Friday

Friday 29/11/2002Not that phone companies ever blame themselves for anything, of course. A word of advice if you're thinking about buying ADSL: make sure you find an ISP you'll be happy with for years to come before you start using the service.

Friday 29/11/2002
Not that phone companies ever blame themselves for anything, of course. A word of advice if you're thinking about buying ADSL: make sure you find an ISP you'll be happy with for years to come before you start using the service. You can't do this, of course, but try. For if you don't, or if you decide for some other reason that a different ISP has a better service, you'll then enter a world of pain called migration. It is seemingly more difficult for a subscriber to migrate from one broadband ISP to another than it is for elephants to fly south for the winter. In principle, it's easy. Let's say you're with Satanic Internet Services, but would rather be with Heavenly Hosts. You check with Satanic, called rather tactlessly the losing ISP, that they'll let you go, and then you tell Heavenly Hosts that you wish to commence relations. Heavenly then tells BT, who manage all the ADSL connections in the country, and BT confirms this with Satanic. There is a small flurry of paperwork, perhaps some new kit at the subscriber's end, and things carry on in sweetness and light. And if you believe that, you'll believe anything. Let's reveal what really happens. Our heroic customer -- who just happens to be Chris Lewis, techno wunderkind at ZDNet UK -- decided to switch. He made the right phone calls, got the right noises... and then one morning a BT engineer turns up to remove his router. Mr Lewis, being canny to the ways of telcos, advised the engineer that this would not be happening until the migration had happened and all was provably well. Half an hour later, the DSL line went dead -- and the nightmare came alive. I'll spare you the full Kafkaesque horror of Mr Lewis' dealings with the two ISPs and BT, but BT had decided that the service should be ceased rather than transferred and was blaming everyone else -- including, in BT's traditional fashion, Oftel -- for the state of affairs. And no, they couldn't just turn it back on again for at least a week because "the equipment's been removed from the exchange." For those wanting an object lesson in poor customer service and world-standard buck passing, just try any situation involving three telecommunications companies having to cooperate. They might hate each other a lot, but that's nothing compared to the unmasked contempt they feel -- and willing show -- for the customer. As Mr Lewis asks, in tones of unmitigated menace, "when it is in the middle of processing a migration order why does BT choose the least helpful option if confronted with conflicting requests on a line? And having chosen that option, why does it not even bother to inform the new ISP that the migration has been aborted?" Why indeed? In our direct experience, migration goes wrong around 90 percent of the time, sometimes leaving people without service for weeks. It's damaging the broadband market in this country, and we're not going to let it lie. To have your say online click on TalkBack and go to the ZDNet UK forums.

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