Monday 8 August 2016

Talking to Talk Talk, part 2

Remember, this started in October 2014. Yes. nearly two years ago.

Jodie, who I mentioned on 21 July, has vanished. Jodie is with the Office of the CEO, which sounds awesome, until you find out that it's just another complaints department.

In October of 2014, I signed the contract "should take 70 working days, can take longer". My contact then was Phil. Phil was good, we got on well, he got me the information I needed, and a good price, and I signed on the dotted line.

Talktalk don't do the actual connection, that's done by BTOR (British Telecom Openreach). BTOR decided to run the line south from here to a point about a mile away. There's a conduit along my road, so it sounded hopeful. But then they checked to see if the conduit was unblocked. Bad news - a blockage. So they applied for an RTO (Road Traffic Order) and two months later, then rodded the blockage. Then they tested it  and found another blockage. Two months for another RTO, and another rodding, another blockage. This looped until December of 2105, so 14 months after the original order, they decided that the southerly route was impassable, and they'd go for a northerly route that would be about 500 meters to the access point.

They checked the conduit - a blockage. They rodded, and found another blockage. This went on until May 2016.

By then, my case had been escalated to TalkTalk Escalations, and was being run by Matt. Matt did his best (and he's still one of the very few people at TalkTalk who ever call back when you leave a message) and then again to TalkTalk Escalations Escalations (that isn't their real name, I forget what the department is called) and was being handled by Kyle.

It was Kyle who broke the bad news. The blockage was really bad, and BTOR said that they couldn't even make a plan until September. Why the four month delay? I don't know, but I expressed my displeasure. Kyle suggested I contact my local council to see what could be done to speed things up.

So I did that; I spoke to my local councillor Martin, and he suggested I speak to the Road Traffic Authority (that might not be their real title), and the RTA man was very disgruntled at the suggestion (from TalkTalk) that they had been the source of the delays, so they involved BTOR, who told me in no uncertain terms that I shouldn't have gone over their heads, that it was TalkTalk's job to press the case.

I think there was a bit of a kerfuffle. I consider myslef blameless, I phoned the Council because TalkTalk suggested I do that. Anyway, at that point, my case was taken on by the Office of the CEO, and Graeme was now my contact.

I was much encouraged. The Office of the CEO sounded like Baroness Harding was taking a personal interest in my case. Except it isn't like that, the OCEO is just a (fairly large) complaints department. And no-one there ever calls you back if you call them and they aren't there (true about 98% of the time). So Graeme pushed my case, and things seemed to be happening. Sort of. BTOR decided that the northern route wasn't going to work, so they'd run via the southern route. That's the one they first thought of, that had been tried and found wanting a couple of years ago, and blockages don't unblock themselves, so it'll still be blocked,but who am I to criticise BTOR planners?

But then after a few weeks, when I hadn't heard from Graeme for rather a while, I phoned him, and got a recorded message saying that he's no longer with the company.

Well, that happens, but what annoyed me was that with Graeme's departure, my case was back in limbo; no-one had been assigned to it.

So I phoned all the  people I could think of, until eventually, I got to talk to a person (Matt, actually) and explained that I was in OCEO limbo, and something happened, because I was assigned to someone else at the OCEO.

A week went by, and I couldn't contact that person, and she didn't contact me, and I felt sadly neglected, and kicked up another fuss. And I got assigned to Jodie, and that's where I'd got to in my previous blog on July 21.

So what follows is new.

On August 2, I got a letter from Bucks County Council. They were going to dig up and resurface the whole my my road! This, of course would be a great opportunilty for BTOR to lay conduits; they could run either north, or south, or both if they wanted. And because BCC already had the necessary permits, they could piggyback on that.

So, all excited, I phoned Jodie. No answer. I emailed Jodie. No answer. I phoned all the numbers I could think of, and After a couple of days got an answer from Jodie's manager - Jodie was absent. I don't know if she was off sick, or on holiday, or left the company, no-one bothered to tell me. If Jodie reads this, I hope it was something minor and you're fine now. But it left me with a problem. here's this great opportunity for BTOR, and I'm pretty sure that BCC wouldn't have told them (because why would they?). And I can't tell them because I'm only supposed to talk to TalkTalk, and I can't talk to TalkTalk because Jodie has vanished.

So I went down my usual list; Matt, Kyle, and anyone else who A) works for TalkTalk and B) is actually contactable, or who calls you back when you call them. And I'm not going to tell you Matt or Kyle's full name and phone number, because helpful people at TalkTalk are rare and precious and I don't want lots of other people talking to them, distracting them from my case. Find your own contacts.

And that's how come my case was taken out of the Office of the CEO and escalated.

What, I hear you asking, would be an escalation from the OCEO. Was I about to get Baroness Harding herself on my case, in her ermine robes and tiara? Because she was one of the people I had emailed.

No, sadly. Not a Baroness, not a Princess, not even a Queen. What I got was Paul. Paul was previously in the Royal Signals, so at least he has some understanding of telecomms. Paul's job, he told me, is to kick BTOR. I hope he has steel-toed boots, he's going to need them.

So Paul is asking BTOR whether they have actually considered the overhead route (they haven't) and why not (we're waiting for the answer) because *surely* stringing the cable on the existing telephone poles has to be vastly easier than digging a mile-long trench along a road that's only just been resurfaced and BCC aren't going to let anyone dig it up for two years unless it's a dire emergency. Because there's an impending problem; after BCC have resurfaced the entire road, they are going to be *very* reluctant to let anyone dig up their nice new road, it's called "section 56". I might have that number wrong, I'm not an expert at their code words, but what it means is "No digging up the road for two years".

And while I was browsing around TalkTalk's web site looking for information, I found that they're offering the ethernet connection that I signed up for, at about half the price that I promised to pay (which, of course, I haven't paid because they haven't delivered yet). So I asked Paul about that, and he said that he can't talk about commercial matters, which I quite understand, because I took the same line when I ran Dr Solomon's Software, I'll answer any technical question, but if you want to talk prices, that's beyond my competence, I'll get a commercial guy to talk to you). "Who's my commercial contact?" I asked.


Phil actually left TalkTalk about 18 months ago, but then rejoined a year later.

So I phoned Phil, and Phil, bless him, remembered me. In fact, he'd discussed my case recently with Matt (see above). And we talked. And he seems amenable to getting down to today's price. Which means that I might not have to explain that a contract signed two years ago for delivery in 70 working days (maybe a bit more) that was still undelivered two years later, is grounds for saying, well, you haven't delivered your end of the contract, so I'm not going to deliver mine.

Phil asked me about progress so far, and I explained to him that we were back in the situation as of October 2014, except that I at least (and possibly BTOR) know that there are severe blockages in the conduit, which we hadn't known two years ago. Is this progress? You tell me.

And then I asked him about EFM (ethernet in the first mile), which can be delivered over copper wires, and *surely* BTOR can do copper wires? I mean, I know they can, because we already have "megastream" which uses two wires of four available, and I also have three DSLs which uses a pair each, and a fax line, which *surely* we don't need any more.

So Phil is looking into getting that to me, which will give me "up to 20 megabits" which will, he thinks, give me 14 megabits, and I'm hoping that it might actually give me 10, which is not the 100 that I actually want, but it'll be good to have until the fibre happens.

I think I'll go out caching tomorrow.

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