BT needs to build broadband confidence

I hoped it was our hub playing tricks when the internet went down this morning. But, no, it was a second BT Broadband outage affecting much of Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland.

Having a second widespread outage in five days is certainly enough to shake confidence in the service.

But what affected my confidence even more was the company’s apparent inability to respond and keep its customers informed.


In a repeat of last Friday, the BT Broadband faults line switched to the engaged tone and simply dropped the call. On redialling, I was informed that “this service is not currently available, please call back”!

With all the resources of BT, should there not at least have been a recorded message apologising, assuring the customer that the situation was being investigated, all efforts were being made to restore the service and most importantly, giving an 0800 information line number where people could call for authoritative updates.

In the absence of such information, I was left connecting to Twitter using the 3G connection on my iPad. Even on Twitter there seemed, yet again, to be a deafening silence from BT.

This was eventually broken by a message from BTBusiness which said: “I’ve been informed that there is currently a broadband outage affecting Scotland, Northern England & Northern Ireland”.

Then, later, came a message from BTCare saying “We have been informed that there is currently...” and yes you have guessed the rest.

It’s an odd way to talk about your business.

BTCare is presumably part of BT, so they should know there is an outage, rather than “been informed” – a phrase that sounds like no-one wanted to take ownership of the problem! How surprising would that be in a company like BT?

There is some progress. On Friday the statement that was eventually issued at 3am (more than eight hours after my broadband connection dropped) said:

“We are aware of a temporary problem in the [Edinburgh], Fair Isles, Northern Highlands and Islands area that may be causing some users difficulties accessing the Internet. Our engineers are working to resolve this problem and we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”

This statement raised more questions than it answered:
  • Just how temporary does BT think an eight-hour outage is?
  • Where does most of Scotland, North of England and Northern Ireland fit into the “Edinburgh, Fair Isles, Northern Highlands and Islands area”?
  • And what part of the problem did BT not understand when it said “difficulties” accessing the internet. There was no ‘difficulty’... there was simply no connection!

In any case sending out statements on Twitter and referring people to a web page are of limited value when the internet is inaccessible for the majority.

The obvious means of communication in such a situation would be the message on the faults line referring callers to a special 0800 information line with dependable updates, plus the issuing of regular and authoritative statements to the media.

Like many people, my confidence in BT has taken another knock. It will be interesting to see how the company goes about re-building its reputation.
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