An Infinity Of Problems: Installing A Faster UK Internet Connection:

Is your computer too slow? Does it take you too long to access your e-mails or to download from Google just when you have to rush off to work or to college? British Telecom (BT), it seems, can provide the solution  – at least, that’s what they claim in the advertisements they’ve been placing in the national media and on the commercial TV channels over the past few weeks. Their offer initially looks very attractive: “BT Infinity: Superfast fibre optic broadband. From just £9 a month”. In smaller print, they add that this amount becomes £18 after three months, there’s a £6.95 charge for delivering the hub plus £14.60 a month for installing a BT line if you don’t already have one. Furthermore, that “top speeds” will be “affected by various factors”, including distance from the nearest broadband cabinet (described by Dundee City Council in Scotland as “ big ugly boxes” and “inappropriate street furniture), the time of day and internal home wiring.

Alternative deals are of course available from BT’s competitors. As stated on www.uswitch.com/broadband/compare/fibre_optic , Virgin Media can provide a 30 Megabyte broadband service for £4 per month and 60Mb for £5 pm; “Sky Fibre Unlimited” up to 38Mb for £20 pm; “Talk Talk” say their “Medium Fibre Broadband & Calls” service (£13.25 pm) is “ideal for smaller households”.   The contract with all of them, including BT, is for a minimum of 18 months. “uSwitch” also helpfully explain that fibre optic cables are made of glass or plastic (materials which “facilitate fast movement of data along their length”) and are placed under the ground, whereas ADSL broadband is transmitted through copper telephone wires “ which lose speed over long distances”. On 25th September, BT (as reported by journalist Ben Woods on Zdnet) named 163 new exchanges (“spread across the country from Torquay in Devon to Kilbirnie in Scotland”) that will become “fibre-enabled” before the end of 2013 in the next phase of the £2.5 billion upgrading of its network, thereby adding “another million homes to the 11 million people who already have access to its fibre-based Infinity services”.

It is evident, however, from the mainly hostile reviews of BT on www.broadband-expert.co.uk that not everyone who has signed up with them has been happy with the results. On July 11th, “Andy Jackson” lambasted  BT’s “ Dreadful customer service”. His broadband connection (he asserted) had never worked, he had spent hours speaking to call centres in India trying to get the issue resolved and there was no number he could call to check if the engineer was coming or what time they might arrive. Another contributor was enraged that BT had left him for five days without an internet service and declared that he had “lost faith in a company that relies on an Indian call centre to sort out a problem where neither side can understand the other”. For a third unhappy customer (“Heather Yeomans”),  BT has “too many departments who do not speak to each other”. She also queried whether “there is actually anything British about British Telecom”.

Much of the frustration manifestly relates to the fact that calls to the BT “helpline “ tend to be answered by (or re-directed to) someone on the Indian sub-continent. As noted recently in India’s “Economic Times”, UK – based organizations such as Santander, NatWest Bank, the telecom firm “New Call Telecom” and the insurers Aviva have started to respond to their customers’ dislike of “outsourcing” by moving many of their services back to Britain. Meanwhile, anyone tempted by BT’s current publicity campaign should perhaps be aware of the ordeal that might await them once they have agreed to change over to BT Infinity. First, there’ll be an e-mail from BT confirming the date and time (between 8am-1pm or 1pm-6pm) of the installation and containing the explicit assurance that the engineer will check that your new system is working before leaving the premises. If they neglect to do this (because they are in a hurry to get to the next job), you won’t have a connection at all and will be profoundly regretting you didn’t stay with your previous (functioning) broadband set-up.

Logically, if you contact BT straight away, they should be able to arrange for the engineer (who has only just left, so must still be in the area) to come back and fix the problem. You’ll be very fortunate if that happens. Instead, you’re likely to spend the rest of the day in growing desperation, repeatedly contacting the various BT numbers listed on your bill and being put through to their technical staff in Mumbai or Bangalore – who will politely express their understanding and sympathy but can’t in practice do very much to help. They can’t give you the engineers’ department phone number in the UK because they don’t have it themselves. That same evening, you’ll probably have to go to a friend’s house or an internet café to read your e-mails. One of them will be a “Good News” message from BT congratulating you that your new broadband service is “ready for you”. As you are not in your own home, you won’t be able to react to that by rampaging around in a fury, throwing crockery, kicking the waste-paper bin and frightening the cat. The next morning, you may unexpectedly get through to someone in Newcastle or Glasgow who will offer you an engineer’s visit in ten days’ time – which for you is far too long to wait for a re-connection. Eventually – if you’ve really kicked up a huge fuss – another engineer will arrive, inform you that his colleague installed the wrong box, replace it with the correct one in a few seconds and depart, leaving you exhausted and wondering why they couldn’t have done it properly first time.

“Internet World Stats” have calculated that there are 2,267,233,742 internet users worldwide (approximately 32.7% of the total global population) and that 173,090,775 of these live in South America. Argentina has the highest percentage of internet users in the region (67% of its population), followed by Chile (59.2%), Uruguay (56.1%), Colombia (55.9%), Venezuela (39.7%), Brazil (39%) Peru (34.1%), Ecuador (27.2%), Paraguay (23.6%),Bolivia (19.6%). About 15.4% of Cuba’s citizens currently have access to the internet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Media, Society | Posted on October 22nd, 2012 by Colin D Gordon

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