Older blog entries for dwmw2 (starting at number 194)

28 Nov 2008 (updated 28 Nov 2008 at 21:12 UTC) »
"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice"
Grey's Law

The above rule (inspired, no doubt, by Clark's Law and Hanlon's Razor) is often applicable to the actions of British Telecom.

Regular readers of my drivelings may be surprised to find that I actually think I've been kind to BT in reporting their actions as incompetence, rather than anything more sinister.

Sometimes, however, it's virtually impossible to give them the benefit of the doubt. One example of this is their repeated insistence on a 'Special Faults Investigation' (SFI) engineer visit, when we're asking them to fix faults. SFI is an optional service which we don't usually want, and they repeatedly try to charge for it after explicitly being told that it was not required — a criminal offence under the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971. In fact, although it's supposed to be a charge for services beyond the limit of their responsibility, in the customer's own equipment or wiring, they've also been known to apply charges after themselves clearly stating that no such work has occurred.

(Update: The ISP reports that today they've had someone in BT refusing point blank to fix a fault unless an SFI is booked. This is a clear-cut fault where the end user has tried two separate modems, RJ11 cables and filters and the problem persists — it's definitely a BT fault.)

I have a similar problem with my line, although thankfully BT haven't refused to send an engineer to investigate. Since about 2:30AM on Monday morning, my DSL line has turned to crap — it seems to be caused by RF interference from something outside my house. I did similar tests to the above, with different cables, different filters and different modems. The usage graphs look like this, with ugly purple stalactites eating my connectivity:

Even when it's connected, it's getting lots of errors and running at half the speed it should be; below the 'Fault Threshold Rate'.

When the engineer arrived, I'd disconnected everything else on the line and connected the DSL modem directly to the master socket, at the ISP's request. With no filter, since there was no analogue equipment present.

The engineer held up the little adaptor which lets you plug an RJ11 into the BT socket, and told me that it was "not a filter"... strangely. He then went away and reported in the fault ticket that "customer also had filter incorectly [sic] installed which I believe to be a genuine mistake as he had already had a nte2000 master plate installed". A doubly confusing statement, since I didn't have a filter installed — the filters I use are the NTE2000 faceplate type, and were quite clearly sitting on the floor near the socket. I'd also told him why I'd removed it. So his report in the ticket really does look like it's an excuse to charge for the SFI, pretending that there was some work done on my side of the line.

It gets better than that, though — they also have a Service Level Guarantee which says that faults should be fixed within 40 hours, and they're required to pay compensation if they fail to meet it. There's a kind of 'chess clock' which counts the time during which the ticket is with BT for action, and BT keep 'clearing' tickets with totally bogus responses, as shown in the Cisco-IPv6 tickets I posted here and here.

They do this so much that the ISP found it necessary to implement an autoresponder, rejecting the bogus 'clear' and flipping the clock back to BT so that the SLG clock kept counting. Obviously, they apply this with care, only when they're sure that BT aren't clearing the ticket for genuine reasons, but only their fraudulent attempts to avoid the SLG.

Today, we found that BT have implemented their own autoresponder, flipping the ticket back to the ISP even while we're waiting for BT to take action. Again, it's really hard to put this down to BT's normal institutional incompetence — it cannot really be interpreted as anything but a deliberate attempt to defraud their customers by circumventing the Service Level Guarantee.

I've posted a copy of the fault ticket, although I truncated it at about the 50th clear/reject cycle. We're up to about 1000 cycles now, and counting... :)

Fucking Useless, Criminal, Telco.

After BT failed to turn up for the appointment last week, they said they were going to give us a status update by yesterday.

Naturally, they failed to do so.

Fucking Useless Telco.

Waited at home all morning today, for a British Telecom engineer to come and fit a new line. They failed to show up, and failed to contact me to let me know. Excellent customer service from British Telecom, as usual.

The ISP apparently received an email this afternoon — after the BT engineer had already missed the appointment — telling them that the job is delayed and has now been referred to the planning department.

They had to dig the roads up between here and the exchange to install my ISDN line when I first moved in, not so many years ago. Now we suspect they didn't bother to lay enough new copper that time, so they're going to have to do it again.

I suppose it's unrealistic to hope that they'll actually install fibre this time?

