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BT apology after villagers lose broadband
Published 17/02/14

BT has promised to learn lessons from the way it has handled the failure of its broadband and telephone service in Binfield Heath.

Residents have been without either for up to two months due to faulty cables and criticised the company for failing to communicate with them sufficiently.

On Saturday, BT Openreach managing director Warren Buckley met about 40 residents at Dunsden village hall to apologise and promised that lessons would be learned.

Mr Buckley, who lives in Emmer Green, said he became personally involved because he was local and had been “appalled” by the situation.

He said: “I will be looking at this to use as an example when discussing what we need to do in the future.

“My intent is, between this winter and next winter, that we significantly improve the way in which we manage these situations.

“We have to take all that we’ve learned from this period to make sure we take action in BT and in the industry.”

Mr Buckley said the problem had been due to a common fault in the copper wiring that was probably caused by the floods and denied there was a link to the installation of high-speed broadband cables in the village in December.

Individual faults were first reported in late November and early December but it wasn’t until late January that a common problem was acknowledged by BT.

Engineers were then brought in to trace faulty cables and replace them.

Mr Buckley said: “We’ve got to work on how to improve communications. We should have traced that this was a group problem rather than an individual problem.”

Residents complained about receiving inconsistent updates from their internet service providers and being unable to contact BT Openreach to find out what the problem was.

Jane Lazarus said she found it difficult to understand the staff when she called customer services.

She said: “They are trained only to say certain sentences. It’s very difficult to get anything escalated. Also, the information coming back is incorrect. I’ve got one line still out. I reported it in December and I received endless messages saying it would be put right by the end of that month.”

John Dowling told Mr Buckley that the staff used language “designed to obfuscate rather than help”.

“My plea to you is if you are a communications business, it’s a two-way communication,” he said. “I think you dismally fail your customers because if one person gives an answer then another gives a totally different one.

“You are brilliant today coming here and you’re doing the right thing but most of your employees aren’t.”

Sharon Caple, who owns Binfield Heath Stores with her husband Gavin, had to wait for three-and-a-half weeks to receive a wireless card machine because her wired device wouldn’t work.

She said that while she was waiting, she received texts asking for feedback as if the work had been carried out.

Cosima Wagner, 43, a marketing manager, claimed the village had experienced connection problems intermittently for years.

She said: “We sit here for days, weeks, sometimes months, waiting for it to be escalated to a point where BT Openreach eventually gets involved.Your company is untouchable and it feels you’re unaccountable for the service you are supposed to provide.

“I believe there are going to be issues continuing with the phone lines. Every engineer will always say the lines here are not fit for purpose.”

Last year, about 120 households in Binfield Heath raised about 60,000 towards the installation of fibre optic broadband.

Mr Buckley said 90 per cent of faults were fixed within three days and that it was in his company’s best interests to make sure the infrastructure worked, adding: “We don’t make any money out of people not using my service.”

In a letter to residents on Tuesday, he said service had been restored to more than 20 homes but there were faults in one of the new cables which engineers were trying to repair.

He has pledged to return within three months to investigate the history of connection problems in the village.

* Anyone who needs to contact BT Openreach about the problems should email philip.beal@openreach.co.uk and put “Binfield Heath” in the subject line.

Published 17/02/14

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