long overhead wires using techniques that
modulate analogue radio signals with digital pulse data that are
well known to create wideband interference. There is a ton of
here and here - but
BT and now the bit of the company that has been rebranded as its
partner in crime, Openreach - all pretend they know nothing,
because to admit they are aware of the issues would create an
enormous headache across the country.
It doesn't have to be this way, and a radio
who lives in the middle of a new estate in Chelmsford
smugly reports the has no discernible noise using a vertical
antenna - which is notorious for RFI susceptibility. The
difference is that the estate is recently built and all services
are delivered underground, there is not a single overhead
Round here, as well as flooded manholes, the
cables feeding in and out of those flooded manholes go via
overhead cables slung between poles and threaded tightly through
Here is the latest tale
in this long running saga of me versus BT (or whatever
the monopoly provider of rural telecom services has rebranded
itself as this week):- It contains some shocking revelations of
fundamental ignorance by its complaints team.
November 2016 - snap, crackle and pop
A TalkTalk VDSL service that had previously been
up for months on end started to reset every other day, then
every day, then every 12 hours and eventually it just went up
and down every few minutes. We checked the phone line and it was
crackling - just like BT's ancient and decaying copper circuits
have been doing for the past 75 years or more. We deduced that
it was caused by water on the joints between our socket and the BT
cabinet - it always is. There had been heavy rain recently. See
above for a reminder of what life is like as a BT telephone line
is like around here (this is a manhole/duct cover 100m from the
street cabinet) at the foot of a telegraph pole that then takes
the lines overhead..
Anyone who knows anything about telecoms should
be able to work this one out, but TalklTalk doesn't make
allowances for users who might know anything telecoms. So we
were put the through to a TalkTalk inquisition by an employee in
India reading a script from a screen that gives new breadth and
depth to the expression "lowest common denominator".
I played him the noise on the lines, and advised
that the problem was a bad connection between our wall socket
and the street cabinet. I tried to impress on him that I know
what I was talking about and had experienced the problem before
many times, but Talk Talk support simply does not accommodate
that possibility and he carried on assuming I was the average
numpty customer. Apparently BT's remote diagnostics said there
was nothing wrong. Typical. So I gave up and went to the top -
and sent this screen grab of one of the side effects of the
dodgy interrupted connections. Bearing in mind Talk Talk's
security issues, I wondered if this might get their attention...
An Openreach engineer showed up a day later,
agreed my diagnosis and fixed it. (And a few more dodgy looking
joints in the box)
Broadband (DSL) signals can actually be
delivered along cables with quite severe faults since they are
not "switched DC" like the voice circuits, but they use radio
signals that are able (within limits) to jump over some of the
problems of BT's ancient copper (and aluminium) cable network.
But broadband will eventually suffer when the lines are
crackling - speed will tend to drop, the connection will be
intermittent until the contact drops completely. These radio
signals - transmitted from the overhead cables acting as
antennas - can also cause endless interference to AM broadcast
radio. (Longwave, Mediumwave and Shortwave). It's another form
of pollution, and BT is indifferent about its responsibility for
The killer is that if your broadband comes from
anyone but BT, any faults have to be dealt with by two separate
engineers - one for the phone line and one for the DSL. So ISPs
using the BT infrastructure cannot call up one engineer to fix
the problem, and sometimes the line engineer is simply "not
trained" or equipped to diagnose DSL issues. And there is always
a threat of a £130 charge if the engineer turns out and cannot
find a fault.
BT Openreach engineers are well aware of this
nonsense, and will bluntly tell users who are customers of BT
competitors that the best way to deal with this absurd situation
is to get it all from BT (Ofcom, do you care?) and then you have
one support number to call.
But until the copper is swapped for fibre, this
will go on driving us all up the wall and wasting a huge amount
of money, time and effort. Is there anyone actually able to do
anything about it? The new DCMS minister Karen Bradley is a bean
counter by trade; and the junior minister Matthew Hancock is
allegedly techno savvy, although before politics, he worked as
an economist at the Bank of England.
Let's hope he has a clue, but since theyworkforyou.com lists
amongst topics of interest, "Departmental Furniture" - I am not
encouraged, (Not a single DCMS-related topic is listed!)
November 27th comment
A fellow sufferer, Bev B, comments:
I have every sympathy on this one. I work with BT Business
Broadband in Hatfield Peverel and BT landline. I spent from
2014 until July this year battling with them, overhead
cabling that was not maintained, neither are the trees the
cables run through. I have the largest pile of paperwork,
names & telephone numbers you can ever imagine. Toooooooo
long a tale to fit in this comments box, stressful is not a
sufficient word to use, days of being unable to work due to
the broadband constantly dropping out, reasons & excuses
were beyond belief, got to know a number of the engineers by
first name as they were forever in my house or working
outside, even got to know how they liked their tea!
It is not until the service is repaired do you actually
realise how bad it was and what you were having to put up
to be able to make a call or use the Internet without issues
is such a relief. As for mobile, switched to Tesco which is
O2 as my husband & sister both used them and signal always
good, I was with Orange. At first my signal was great,
however in the past 4-5 months all 3 of us are now having
It's been a bit quiet here lately. Possibly
because we have cut the number of BT lines we have from 5 to one
- thanks to the availability of FTTC ADSL, and thus reduced the
scope to be annoyed by 80%.