Fucking Useless Telco.

4 Nov 2008 (updated 4 Nov 2008 at 12:50 UTC) »

What do we do in a time of economic downturn when we've just issued a profit warning and seen our stock price drop by 20%?

Well, if we're a monopoly and the watchdog which is supposed to regulate us is notoriously toothless, then we can just put our prices up exorbitantly, right?

I saw this on Andrews and Arnold's status feed today...

BT announce massive price increases

"BT have just announced price changes that look set to increase our costs by well over £100K p.a. In the past we have always been quick to pass on changes in our costs as changes in prices to our customers.

"These price increases relate specifically to the "old" central links and 20th Century end user connections, which BT are making us keep until something like next August because they don't have their new IPStream Connect product ready in a way we can use yet. They seem to have created a huge delay and then put prices up to profit from that delay.

"We are very reluctant to put prices up at this stage, obviously, at a time when we are trying to reduce prices. We need to fully assess the timings and how they impact us in real terms over the next 12 month to decide if any changes are necessary. At this stage we are not announcing any change in price."

The massive price increases (23% or so) are on the BT "Central" pipes which provide the connection between the BT network and the ISP, for subscribers still on the old "20CN" network — which is most of us, because BT are so far behind with the 21CN rollout.

The price hike is exacerbated — almost doubled for some ISPs — by details in the small print, where they drop an existing per-line "rebate" on connections in high density areas.

The thing is, the ISPs don't even want the Centrals any more. With the long-anticipated "21st Century Network", the ISP just gets L2TP over GigE.

BT's long-promised IPstream Connect will eventually mean that lines connected to exchanges which haven't yet been upgraded to 21CN will also be connected to the ISP via the same type of GigE links, and the BT Centrals can be retired. But although the BT link given there says "Installed Base Migration completed - 31st December 2008", the current estimate is that it won't be available until at least August 2009.

So BT are pumping up the price on the service which they were supposed to have phased out by the end of the year, but haven't. And ISPs have no real choice but to pay up.

It's even better than that, in fact — because of the long delays on IPstream Connect, BT started offering new Centrals at a reduced installation cost, about a month ago. Any ISP who took them up on that offer is probably regretting it now.

Thanks, BT. And thanks in advance to Ofcom, for doing bugger all about it.

Maybe we should buy some of these and donate them to BT?

As strange as it seems to advertise a cable that "supports IPv6", it's very closely related to BT's problem.

When British Telecom states, as they did, that "BT currently supports IPv4 on it's[sic] Broadband products and does not support IPv6", that makes no more sense than saying "this cable does not support IPv6".

BT are paid to transport PPP data between the ISP and the end users. The contents of the PPP frames should be irrelevant — whether they be IPv4, IPv6 or anything else. Whether they're web traffic, email, IRC or anything else. Whether they're Russian, Polish, French, English or any other language... British Telecom are completely incompetent if they claim that some of these things are "supported" but others aren't. They are supposed to be providing a simple data transport — just like the cable — and they have no business caring about what gets carried over the transport.

The low-level transport really shouldn't care what's being carried across it, unless someone really went out of their way to fuck up. In fact it looks like Cisco did just that, on this occasion, and the muppets at British Telecom are too stupid to comprehend what's going on.

This is apparently a known Cisco problem, and I hear second-hand reports that it was actually expected to be fixed in the IOS version(s) that BT are using. If that's the case, Cisco get bonus fuckwit points — not only did they have such an inexcusable bug in the first place, but they also failed to fix it properly.

BT now say that they are "looking into this problem and will be holding a conference call with [their] suppliers". I wish them the best of luck with that. This particular supplier doesn't seem particularly competent either, judging by my recent experience of trying to report shameful security holes in some of their other products.

In the meantime, those subscribers lucky enough to be connected to Juniper's products instead of Cisco's should find that the service works just fine. BT use a mixture of both.

1 Nov 2008 (updated 1 Nov 2008 at 10:24 UTC) »

We just need 4 more days like yesterday...

31 Oct 2008 (updated 31 Oct 2008 at 17:43 UTC) »

Saw this on Andrews and Arnold's status feed today:

BT break some lines, again

"We'd like to apologise to those customers affected by the latest BT fiasco and assure you we are doing everything possible to ensure service is restored as quickly as possible. In some cases same day or next day. Whilst this has affected only a few customers in Crouch End, Perivale and a couple of other exchanges, this really is not acceptable.

