I wrote last week about my lack of broadband service from Pipex, and thought I should write a follow-up to that post. The news is, frankly, not good. When we left matters, BT were looking into a fault on my line, and I’d emailed the whole sorry story to some very senior Pipex staff.

Friday, 15th August

BT contacted me at lunchtime to tell me the fault on my line had been fixed.

2pm: Tiscali High-level Support (or words to that effect) call me. I explain that BT say they’ve fixed an issue, but if they haven’t, I will call my contact there back first thing on Monday

7pm: Get home. Plug router in. Phone is fine; ADSL is down. I phone BT and speak to Lee. Lee runs a test on my line again; the line is in very good health, he tells me. Suggests I talk to my ISP; the modem at the exchange might need re-syncing after the fault on the line was repaired.

Monday, 18th August

I call my contact in High-level Complaints, to explain that BT found a fault on the line, fixed it, but this made no difference to my lack of ADSL. She tells me that an engineer will phone me back around 3pm, and that she will give me a courtesy call around half four.

No engineer phones by half four; I try to call high-level support but it seems like there’s no-one on Tiscali front-desk to put me through. I call the standard support line. (Update: my high-level support contact confirms she did try to call me, but called my home number. I’d like to clarify that the problem has never been the support staff, either at Head Office or in the callcentre, but specifically the engineering staff).

I speak to Ricardo in front-line support. He tells me he will do everything to solve my problem, and that an engineer will call me back.

At 1815, an engineer calls. He proceeds to do the same diagnostics everybody else has so far. I point out that all I’m waiting on is the test where the line is unloaded, and that the router is unplugged, so he can just do that and we can proceed.

He points out he thought the router was connected, and could I plug it in? I explain that no, I’m not at home. He tells me I need to be at home for these diagnostics: they need to do a test with the router connected and with the router disconnected at the same time.

I point out that every single time I have been home for a call from engineering, they have failed to call me.

He asks me when I am next in. After some discussion – in which I point out that I will gladly be at home if they can guarantee they’ll phone on time – he tells me an engineer will call some time after seven on Tuesday night. I will be in to receive that call. If I am, we can perform the tests, and hopefully get this fixed.

It is now nine days without service; this is the second time I’ve spoken to a second-line engineer, and the fourth time that second-line engineering has failed to call back when they say they would.

I make my point quite clear: I will wait for second-line engineering to call on Tuesday night. If they do not call on Tuesday night, as they have promised, on Wednesday morning I will ring the cancellations department and look to close my Pipex account as soon as possible.

Eight days. Ten phone calls. No progress.

Tuesday, 19th August

I get home at about half five.

Tiscali High-level Complaints call at half six, to see how I got on with engineering. I explain that they were three and a half hours late calling me back, and that they couldn’t do anything because I was at work. I also explain that they’ve promised to call me back at some time after 7pm tonight. High-level support/complaints explain that they’ll call again on Wednesday to see how I got on.

No-one has called by 10pm. I go to bed, because I’m coming down with something like a throat infection.

Wednesday, 20th August

It is now nine days since my broadband connection disappeared. This morning, I am calling Pipex Cancellations to acquire a MAC code (a process they’ve already manage to mess up for me once before), and I’m moving to Zen as soon as possible. I may well transfer the fault, but I’d like to transfer the fault to someone who’s got some experience in customer support.

Again, I will be emailing this some senior staff at Pipex, and attempting to be reimbursed for the lack of service I’ve had since last Sunday.

I’ve been without broadband for five days now, and the customer service I’ve received from my ISP – Pipex – is now beginning to verge on the execrable. Given that, I felt I was going to have to start keeping a log of what has been happening, if only so I can keep the facts straight. There seemed to be no better place to do this in public – given that I would like this resolved soon – and so what follows is an (ongoing) catalogue of my woeful period with their customer services team.

Sunday, 10th August

At 11.30am, I leave the house to go shopping. I have left a download running which is nearly complete. As I walk down the road to the bus stop, I notice some BT engineers fiddling with some cabling in the street. This fact may, or may not, later become significant. I return from shoping at about 12.40pm, and discover that I no longer have an internet connection.

My router (a Netgear DG834G) is working fine: I can log into it. My phoneline is also behaving correctly. The only problem is the ADSL: the ADSL link light on the router flashes orange for a while, and then goes blank. A few minutes later, it starts to flash orange again. This repeats.

Pipex customer support isn’t available on Sundays, so I have to call them on Monday. This is annoying because I was meant to be working on a GDC pitch on this day, and would have to do so “blind” – and then submit it first thing on Monday at work.

