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BTopenworld in game of snakes and ladders

A tale of mambas, boas - but no snakecharmers

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BTopenworld has admitted the existence of "Mamba" and "Boa" - internal projects that should help solve its narrowband network congestion problems.

According to last night's BBC consumer affairs programme, Watchdog, the secret projects are designed to "constrict" the service (a boa kills by suffocation, a mamba by poison, by the way) and force people to upgrade to BT's broadband ADSL service.

This has been denied by BTopenworld which maintains the projects are merely concerned with network management.

It's now almost a month since The Register started receiving emails from readers complaining about a marked deterioration in the BTopenworld Anytime service.

During that time we have received scores of complaints from readers complaining about how they are unable to access the service, and how, when finally connected, they are often booted off within minutes.

Most of those who contacted us were moved to a new dial-up number last month. They claim their problems only started following this migration.

BT has consistently denied that it is deliberately offering these consumers a worse service.

The Register believes that BTopenworld's handling of this affair has been disastrous and goes far beyond allegations of offering some heavy users an inferior service. As serious as it is, until hard, irrefutable evidence emerges to the contrary - they will remain just that - allegations.

However, what cannot be ignored is the seemingly increasing number of complaints being circulated about BTopenworld's Net access service.

This is not some fly-by-night ISP. This is British Telecommunication's ISP. It has the resources of a nation-wide telco behind it and yet it is beset with problems.

Worse still, it's failure to handle customer complaints is a slur on the whole of BT. Internal reporting lines might mean that BTopenworld is a standalone operation inside the telco. But that's not how customers see it. To them, BTopenworld is BT.

And customer discontent with the telco will percolate down into customer satisfaction benchmarks so favoured by senior execs at BT.

Last night's item on Watchdog did not make the distinction between BTopenworld and BT. So millions of people who watched saw a story about BT mistreating its customers.

To make matters worse, no one from the company appeared live to answer questions on the show.

This is just one email we received today from a frustrated BT customer.

It reads: "I have sent 3 recorded letters, made over 10 phone calls and sent over fifteen emails and still had no reply about broadband and anytime? Not even a bounce back! What is customer service? BT have their own definition. WE IGNORE, YOU PAY!"

This is no way for any company - let alone BTopenworld - to behave. It needs to sort out its problems - and fast. ®

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