Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Telewest/Blueyonder And Why I Hate Them.

Okay, in January of this year we got broadband internet at the flat. And as we also wanted some kind of multi-channel thing (but can't get a Sky dish fitted as the landlady hates them) decided to combine it in a package deal. Telewest was the one that looked the best value for money, so that was the one we went with.

After a couple of months of them billing us wrongly, and giving us credits, everything went smoothly. Until June, when the internet connection started getting slower and slower. Useable, but slow. This continued until a couple of Saturday's back when we couldn't get online at all. So I rang to ask what the problem was.

Now, I should point out here, I currently work in IT, and I've previously worked for Demon Internet in the ADSL Provisioning department, so I know more than your basic user about IT, and broadband in particular.

I ring Broadband Support. After 45mins they answer the phone. Run a couple of basic diagnostics with me ("have you tried turning the modem and the computer off and on?", yes, repeatedly, while I've been on hold) then tell me that as I can't ping the modem "you need to reinstall your ethernet drivers, do the restart thing and call back if you have any problems". I do this, despite knowing that the drivers and the NIC are fine, and surprise, still can't get online.

I ring Broadband Support back, another 45min wait for an answer. "Ah," says the chap I speak to next, "there's a fault on the UBR that you connect to. I'll speak to the Network Team and see what the problem is." He puts me on hold, then comes back and says "apparently it's been passed up to the Capacity Management Team, so it is being investigated, call back on Monday to see what the resolution is".

On the Monday I ring them to see what the status of the fault is. After the usual 45min wait, "what fault?". I explain the problem again (do these people not keep account notes?) and tell them that it's obviously a contention issue as the speed - when we can get online - dies at 6pm and improves after 11pm. "There's no fault listed that I can see, it must be your computer". I ask him to pass me up to his supervisor.

I'm put on hold for a couple of minutes. "My supervisor is refusing to speak to you as he'd just tell you what I've told you"(!) I ask for the name of the supervisor, and he refuses to give me it for "health & safety reasons". Apparently I sound like a serial killer on the 'phone. Or Blueyonder haven't explained anything about Customer Service to him. It's one or the other.

Infuriated, I ring the Customer Care department. They tell me that it was unusual that the supervisor wouldn't speak to me, and that the guy I'd spoken to wasn't aware of "the process". I asked for an explanation of "the process" and was told that if I requested a callback from a Manager, they had to do it within 24hrs. So I rang back and asked for exactly that.

Two days later - after fixing the connection problem myself, by using some hints I found on the internet at work (none of which had been suggested by the Broadband Support team) - I rang Customer Care to complain that no-one had actually called me back, and they apologised all over again for the inconvenience. Our connection, however, was still incredibly slow and essentially unusable before 11pm.

So I emailed Blueyonder. And got involved in a series of mails - each more insane than the last - that provided me with the following information: there has been a contention issue on our pipe since June, the company still haven't sourced the necessary hardware to fix it, have no timescale for the upgrade, and we can't be moved to a different pipe as Blueyonder can't see what the problem is with the service they're providing me.

I'm paying for a 2Mb connection. The best I've achieved recently is 0.5Mb downstream. The upstream speed is even worse, officially coming in at 0.01Mb - which is slower than a 56k modem. Yet they won't discuss compensation "until the matter is completely resolved", despite not having an actual timescale.

Sod that. We rang and asked how much we'd have to pay to get out of the rest of the contract and explained why we were leaving. Next day (this morning) Blueyonder ring and offer us 6 months free Broadband and a reduction on our TV subscription. And still no timescale of when they'll fix the problem.

Now, call me foolish, but a free 6 months of something that doesn't work is as good as not having it at all, isn't it? So we're now looking at moving to ADSL, which is likely to be more expensive, but potentially better as we know what the contention ratio is going to be in advance.

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