Neil's News

BT Broadband Trap

16 October 2004

In general I can't post about the truly fun and entertaining SNAFUs at work, since co-workers and clients read this. But this case involves a supplier, so I guess that's fair game.

Over the past week we've been moving the office from the old railway station to a place in the middle of town. See the photographs. Everything has gone very smoothly. Except for our Internet connection.

We use(d) BT Business Broadband. Good product, no complaints. So we called them and asked how to transfer the connection to the new office. They said that a new connection would have to be installed (which takes two weeks), then the old one would be cancelled. That was fine and we told them to go ahead. A few days later we got our bill and noticed that the new connection wasn't the BT Single 500 which we had before, but the more expensive BT Share 500. What's the difference? Not much, it's the same connection, but one comes with a modem while the other comes with a router. I called them and told them that they'd made a mistake.

That's where things got nasty. They informed us (two days before we were due to move) that they were sorry that they'd screwed up, but that to downgrade from a "Share" to a "Single" would mean disconnecting the ADSL, and reconnecting from scratch -- meaning we'd be offline for two weeks. I got the problem escalated as high as I could, but they were unable to perform a downgrade without massive downtime. They kept hinting that there were subtle differences between the two packages at the telephone exchange. I called them anonymously and asked what would be involved in upgrading from a "Single" to a "Share". I was cheerfully told that there'd be an hour of downtime at most. But to downgrade, nope, that would be two weeks. When I pointed this out, they just went silent.

BT have essentially made it impossible for customers to downgrade their connections. Even if they were upgraded against their wishes. I have rarely seen such disreputable behaviour from a large UK corporation. I've reported the matter to Ofcom, we'll see what they have to say.

Since BT were completely unwilling to undo their mistake, I've cancelled our order with them. Instead I've installed a 802.11b bridge between our network and the network in a neighbouring office. As a side-effect, Elgin now has its first wireless hotspot.

Update: I just got a call from Ofcom. As of Monday BT have changed their policy so that massive downtime during downgrades no longer happen. Wow! I'm starting to get the hang of this country.

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