Monday, 11th August

I call Pipex customer support shortly after eight, when they open. I am on hold for ten minutes, at 10p a minute. When I speak to a customer support operative, they are helpful: we quickly run over a few simple diagnostics, and they ask me to use the “test” socket inside my BT socket (which requires unscrewing the socket) to confirm things aren’t working. I hang up, and do so. I spend another seven minutes on hold, and speak to a different customer support operative. I explain the situation. He tells me that he now has enough to pass my information on to a second line engineer, who will call me in the next 48 hours.

I head into work, late, having spent about twenty-five minutes on the phone to Pipex support.

Tuesday, 12th August

An engineer calls me at about 10am, when I am at work. We run over the same diagnostics that I have already performed. I am then asked to unplug the router so they can perform one final test on an unloaded line; they won’t be able to call BT until I do so. I explain that I’m at work, and can’t do that. When, I ask, is the earliest they can call? They tell me they’ll call me at 8am the following day, which I agree to, as it’s the most convenient time to call me.

Wednesday, 13th August

By 8.55am, nobody has called from Pipex. I phone customer support, and speak to a first line support representative. I explain the situation. He apologises, and looks at my file. He tells me that he’s seen that his colleague has already logged on, and actually I *don’t* need to be at home: they have all the information they need and they have already started proceedings with BT. I confirm that this is correct, and he tells me that all is fine, and that I should go to work, and they’d keep me posted. I’m annoyed I’ve waited for so long, but pleased that progress is being made.

At 2pm, a second-line Pipex engineer phones me.

I answer the same diagnostic questions for the fourth time. They ask me to unplug the router. I explain that I can’t, because I’m at work. I tell them I will be home from work by about 7pm, or they can call first thing in the morning. I also explain that I was told by their colleague, five hours earlier, that I would not have to be home to perform the unloaded line test, and that proceedings were afoot with BT.

She tells me that they cannot talk to BT until they have performed this test.

At which point, I posit that either she is lying to me, or that her colleague this morning has lied to me. Either way, I’m pretty angry. I wouldn’t have minded this morning if I’d been told to leave things unplugged at home, so they could perform the test in my absence; instead, I was fobbed off with positive remarks, and we are back to square one.

She asks when a good time to call is. I suggest the first possible opportunity – 8am tomorrow? She tells me they don’t start til half nine, and so perhaps 10am would be good? I grudgingly accept.

Oh, wait, she says. I’m not in tomorrow. Can I call you on Friday? She explains that she would like to solve this issue personally.

I am now very angry. I explain, as reasonably as I can, that I haven’t had any connectivity for four days – for which I am paying them – and that asking me if I can wait another day really isn’t very acceptable. I would like to speak to somebody – anybody – at 10am on Thursday, if only to try to resolve this sooner. I also point out that they have made me late for work every day this week – on the week when I have a fairly significant deadline and a lot of work – and that waiting for them on Thursday morning will make me late once again.

I am, of course, unable to work from home because I have no internet connection.

She tells me that she will inform a colleague of hers that they are to phone me at 10am on Thursday morning. I accept that that is as good as I’m going to get, and hang up. I tell my work colleagues I will be late on Thursday morning, and there’s nothing I can do.

Thursday, 14th August

It is half past ten and nobody has called. I give them half an hour.

11am: I call frontline support. Explained the whole situation and they confirmed that the secondline support team have not passed my concern to BT yet. This agrees with both secondline engineers; it also means that the frontline support person I spoke to on Wedensday at 8am was lying.

They put me on hold and try to speak to “Helpdesk” and then a Second Line engineer.

Second line support will call me back in “an hour”, they tell me. I explain that I will unplug the router, to remove any load on the line for the final test, and then I will go to work, for which I am about three hours late.

As I write this, I am at work, it is nearly an hour and a half since I called, and they have not called me back. Par for the course.

My next plan of action involves calling BT themselves, to see if they can do anything. Oh, and emailing this to Steve Horley, who appears to MD of Consumer Products and Marketing for the UK, and Mary Turner, who is the CEO. If I can’t get any service going in at the bottom, I can surely try going in at the top.

I will keep you posted as to my progress. I am convinced it’s fault with the line between my house and the exchange – as, to be honest, are most of the Pipex engineers – so it’s not an ISP-specific problem. The quality of support I have received is, however, very much an ISP-specific problem.

I think “execrable” is a reasonable approximation of it so far.