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BT Announces Internet Outage...On the Internet

BT Broadband subscribers earlier in the week called foul after a 15-hour internet outage—which the comms giant announced and posted updates about—you guessed it—online.

BT admitted (it even tweeted) that it was working to restore service to homes and businesses in the southeast of the country and East Anglia, and later added that the East Midlands and 'other areas' of England were also affected. Essentially, a broad swath of users—tens of thousands—were left blind as connectivity for computers, tablets and handheld devices vanished into the ether. But those same users were left with no way to check for updates without dealing with a phone call and a hold time to the BT call center.

Worst of all, the company was unable to offer a reason behind the widespread signal failure.

Add to the mix a shocking underestimation of the power of social media—do these companies even realize that they function in the 21st century? BT is the UK’s biggest broadband provider, with a 32% market share according to Ofcom. You would think they would know better. But nope.

Some users were able to get 3G and 4G connections on their mobile phones (likely a small number indeed, given how dismal mobile broadband coverage is throughout the UK). And they wasted no time in fomenting a backlash.

As the Daily Mail reported, Natalie Vincent tweeted: “Will you be providing compensation for those of us who rely on your service for work?”

@stillphosphor has his or her two cents to add: “I'd love to complain about your service on Facebook, but I can't access it. Also, can't study and small kid's bedtime music denied.”

And so on and so forth.

BT, for its part, responded rather lamely: “We would like to apologise [sic] to customers in the south east of England and East Anglia who had issues loading web pages this morning. We fixed the problem by lunchtime and customers have been back online since then.” This of course doesn’t match the social media reports, but hey.

Chalk this one up to poor customer service of the classic style. It’s the sort of thing that plagues cable subscribers in the US (this Slacker is a Comcast subscriber and believe me, this story is all too familiar). Apparently we’re exporting the model, as this incident has all of the hallmarks of what not to do: It features, naturally, a large, creaking incumbent; utility services that support the lifeblood of communities and businesses, mysteriously unavailable; boneheaded customer engagement decisions; and, of course, an ultimate lack of results in fixing the issue in a timely manner.

Secure, reliable connections and providers that are committed to providing good customer service should not be too much to ask. Time, I say, for fresh competition against this kind of rubbish—perhaps using mobile broadband (what a concept!).

Photo © Grigoriev Rusian

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