my BT
Wholesale Hell

The DACS on the outside of the houseOnce upon a time BT sent me an email offering me broadband for the price I was already paying for my dial-up connection. Like all offers that seem to good to be true it was. The offer was called BT Anytime Plus and it was emailed to me on 21st Jan 2005. For some reason the BT site wouldn't accept my order online, but they took it over the phone and I got an email confirming the order on 9th Feb, my modem and stuff was sent out and on the 20th I got a message saying my service had been activated.

so far so good . . .

       . . . everything seemed to be going smoothly. I'd even had a call from an engineer to see if my broadband was going ok; a bit pointless as I hadn't even got my modem by then, but at least it looked like I was going to get some customer service. Enthused, I got out all the equipment, installed the drivers, fitted the modem and the microfilters and tried to get a connection. I got a flashing ADSL light on the modem, which meant that there was no signal going down the phone line.

hanging on the telephone

I rang the technical help people. They gave my line a test and talked me through the microfilters which did no good and then suggested I plugged the modem into the master phone socket. I did that with no success and rang them back. Every time you ring them you're stuck waiting 20-30 minutes on a national rate line and when you finally get through they read the notes they've got on you but still insist on doing everything they've done before, before they're prepared to consider that there might be a problem. After I finally got through the operator tested my line again and talked me through every combination of microfilter.

still no success

After ringing BT a few times they admitted there was a problem and somewhere along the line it transpired that it was a DACS on the line. They agreed to send out an engineer, but after a few days nothing had happened. This kept on happening; I rang; there was no news; they suggested I ring again in a few days; and every time, after 20-30 minutes hanging on, they went through all the rigmarole they always go through. Meanwhile I was having to pick up my emails etc on a pay as you go connection as well as paying for the broadband I wasn't getting.

Eventually I got so frustrated I decided to cancel so instead of the technical people I rang the sales desk. They talked me out of cancelling, saying I would get full compensation for the time I wasn't connected, and that I could take out another Anytime dial up connection (which was priced at £1 for the first month) while the problem was being sorted. Meanwhile they'd make sure an engineer came out to remove the DACS

would you adam and eve it . . .

        . . . the threat of cancellation spurred them into action and an engineer turned up on the Saturday, just as I was about to go out. He did a little work, shoved a few wires down the line and left saying someone would have to come back to remove the DACS. The first thing I noticed when I tried reconnecting with the new Anytime dial up I'd taken out was that the dial up connection was now about 50% faster. When I rang BT during the week to find out when the second engineer was coming out to remove the DACS they contacted BT wholesale who said that it was removed. So they suggested I tried to connect again, which I did from the master phone socket.

I was still getting a flashing ADSL . . .

       . . . so I rang them back . . .      . . . and rang them back . . .       . . . and rang them back . . .       . . . and rang them back . . .       . . . and rang them back . . .        . . . until my month of dial up for £1 was nearly over and they still didn't get my line sorted. Then I rang them up and I really did cancel. Wouldn't you! I was signing on at the time and I couldn't afford to pay for two internet connections. BT Broadband paid me compensation and I rang the BT dial up people to cancel my second BT internet package and transfer the main one back to Anytime dial up.

the very nice people in New Delhi

Unlike all the broadband call centres which were based in the UK the dial up people were based in New Delhi. Anyway, the very nice people in New Delhi connected be back using my debit card and also suggested that I cancelled any direct debit I had with BT broadband. I was well grateful for that suggestion, because the most outrageous bit of the whole saga was still to come.

Having agreed and paid compensation for the three months I should have been receiving broadband and wasn't BT still tried to take over £200, holding me to contract not at the Anytime Plus offer rate, but at the full broadband rate which was a tenner more. If I hadn't followed New Delhi's advice my bank account would have received one hell of a shock. As it was a couple of angry phone calls sorted that one out!

