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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

BTad confused

(with a silent B) No, I really am confused and more than a tad. What exactly are BT OpenRetch doing in rural areas like mine?

This blog post can be read at

Left the farm this morning to take sprog to dentist - a mere 90 mile round trip for those of you who live in towns and struggle to understand our annual mileage (20k without doing anything beyond normal daily tasks). Parked in the single track road outside was a BT cherry picker, plus 2 vans, engines running and 3 BT bods, wandering around. Time: 10.30, they had been there since around 9am, with engines running.

Purpose (seemingly): to replace a perfectly good telegraph pole in the field across from an almost unused yard to the only house that wants/needs a telephone line. There's no broadband here over ADSL, hence the satellite dish, routers, external ethernet draped between houses etc. BT seemingly can't 'get' ADSL to this farm cluster so why replace wires? No wire replacement will ever reduce the distance to the exchange (around 9km) unless you put fibre in from exchange-->village-->farms.

Ask BT bod why the need to replace the pole. "This is marked as a courtyard on our plans so we have to put a 16ft pole in". "But the current pole is on a bank over 3ft above the road, the wire is already over 16ft above the road and courtyard, and any way, it's not a courtyard". "No matter, we're changing it." "Have you informed the occupants of the farmhouse?" "Someone came round a couple of weeks ago....." "The guy who came to look at the pole...? He didn't talk to any of us and the occupants of the farmhouse are in the USA right now. Do they know you are going to be attaching new wires to their house?" "We don't deal with customer issues like that......."

BT bod wanders off to breathe in the exhaust fumes from one of the trucks.

I return at 2pm. Must be lunchtime or a break as two of the cabs are occupied whilst all equipment requiring diesel is unmanned. BUT, engines are still running - ask farmer and audience if they have been running all morning? Yep.

The cherry picker sits, dormant, which makes me struggle to work out how much fuel has been burnt in close proximity to my vegetable garden in the last 5.5hrs, and why. But I have to admit there is a new pole in situ, which now towers over the landscape on the drive from the village and whilst I say it is technicolour red, I'm sure it's just some eco-friendly form of creosote. And we all know it takes around 3 hours to drop a replacement pole into an existing hole. And of course, this is Cumbria, and hell, it's only August, so I'm sure all three vehicles have needed to run their heaters all day.....

I'm doing my best to put a positive spin on the OpenRetch visit but I can't find one. I don't know what this truck and its van pals have put out in carbon monoxide in the last few hours but I can guarantee it has a) cost BT a fairly substantial amount in fuel even on tickover without the minimal PTO use the planting of the pole took and b) caused a totally unnecessary hit to the environment up here today.

The Swiss insist you turn off your engine whilst waiting at traffic lights and penalise a failure to do so - oh for a similar form of citizen's arrest for people who pollute my precious bit of the planet.

I watch, from a safe distance, behind bullet proof glass (for the BT chaps' sake, not mine), as the copper wire that has been taken down is not re-used, though it would definitely reach, and finally, the need to warm the engines up is made clear as the cherry picker is used by a now well-fed, centrally heated, and newly caffeined OpenRetch engineer as he attaches a new cable from pole to pole, and pole to house.

Gone 3pm and the main truck moves off the single track road and parks on the neighbour's drive (luckily, of course, they are away, or he would have blocked their access entirely) so they can now climb ladders and attach new copper cable to the house. Struggle to spot the old copper cable as suspect it might make a few quid on Ebay or from someone seeking to supplement their income. (Average wage round here is £14k, but most people think we choose to live this idyllic rural lifestyle but I still know the odd person who would appreciate a few extra bob to spend on petrol to go 10miles for a pint of milk, over-inflated rural food prices etc.)

Reconsider where the copper may have gone....after all, from what I have seen today with the casual attitude to the environment by the OpenRetchers, if it is going to be lobbed into the landfill rather than recycled etc, I'll have it to resell for the playgroup, air ambulance, or even Big Society projects.

