East Midlands network-sniffer wails: Openreach, fix my outage-ridden line

UK techie's tests reveal half-dozen daily fails, infrastructure bods vow to look into it

An irritated techie from Nottinghamshire, in the East Midlands of England, has hit out at Openreach after what he claimed was a year-long series of daily micro-outages that make it "often impossible" to work from home.

Ian Sampson of North Wheatley got in touch with The Register after being driven to distraction by what he described as a line fault somewhere on comms infrastructure provider Openreach's network that affected everyone in his village, no matter which ISP they were with.

"We have it across the whole village... Talktalk, Plusnet and BT," he told us, claiming that when he called his own ISP and got through to first-line tech support, "you're going off-script and they just don’t accept that."

Sampson added that he had done some fault-finding on his own and his neighbours' phone lines using Raspberry Pis set up to ping Google every two minutes and log the results. He discovered that "at times, the broadband totally fails and then recovers", which he told El Reg was made even more painful thanks to the five minutes it takes for his DSL connection to resynchronise.

"The number of conference calls where I've lost all IP connectivity to the internet," lamented Sampson. "I've never met any service like this."

He also claimed that his ISP, with which he has a consumer line subscription, was not as fast as he would have liked in getting Openreach – which looks after the wires, ducts, cabinets and exchanges that hook up most of the UK to its broadband and telephone network – to fix the problems. He added that direct approaches to both Openreach and Ofcom achieved little from his point of view.

Odd situation? Quite

Openreach itself will not entertain complaints from end users. As consumers' contracts are with their ISPs, it is the ISP who is ultimately liable for the enraged tongue-lashings even if the problem actually lies with Openreach's creaking network.

Though Ofcom does regulate Openreach, this is at a higher level of ensuring the infrastructure operator meets repair time targets and SLAs with the ISPs who are its customers, as we reported last year. Ofcom's Openreach Monitoring Unit does have a consumer complaints department, though its priority is recording information rather than chasing up specific faults.

We also understand that every ISP must be a member of an alternative dispute resolution scheme, in case aggrieved customers want to take things to the next step. While this doesn't exactly help Sampson's situation (why not be able to complain directly to the people responsible for maintaining the seemingly dodgy connection?), it is at least another option available.

A spokesperson for Openreach told us: "Engineers have visited Mr Sampson twice during the last 12 months – in April and July. On both occasions they carried out a successful full test of the local network, without experiencing any issues. But given the problems being reported, we're going to investigate further. We'll be sending out engineers to carry out an even more detailed check of the local network, and that of neighbouring properties, to try and get to the bottom of the issues that have been raised." ®




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