An MP and an MSP’s office had to step in this week after customers said BT Openreach refused to admit a fault which meant people were without essential broadband links for three days.
Dr Angela Armstrong of Barrachan Home Farm, a BT shareholder and a former BT medical officer. told the Gazette that on Monday 5th September many households in the Barrachan and Airriequhillart area lost their internet connections.
Dr Armstrong and many of her neighbours, contacted their internet providers and were all separately told that the problem was in their homes and that there was no problem in the area in general.
They were also told that if they were not BT customers the providers told us to phone BT who supply the lines and BT told us to phone their providers.
Dr Armstrong said: “Now, in the Machars we all talk to one another!
“It was obvious to us all that there was a problem, probably in the small exchange at Airriequhillart.
“Those affected were all on 01988860 telephone lines.
“BT told us this was not the case and we would all have to have engineers visit our homes to trace the problem, in our case, not until 9th September.
“We would all have to have our properties inspected separately in order to trace the fault.
“On Thursday I decided to contact Richard Arkless MP and Finlay Carson MSP by telephone, as I believe others did.
“Mr Arkless was already making enquiries. Mr. Carson’s Parliamentary Assistant William Saunders immediately phoned BT.
“Within a couple of hours a fault was found at the exchange at Airriequhillart and broadband returned.
“The point of the story is that BT would not believe that the fault was in their exchange.”
BT say that the industry wide standard is that customers contact their internet providers in the first instance, who will then send an engineer to determine a fault.
Richard Arkless MP said: “My office became involved as soon as the fault was reported to me by a number of my constituents. We immediately contacted Openreach who initially said it was a collection of individual faults. This made no sense to me and I told them so.
“I’m pleased the problem has been fixed, it seems the pressure from all quarters focused the minds of Openreach, but this whole episode shows yet again that Openreach have major problems and are barely fit for purpose.
“I believe one of those major problems is that Openreach have a monopoly when it comes to Superfast Broadband roll out. If they had competitors they would surely be more customer focused.”
BT said that Openreach manages the local network between homes and business and the exchange. From the exchange back into the network, Communication Providers can install their own equipment and manage their own networks.
BT also said that regardless of whichever company a customer pays their phone or broadband bill to they always contact their communication Provider. If they determine that there’s a fault for Openreach to investigate, they will log a fault using industry processes with Openreach. Openreach customers are Communication Providers and not end users and all providers, including BT’s retail divisions, are treated equally.
BT added that Mr Carson’s office contacted BT with details of a BT customer impacted on the afternoon of 8 September, by which time the fault was cleared.
An Openreach spokesman said: “Following a suspected power surge in the Mochrum area on 5 September, a small number of customers may have experienced problems with their broadband service. Engineers replaced damaged equipment in the morning of 8 September when service was restored. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.”