But this just showed up to remind us that BT is
still managed by morons:
It rained a bit (again) and there were a few
thunderstorms. One of our very reliable and fast VDSL (FTTC)
circuits provided by TalkTalk over a BT Openreach circuit,
refused to reconnect after a power cycle. The ADSL indicator
was on, the phone service on the line worked, but the router
failed to lock on to an internet service. The only thing
TalkTalk could do remotely was supply a replacement router -
and instead of a separate BT modem with Ethernet feed to the
Huawei BG533 router, we got the updates all-in-one modem and
router, the Huawei HG635 "super router".
Sadly no change. Line diagnostics suggested a
short (somewhat counter intuitively, lots of things will
still work despite "shorts" and line faults - reliance on a
partly working copper network is what has kept BT afloat for
all this time, when trying to sweat the last few quid from
an ancient copper infrastructure. But there is a limit.
The very helpful Openreach engineer showed up
next day and went through the usual diagnostic motions,
swapped routers and modems, made calls to their remote
testing services, and waded through the same sort of tedious
IVR phone scheme that BT's customers face every time they
have a question - and we concluded that a basic line fault
was the only explanation. A trek to the nearest inspection
cover at the foot of the telegraph pole, from when the
cables are strung through the trees to reach us provided a
familiar site of a flooded manhole.
The cables are joined in plastic housing with
much attention to waterproofing, But of course nothing
is going to cope with that amount of water for long, and the
problem was traced to one of the joint housings (the one at
the very bottom, of course) which had sprung a leak. Grubby
water in a mass of open cable joints means shorting to
ground and between the circuits.
If BT does not come up with a better long term
solution for this type of problem, it will of course keep on
happening. It is ludicrous to keep wasting BT time and money
- and customer time and money - by forever patching up a
network that is clearly not fit for purpose, and that will
The problem with leaving analogue copper in
the circuits can be quite subtle. Analogue circuits can
degrade gradually - moisture creeps in over time; joints
corrode at variable rates. And this means a device that has
been "locked on" for months may be connected to a line where
the gradual degradation takes place but does not cause the
signal to drop - but reduces tolerances and thresholds to
fall below those needed for a "restart" to work. A form of "hysteresis"
if you like. There can also be an accumulation of issues
across multiple joints, making the manageability of these
networks even more random and unpredictable.
BT are always very ready to threaten customers
with £100+ callout charge if they show up and the problem is
down to end-user finger trouble - but if BT was forced to
pay serious compensation for the inconvenience
caused to customers when the problems are so obviously
self-inflicted by BT, maybe the calculations would at last
force fibre to the premises as the sensible solution.
This was a very avoidable BT problem that
wasted our time and TalkTalk time; Moreover the original
modem/router combo was perfectly viable - but it costs more
to process the return than the value of the unit, so we now
have a spare..
October 23rd 2013
This is so BT… from a friend in North
London: who lives too close to the exchange to
However, as I have received a letter from BT on the subject
of broadband, I decided that the best solution would be to
get a dish to get reasonable sports on my television. The
letter from BT is a classic, and it is only thanks to my MP
that I got a reply. Here’s one section.
I’ve been in touch with our supplier, Openreach to ask about
Mr. Miller’s situation. Unfortunately, he’s currently unable
to get fibre broadband as his phone line is routed directly
from the exchange to his premises.
Openreach have confirmed that the Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC)
technology which they have deployed needs a fibre-enabled
street cabinet to supply the service. But because Mr. Miller
is located very close to the exchange and is fed directly
from it, i.e. not via a street cabinet, this unfortunately
means that he can’t have the fibre product at present.
So the solution to my fibre broadband problem, is to move
further from the telephone exchange.
"Bollocks. Absolute bollocks. [BT] said the process was
'transparent'. 'Thoroughly transparent'. And yet we ask them
whether they're going to get a cable to our house and they
reply saying 'oh, we can't tell you'. Anyway, two megs is
rubbish. Absolutely naff. Meaningless. You can't do anything
with two megs."
The GPO and its successor BT has a rich
history of disgraceful service, conning the public and
bamboozling technically inept politicians, most starkly
illustrated by the many years that the
"institutionalised" and untouchable organisation grew
fat and complacent from exploiting its wonderful
monopoly, and resisted all
attempts at introducing competition, notably declaring that anyone who
dared to connect a non-BT provided phone device to a BT phone line would cause
the exchange to blow up, and melt down to the core of
the planet. Despite the many changes forced on BT by
governments and telecom regulators and competitors, they
remain one of the most obdurate, obstinate and
non-transparent organisations to deal with.
We accept that a key issue for BT customer
support is that has to deal with a LOT of customers with
widely varying degrees of telecoms savvy, but the process of
always assuming a "lowest common denominator" approach leads
to a huge amount of frustration.
We also accept that all telecoms providers
appear to be as bad as each other from the various online
discussions - but some of us live out in the sticks where
there is no alternative but BT, and we have to put up with
what BT provides, or lump it.
Where BT is not the "end to end" provider of
an ADSL service it will ALWAYS refuse to come and
test an installation without threatening a £195 callout
charge by trying to blame any other party to the
provisioning process. But if you spend £195 on
diagnostic procedures - like swapping your router and
generally spending time fiddling about - there is of course
no way you can easily charge BT for your wasted time, if as
usual, the problem turns out to be their
We expect that many people are forced to give
up the struggle, and use BT to provide the complete
service, simply to avoid the endless finger pointing and
buck passing between the various divisions of BT and 3rd
party service providers.