BT Wolesale was the problem

no point of contact

As far as I can see the problem is all to do with BT being broken up. The people I needed to sort the problem on the line was BT Wholesale, but every time I rang BT I only got to speak to BT Broadband who are a retail outlet who hire bandwidth off BT Wholesale. They then have to contact BT Wholesale to get them to do the work and if they tell BT Broadband that the work is done when I know damn well it isn't, BT Broadband take their word for it and nothing happens. I then ring them again and the same nothing happens...

Meanwhile I'm screaming to have a word with BT Wholesale, but they have no point of contact with the public. BT isn't one megalith now; it's a group of megaliths, communications between them are pathetic and progress chasing non-existant. I didn't even hear back when I wrote a letter of complaint. It's very frustrating.

with BT the little man doesn’t stand a chance . . .

. . . so I made the break to UK Online

Frustrated by BT's shortcomings I eventually made the switch to UK Online, having been advised by the very nice people in New Delhi on how I could do this and keep my BT email address. I took up a prepaid dial up package with them, with the intention of switching over to broadband, and got on with the rest of my life.

In the meantime I got a bit of work putting a magazine together, building websites and continued with the little bit of homeworking I did painting kiddies parcels. Then in the new year I started a part time job helping art students on the Apple Macs at Solihull 6th Form College. When the Summer Holidays came and I had a little time I decided to try for broadband again, and I placed an order through UK Online. They took the order, I got all the equipment, my line was activated and I wired everything up. The power light was fine and the ethernet light (into my computer) was fine, but . . .

. . . I was still getting a flashing ADSL

I rang UK Online who tested my line and talked me through the microfilters again. They then got me to plug straight into the test socket hidden inside the master socket and when all that failed they lodged a fault with BT. BT looked at it and logged it off saying the work had been done and there was nothing wrong with my line. A very nice lady named Lynne rang me from UK Online, first to say what they were doing about my case and that they might send me another router, and then to say they didn't think they could connect me and that they were cancelling the broadband order and refunding everything I'd paid.

The refund came through fine, but I still needed broadband. Yes I can get an intermittent broadband signal from my new laptop, which seeks out and logs in to a couple of neighbours wireless networks, but technically that's illegal (stealing bandwidth?), I can only get it in the front room and I still have to dial up on my desktop. As I couldn't get to talk to BT Wholesale the only way open for me was to contact the regulating body Ofcom. Their website was very confusing and seemed to imply that I had to be in dispute with a telecom and reach an impasse before they could become involved; my agument seemed to be with BT Wholesale and how do you start a dispute with people you can't talk to .However I filled in a form for people who had "markers" on their line which needed removing (not strictly correct) and hoped for the best.

just when I thought Ofcom had gone incommunicado

I had filled in one of these forms with Ofcom the first time round without success and I didn't hear anything again for ages. However, just when I thought Ofcom had gone incommunicado a man from BT (Retail) rang me up saying that they'd been contacted by Ofcom and asked to look into my situation. He told me to get back to UK Online and get them to fill in a "manual requirement form". He said that if they did that he'd be able to follow my case personally. He also pointed out that . . .

“. . . noone speaks to BT Wholesale”

I got back in touch with Lynne at UK Online and she got some geezer to reopen my case and get back in touch with BT. I think it was the mention of Ofcom wot done it!

Yes Sir, DACS my BT . . .

a BT van

. . . or not

Anyways a bod from BT turned up when I was out to look at the DACS unit. He had a look and left, leaving a note saying that my phone line was separate from the other two numbers coming into us and next door, which did share a line and a DACS. However Dacs or no DACS my broadband still doesn't work and the BT engineer didn't have the gumption to have a look around to see if there was anything else that might be wrong with my line.

The following day a geezer called Casper from UK Online rang to say that he was cacelling my broadband order (again) as he couldn't get BT to connect me. I thought he was giving up a bit easily, but having just heard that UK Online was now owned be a certain evil megalomaniac ex-boss of mine I didn't fight it. However if he knew how easily his staff gave up on trying to tye me into a one year contract, then I'm sure Rupert . . .

