4 Sep 12 17:30. My internet stops working. My internet is provided by BeThere over a BT phone line dedicated for the purpose (my voice circuits are on ISDN). So, it could be BeThere, it could be BT, or it could be the ADSL modem I use. I spend a while hunting for the test phone to plug into the master socket, and removing the front of the cabinet in which it is located. Eventually I locate it, and the phone line is completely dead. I have a quick look out the door for a BT van (normally the proximate cause of trouble), but there is no one there.

4 Sep 12 17:55. I ring in the fault. Now, I have a couple of ISDN circuits and a couple of voice circuits, and as I work from home, it’s pretty important to me they stay up. I need high speed internet from work in my office, and 3G only works slowly, unreliably, and from the very top of the house (so far, I’ve tried O2, Vodaphone, and Three). So I pay extra for BT Totalcare. The woman who answers the phone is pretty apologetic and efficient. She logs the fault, makes quite sure I’ve plugged the test phone into the master socket, warns me that if BT have to come out and it’s not their problem it will cost me £180 pounds odd, and whilst she’s explaining that says she’s run a test and the fault is in fact at the exchange, so no need to worry about it. Now charging me £180 pounds if it’s not their problem sounds unreasonable to me given I don’t get to charge them £180 pounds if it’s not my problem and I’ve lost a day’s work, but given the fault is apparently at the exchange, this seems a moot point for now. She says as I’m on BT Totalcare, I should get a response with 4 hours (that’s what I remember). She says I’ll be updated by SMS. Two seconds later, an SMS comes claiming they are ‘still investigating my fault’. In general, she was pretty helpful. So far so good.

4 Sep 12 18:30. I decide to look at BT’s online fault tracker. This says “Fault status: We are unable to give you an update on your fault at this time. Please try again within 2 hours for an update, or alternatively contact us on 0800 800 154, if you would like further information. Results of fault diagnosis: The problem is likely to be at your local BT Telephone Exchange. We will start your repair shortly. Sorry for any inconvenience.” Well, pity they can’t give me an update, but they’ve got 4 hours to do it. The “We will start your repair shortly” sounds more hopeful, but what ‘shortly’ means is yet to be determined.

4 Sep 12: 20:40. BT’s fault tracker says the same thing, and I haven’t heard anything yet, so I take BT up on their offer and call them on the number given. A man answers the phone. He says there’s no update (well, that’s fair enough, not quite 3 hours have passed) but ‘when there is an update we’ll contact you’. I get the feeling I’m being told off for ringing in. Actually, it’s BT’s service that doesn’t work here. So I say ‘it’s just that you are meant to provide a response within 4 hours and I wondered whether you’d got anywhere’. No, I am told, I am wrong. That’s BT CriticalCare. BT Totalcare is 24 hours. This seems rather odd to me, so I end the call and look it up on the internet through my flaky 3G. I Google ‘BT Totalcare’ and the third hit from the top is my blog article about what a waste of money it is – not good for BT, but brings back some bad memories. As it happens, the first rep, and my recollection, was correct. The BT site says ’We will respond within 4 hours of receiving your fault report and if the fault is not cleared during this period, we will advise you of progress‘. That doesn’t say ‘we will fix any fault within 24 hours’, it says that they will respond within 4 hours, and if it’s not fixed, they will advise me of progress. There’s an implication here that they are going to attempt to make some progress. All I wanted at this stage was an update even if it was ‘we think the fault’s at the exchange, but everyone’s gone home for the evening, so I’m sorry but it won’t be fixed until tomorrow’. Not to be put on the naughty step for calling in, nor told something in flat contradiction of BT’s own documentation. I think this guy gets one out of ten.

4 Sep 12: 20:55. Partly annoyed at being lied to, partly to see if it will help, and partly being amused by the prominence of my last fault on Google, I tweet. Within a couple of minutes @BTCare tweet back. Looks good. I send them the fault reference, and all goes silent.

4 Sep 12 21:00. BT’s fault tracker says the same thing.

4 Sep 12 21:58. BT’s online fault tracker is still unchanged, still saying “We are unable to give you an update on your fault at this time.” By “We will respond within 4 hours of receiving your fault report and if the fault is not cleared during this period, we will advise you of progress”, I take it to mean they will give me an update of some sort. So clearly they are saying they can’t do what they’ve promised to do.

4 Sep 12 23:22. Same story

4 Sep 12 07:31. Same story

4 Sep 12 09:21. Same story. Noted @BTCare replied to my tweet. Sent them a copy of this document.

4 Sep 12 10:12. Line back up – still no update from BT though! BT’s fault service still says the same thing.

4 Sep 12 10:30. A BT Engineer arrives at the front door. Apparently there was a fault at the exchange (faulty tie pairs), but he can’t clear the fault because my line is still reporting faulty (despite the fact it’s working).

4 Sep 12 10:45 I get a text (the first update I’ve had) saying “BT fault update: telephone number [removed], an engineer is working on the fault. We’ll let you know if we need to visit your premises”. This is clearly out of date (the engineer is already here), and turns out to be the only update I ever get.

4 Sep 12 11:06 The BT Engineer (who was perfectly professional) departs, having swapped over BT’s faulty NTE unit.