28 Nov 2008 dwmw2   » (Master)

"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.

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