. . . Murdoch would be tailspinning in his private jet . . .

. . . not least because failure to connect someone through a BT line could well result in a move to cable, and of course the only reason Murdoch bought Easynet and with it UK Online was so that he could sell the internet with Sky TV as direct competition to cable. T'other problem was that when Casper cancelled my UK Online broadband he didn't tell me he was switching me over to Pay As You Go dial up, so I got a nasty surprise when my existing dial up connection was cut, and for a while the only way I could get the internet was by hacking into neighbours' wireless connections.

That's all sorted now and I'm on Pay As You Go while I assess my options. However UK Online have left a marker on my line though and noone else will even consider taking my order while that's there. AARGH!!


As I said, DACS or no DACS I still haven't got broadband and the engineer who visited my house while I was at work must have known this, so why the heck didn't he look around to see what else might be the matter. When I'd discussed it with UK Online we'd come to the conclusion that it could be the DACS or it could be something else like bad wiring and they put in an order for BT Wholesale to put whatever it was right. Me and my landlord have been looking round and we have found some . . .

extremely dodgy looking wiring . . .

. . . but is it mine.

There are two wires ging from the BT junction box into the house. One is a reasonably new looking, nice thick wire looking like it's in excellent condition, while the other has all cracks in the plastic and is even joined together with masking tape in one place. From following it into the house as far as we can we think the dodgy looking wire is mine. However we can't be sure and BT Wholesale always threaten to charge you lots of money if you call them out on a wild goose chase. It's on the silly little bits of card they pop through the door when they call and you're not in!

I've put some photos of the wiring below so you can pass judgement

wire joined with masking tape

Is this the problem that the BT engineers failed to spot!

Two months after I emailed UKonline to get the marker removed it was still there so I went on the Ofcom site again and low and behold there was a phone number for BT Wholesale. Clearly I'm not the only person screaming blue muder over the way they hide from their victims. However they said they couldn't remove the marker without UKonlines say so, so I sent another email to UKonline asking them to remove the marker . . .

. . . I think I'm going round in circles again . . .

Still, I'm saving money as I'm doing most of my internet stuff by seeking out networks on my lap top (tut tut). It would be nice to have a solid coonection that I can rely on though, as one of the networks I can normally connect to is down at the moment, but no ISP will even consider my order while the marker remains unless I can persuade my landlord to accept cable into the house and lets face it why should he.

If BT did their job properly I wouldn't even be thinking of it . . .

. . . is this why a third of the country has gone cable?

What Pipex is saying:

"Unfortunately we cannot proceed with your order as there is an incompatible product on the line. Please contact BT"

What the Zen website is saying:

"Your exchange is ADSL enabled, and our initial test on your line indicates that your line should be able to have an ADSL broadband service that provides a line rate up to 1Mbps. However due to the length of your line the 1Mbps service may require an engineer visit who will, where possible, supply the broadband service. Our test also indicates that your line should be able to support a potential ADSL Max broadband line rate of 5.5Mbps up to 8Mbps. The actual ADSL Max line rate supportable will be determined during the first 10 days of use, after which time the highest stable rate possible will be set. If you decide to place an order, a further test will be performed to confirm if your line is suitable for the service you wish to purchase. Thank you for your interest."

classic Catch 22?

The man from BT Wholesale told me was that it is the responsibility of the people I hire my line from to make sure that my line is adequate, and that's BT retail. BT retail have always said that It's the responsibility of BT Wholesale and that I should go through my ISP to get my line sorted, so just when I thought I was in a classic Catch 22 situation of having to go through my ISP to get something done but not being able to get an ISP until something is done this guy's just gone and added another imponderable to the equation!

confused . . .

 . . I am . . .