As far as any of us know, no permission has been given nor sought for this BT work, so should there be a problem with the new fixing (entirely different to the old, of course), it's presumably a problem that a call to directory enquiries is unlikely to solve. Debate asking the BT bods for a phone to ring the USA and ask if they knew this would be going on whilst they were on holiday. Momentary concern as to whether this was planned according to a quick peek at their emails to check when they would be away. Attempt to dismiss such conspiracy theories, but it's not easy.

BT eventually drive away around 4pm (must get the vans back to the depot by 5pm presumably and clock off), having spent a full workday day putting in an entirely unneeded pole, cost approx £400-£600 in pole alone, let alone cable, peeps and vans (with no toilet - I have to admit that has worried me all day because my cornflowers etc next to the pole are quite sensitive to acidity and they never asked to use the loo, but we are not inhuman), the massive, pointless consumption of fuel on the doorstep and the fumes that has undoubtedly left, the wasted copper, and the fact.....

this is the biggie....

it would have cost less to run fibre and ducting through the field than it did to replace an obsolete technology to ONE HOUSE. Plus, had BT actually spoken to the 4 houses in the cluster, they'd have found untold offers of help to do something useful rather than sit here with engines running all day, purely because someone in an office has looked at a plan and said, "That's a courtyard."

Not, "That's a courtyard/pole/wire that allows us access to THREE houses plus a neighbour and 2 businesses we currently can't get the USC to EVER and who don't have a BT phone account even........oooh, they are farmers, shall we see if they can help us deal with the first round, the final third, of USC people?"

Oh no. Joined up thinking? No chance. Let's go pollute the hell out of a farm for a day, waste 3 employees' time, burn untold gallons of diesel, replace a pole and bin the old one, and the copper wire too, FOR NO GOOD REASON WHATSOEVER except some plonker in the office, who has never been anywhere near this farm, is ticking all of his boxes to prove he is worth employing.

BT, I suggest you come and visit this pole again very soon. Now it is so much higher than the old one, I can see an overhead power pole down the road from the top of it that was previously on an uphill run I wasn't sure about. Shortly, you will be wondering whose fibre is running down to the village, where your engineers have spent nigh on 30 months since the Carlisle flood trying to solve the problems of aged and decrepit and corroded copper. It will be our fibre and I hate to say it but these customers you have just spent untold hundreds/thousands of pounds on today - they will be NOT YOURS. I think you may find they are on a community network belonging to us.

Sorry but is it not time you listened, talked, communicated with those whose land you need for your network, and your customers, and those who are determined to change the network map in the UK......


Cybersavvy UK said...

And when BT do turn up, hopefully it will be well thought out, planned, etc.

"As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a grave side service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Kentucky back-country.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost; and being a typical man I didn't stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight.

There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt bad and apologized to the men for being late.

I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before for this homeless man.

And as I played 'Amazing Grace,' the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low my heart was full.

As I was opening the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, " I never seen nothing' like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

Cyberdoyle said...

lot of tick box people about in the utility companies, they are coming to replace all our electric poles soon and cut some more trees down, simply because some bod in an office has to tick something. I will make sure we get the old poles, they will be handy to run our fibre on when we have to cross the river...

Cybersavvy UK said...

UPDATE: neighbours back from USA. Their phone doesn't work......

GuyJ said...

What a fiasco by BT Openreach by the sound of it!

The UK's copper wire network grew in what is euphemistically referred to as an "organic" fashion without sufficient attention paid to least cost operations/maintenance.

This was largely a legacy of the Nationalised GPO years and seems to have persisted since Privatisation some quarter a century ago.

The fundamental problem with either state-monopoly or commercial monopoly is the same.

It is a problem of lack of incentive.

In other words, why care about constant gradual improvement in productivity when the costs of inefficiency can be passed onto the customer?

There is a better way to be found and that is the Community Interest monopoly.

What is perfectly clear from the waste described in this blog post is that not a penny of public subsidy must be allowed to go to BT unless and until there is transparency that best value for Taxpayers Money is being achieved.