Monday, 5 October 2009

Help! I've been digitally disconnected!

Maybe it's punishment for my comments about Digital Britain and the mediocrity of our telecoms infrastructure (see last post below). Maybe it's just bad luck. But BT have decided to put me on the wrong side of the 'digital divide'.

What have I done wrong? I've moved to a new home, in a nice new area. And one that's supposedly all hooked up to BT - the monopoly provider here. I'm locked into a contract with them from my previous address. I've paid my rental, and the £122 connection fee, and had the set-up all booked. Should have been plain sailing.

Then a text from BT postponing it for a week. Then a voicemail postponing it - indefinitely!

What's the problem?

Well, it seems BT failed to put in enough capacity to provide services to the several thousand homes being built in this area. They say the landowner won't let them on their land to upgrade.

The landowner, however, says BT have cocked it up big time and want to dig up all the roads that have just been laid, landscaped and signed off for handing over to the local council.

While all this finger-pointing goes on, new residents moving in are being told there is no immediate prospect of a phone line or broadband. One resident has been told it will be at least 3 months. When I talk to BT, they stonewall and say there are confidential issues involved... too confidential to tell paying customers when they might get a phone.

Maybe a little irony here?

I am aware that there is perhaps a little irony here. Both in BT's position in promoting home-based working - and my own in doing likewise. This is the other side of the story here, for sure, and it shows that not everything in the flexibility garden is always rosy.

But it's a serious problem for home-based businesses if they have no broadband. And expensive too, to have calls routed to my mobile, and the long sessions in cafes to use the wi-fi. Being a journalist I have the flexibility to get round some of the problems. But if I was in a buying-and-selling kind of business, the impact could be disastrous.

Digital Britain? When there's not enough capacity to give new homes even a phone line, Digital Britain seems to be just a distant dream! And universal service? I don't know what this means any more.