. . . you should be

He also said that the marker could't be removed from my line without the sayso of Easynet, the company that owns UKonline and therefore owns the marker on my line. I've emailed UKonline again and nothings happened (Well, they can't be bothered now, can they!), and I've been back to the Ofcom website which now just gives me a number to contact BT Wholesale and no way to contact Ofcom themselves to complain.

In short I couldn't contact Ofcom with my problem, UKonline had done nothing and BT Wholesale can't do anything without the sayso. I’d reached an impasse . . .

. . . and the problem then was that I if I ever got the UKonline marker off my line I still wouldn't get an engineer out to sort my line unless without an ISP, so I needed to get another unfortunate ISP to take me on board and then hope that they could actually get BT Wholesale out to do a bit of work. In other words I've got to go throughit all again, for a third time.

December update . . .

The marker was finally cleared from my line in early December (from my attempt to get connected in the Summer and 3 months after my first request to have it cleader). UKonline rang me saying they had already contacted BT Wholesale 3 times and they had done nothing. As BT Wholesale had told me that they'd received no instructions from  Easynet (UKonlines parent  Company) . . .

. . . someone was obviously telling porkies.

It doesn't really matter who but it meant I could make a new attempt to get broadband and I might get lucky in the new year. I rang BT Wholesale again to try and get my line sorted and they told me to ring 150 and report a "break in the covering of the line". I did this and they told me that nothing could be done without an istruction from my Broadband ISP which of course means taking out a new order. I now needed to check out the possibilities and no doubt go through all the stuff with trying to get an engineer out and all that; I suppose! Anyways it meant praying for . . .

. . . a little luck in the  New Year


Another year another ISP

In January I signed up to Talk Talk. I know Talk Talk customers had a lot of problems with service when Talk Talk  launched their phone and broadband package, but I've also heard that the dust has settled and; well they seemed pretty confident thay they could connect me. I then wrote "They give me a 30 day trial period from the time their Broadband goes live to see if I like it, so they'll have to chevvy up BT Wholesale a bit if they're going to get my line working before then and lock me into an 18 month contract." The connection date I was given was 28th February which meant that even if it worked straight away it would have taken me . . .

. . . 2 years and 1 month and 1 week to get Broadband!!

The start with TalkTalk wasn't too promising. When I got my welcome pack they called me by my first name, which they must have got off my debit card as I've always used my middle name (I relly really hate that!!). Also as they've done a link up with AOL they said I could ring up AOL and get a 1 month free trial to get a dial-up connection while I was waiting for Broadband.

AOL don’t go there

I did this but regretted it as soon as I'd installed AOL's software on my computer; it's quite facistic the way it forces you to open AOL's own browser to connect to t'internet and then takes you to the AOL homepage even when you've set another page as your homepage. The AOL thang got me a bit browned. Also I was starting to hear bad things about TalkTalk's customer service, so . . .

. . . I decided to hedge my bets . . .

. . . and start enquiries about Cable

I worked on my landlord and got him to agree to a free survey from Virgin Media which would let him know exactly what work would have to be done to get cable up from the road and into the house. TalkTalk then sent me a letter delaying my connection date by a couple of days. When my connection date came I plugged in my router and got a flashing DSL. It wasn't looking good. I rang TalkTalk and they told me I hadn't gone live yet, but I would later on that day or early the next morning. Soon after I was about to go out when I half-heartedly turned on the router on the off chance and . . .


Just when I least expected it I had a solid green DSL light on the very router that UKonline had failed to connect me with. I configured my router and both my computers, cancelled horrible AOL, and I'm now surfing the net with gay abandon. I'll maybe never know how BT and UKonline failed where TalkTalk succeded and why it took over two years to get something which when it came came so easily!

Maybe I'll email TalkTalk to see if they the answer to this mystery. After all, no engineer came out this time so it now seems that any problem at our end happened early on when the DACS was removed. Meanwhile all I can do is say . . .



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Thanks for hearing me out,

Dick Jones