You'll remember last week, won't you, when Graeme Wearden professed himself puzzled by a strange BT video that appeared to be comparing its retail offering to a homeless waterfowl. It struck a chord with Peter Clarke, a childhood friend of mine from the West Country. He runs a language school in Torquay — you know, where Basil Fawlty comes from — and if that isn't enough to be getting on with, his personal biochemistry has gone awry. He's had to sign up for that popular chemotherapy and radiotherapy scheme recommended for all those hip kids for whom apoptosis is no longer enough.
So. Peter, what's your experience of broadband?
"It works at twice the speed of light — from 7:30 to 18:00 every day of the week. Then it connects for a couple of minutes before collapsing in a heap of nothingness. As I get home at 18:30 and my daughter does her homework at 19:30, we're in chocolate sheepdog territory. Daughter blames me, I blame the ISP, the ISP blames BT, and BT stares off into the distance humming the theme tune from Steptoe and Son.
Of course, you can't just call a BT engineer — and I can't email the ISP, because the connection doesn't stay up long enough. I call them on the phone and then they can't call BT because BT's engineering department doesn't work evenings. So the ISP raises a ticket. BT finally gets it, but is programmed to deny all responsibility. The ISP insists: BT then says 'if we come out and it's not our fault, it'll cost you an arm and a leg' — which, frankly, the hospital would rather I kept.
Eventually, BT sends someone out. Is it a DSL specialist? Is it barnacles. It's a standard bloke called Tim or Dan or Dick, who of course can't fix it — because when they do come out, it's during the day when the thing's working fine. We explain the problem, they run their tests, they go away, Eventually, their report trickles through BT's internal bits until it reaches someone who reads it, misunderstands it, says 'no fault found' and cancels the ticket. And round we go again. And again. Been going on for months.
All this time, I'm paying my ISP for broadband I can't actually use. The ISP would fix it if they could, while BT seems constitutionally unable to understand how to fix it even if they wanted to."
But surely there must be some light in your digital life?
"Oh yes. Hope you're sitting down, because I've got something nice to say about Microsoft. Hello? Hello?"
Go ahead. Don't mind the gasping sounds.
"Well, I've just got Microsoft Office — the student and teacher edition that comes in at a whacking discount. I installed it last week at the school, and it went in perfectly onto all the computers except one — which belonged to a co-director. On that, it messed up Microsoft Outlook so badly that the MS Bangalore helpline were powerless to help.
Eventually, I spent all afternoon with dear Amos, one of the research engineers, who spent three hours remotely accessing the messed up computer and with infinite patience, on both his side and mine, he finally managed to get things to install correctly. In total this one installation (the disc cost me £80 I think), Microsoft has spent about twelve man hours rectifying a problem in the registry caused by a corrupt installation file. I think that's taken care of their margins on that sale, don't you?"
A satisfied customer. They should have him stuffed.