"The problem is similar to the last screw up. Previously BT allowed upgrading of lines to new 21CN services in the exchange when the exchange was not plugged in to the backhaul to connect to us - most notably when Stepney Green was not plugged in to Stepney Green.

"Having made sure that was not happening again, we now have a new and interesting way for things to go wrong. This time BT have told us that an exchange is ready and have accepted orders to upgrade lines, but it turns out the exchange is not yet ready. In some cases the exchange will not be ready for over 2 months. Yet despite having nowhere to actually jumper the line to, BT engineers have jumpered the line to thin air and stopped it working.

"When we found this happening on Monday we immediately got BT to supposedly cancel the other orders going through this week. However, it seems BT cannot even do that right, and we have had some customers losing service throughout the week.

"It seems that it does not matter how many assurances we get from BT that things will work, they still find new ways to break things."

Words fail me. Meanwhile, BBC News reports that British Telecom's shares slumped 20% after they issued a profit warning due to "poor performance in its global services unit".

Four more days like today, and British Telecom will be completely worthless. We can shut them down, return their current employees to suitable institutions where they can't do any further harm to themselves or others, then sell off the infrastructure to someone with a bit of a clue, and the world will be a much better place.

I say "bring it on". I would love to see British Telecom being first against the wall when the revolution comes. The existence of the word "British" in "British Telecom" makes me ashamed to admit my nationality; associated as it is with a company with such a culture of incompetence, mediocrity, and contempt for their customers.

Fucking Useless Telco.

"I take direct issue with democracy. If democracy implies universal suffrage, or the right of all men to take part in the control of the state without regard to the intelligence, the morals, or the principles of the man, I am no democrat.

"I would as soon place my person and property at the mercy of an infuriated mob as place the liberties of my country in the hands of an ignorant, superstitious and vacillating populous."

-- Thomas R. Whitney

Oh, fuck me backwards.. this is great:

"Today 15:09:23 BT notes 15 - REJECTION - Records show that this is not a current working circuit ."

Of course is isn't a current working circuit, you stupid people. That's because you disconnected it!

Quite why you disconnected it isn't entirely clear to us — it seems unlikely that this will magically fix your Cisco-based problems, as I previously observed.

And why the "lift and shift" operation — which used to take a few minutes to move the user onto another circuit — has so far taken you over 24 hours is also a mystery to us.

Maybe it's just another excuse to close the fault and fraudulently try to avoid the penalties of exceeding the Service Level Guarantee, since now it needs to be re-reported on the "new" line? When that eventually starts working, that is — they're apparently saying it might take until the 23rd now.

Fucking Useless Telco.

21 Oct 2008 (updated 21 Oct 2008 at 10:49 UTC) »

Despite the ISP escalating the problem, it looks like British Telecom still haven't managed to reconnect the line that they disconnected yesterday... evidently in the hope that doing so would magically cause an IOS upgrade on their core routers. Maybe they're still waiting to see if it really does have the magical effect they desire, if they leave it broken for a little longer?

Fucking Useless Telco.

They're also making stupid noises in my fault ticket about the ISP being rude to them. When whining about it and threatening to make complaints about the rudeness, the BT muppet admitted to having hung up on the ISP, which doesn't strike me as being particularly polite.

Somehow I don't think the BT muppet remembered that the phone call had been recorded. I was quite amused by the response of Shaun's boss, after reviewing the recording:

"I have reviewed the call recording. I do not believe Shaun was rude at all. There are several cases where BT talked over Shaun (which is rather rude in my opinion). I feel Shaun was quite polite during the call. Statements by BT during the call seem to make no sense and were somewhat contradictory."

I find that assessment entirely credible. Having dealt with Shaun before, I find it hard to believe that he was anything less than his normal, unfailingly polite, self. The poor man has to deal with BT a lot — and as far as I'm concerned he has to be a saint, since to my knowledge he hasn't actually throttled anyone yet. Or otherwise promoted an attitude of violence in any way.

I am, as ever, massively impressed with the ISP; Andrews & Arnold.

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