Category Archives: Utilities

Upgraded

Last week, I upgraded my internet connection to an “Ultrafast” one – known by BT / Openreach as G.Fast.  Apparently they’re slowing down the roll-out of this in favour of full FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) roll-out, but for now it’s the best speed I can get.

G.Fast offers a guaranteed 100Mbps download – and I’ll get compensation if it dips below that – which is amusingly ridiculous. When I moved here six-and-a-bit years ago, I was only just able to get ADSL and a 2Mbps connection. It was painfully slow, although it did enough for the necessary at the time.  When FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) came here, I got it, and went from 2Mbps to 75 overnight.  At that point I could do streaming TV and so on with no problem at all.  And now I’ve doubled even that. Truly insane.

I wasn’t actually aware that this tech had been installed in my area, but BT sent me a promotional mail about it at the start of November, and I’d dragged my feet on it a bit.  But then I got a “Black Friday” promotional letter about it as well, where I could also get it installed for free, for an extra £1 a month on what I pay already.  Well OK then.

(As an aside, it’s the only “Black Friday” deal I bothered with at all – and only because it saved me money on a product I was actually interested in)

The engineer came round on Friday to do the installation – it needs some changes at the cabinet, and as it’s still new stuff, they’re doing it with engineers rather than self-install.  This had a happy side-effect, in that he also appears to have finally fixed the line problem that’s been plaguing me for more years than I care to mention.  (And has cost me the price of an engineer visit on one visit out of the five, because they worded the ‘fix’ badly, but that’s a dead issue now)

Ever since I moved in, the line has been dodgy on occasion, and it’s just got worse over time. The broadband connection has been fine in general – unless I have to make or receive a phone call. At that point the crackles on the line were enough to knock out the broadband connection. BT insisted this wasn’t possible, and that all the options I suggested were Just Wrong. (Because obviously I don’t work for them, so what could I possibly know?)  In that time, I’ve had five master sockets, and swapped from ADSL to FTTC for broadband, so I knew it was nothing in the house. It was always either going to be a fault in the line (“Oh no, sir, that’s not possible, more people would be complaining if that were the case”) or in the cabinet itself (also apparently “impossible”)

Anyway, this time the engineer could hear the problem, and tested to find where the problem was. Surprise surprise, it was in the cabinet.  So while he was redoing connections for my new broadband, he had a look round the cab, and the terminators on my line (I dunno) in the cab were “worryingly loose, I could just pull them off, didn’t even need pliers“. When he came back to the house, oooh look, what a surprise, no crackle on the line.

So, I’m now working with a 150Mbps download connection, and a lovely crackle-free phone line. All told, bit of a win.

Reducing Caller Spam

When I moved to the current place, I got a new phone number – not surprising, as I was in a new area, and a new (to me) house.  As always, I registered that number with TPS and so on, and made sure it was ex-directory.  I usually only use landline phones for broadband purposes – although it turns out I also use it here for some calls, as the mobile coverage inside the house is shockingly bad.  So I have a phone landline, and a phone connected to it.

Unbeknownst to me, the number I got had obviously been owned by someone else before me, and that person was the type of fucking moron who’d sign up for all kinds of promotions, and ran up all kinds of debts.  So right from Day One I was getting a couple of calls a week looking for the previous occupant. (Well, the previous owner of that phone number – it wasn’t a name connected to the house at all)  And because they were for a previous person, it turns out that TPS doesn’t really apply.  (Which is an interesting, and fucking annoying, loophole)

Even so, I re-registered with TPS, and put a spam-calls block on the line. (Which was absolutely useless, and so came off again) It was only a couple of calls a week, and usually while I was out at work. *shrug*

Over the last two years though, it got worse.  The phone’s call log would get filled up in the course of a week, all with “Number Withheld” and “International” numbers, along with the ones who didn’t conceal their numbers, who left messages and blocked up everything else.  I used a couple of other number-blocking services, none of which did much good.  Hell, if I were cynical I’d say they were the ones who sold the number on and spread it ever further. Not that I’ll ever know for sure, one way or the other.

Late last year, the situation was ridiculous. We’d gone from a couple of calls a week right up to filling the phone’s call log every day.  Nothing was working to prevent the calls, and it was just getting stupid.

So I bit the bullet, and changed my phone number. I explained to BT why I was doing it – in the hope that they now blacklist that number completely (although I doubt it, they’ll just have farmed it off on some other unsuspecting sap) – and got a new number allocated to me. Same set-up, it’s ex-d, and registered with TPS.

The big difference though, is that in the three months since I got it changed, I haven’t received a single solitary spam call. My phone call log stays blank (as I said, I don’t use it that often) and it’s lovely.

Sometimes these extreme measures are the ones we need to take. I wish I’d done this one two years ago…

Connectivity – Fixed (For Now)

Last weekend, as I said here, my internet connection started to go really bad (again).  I know what causes it, it’s just one of those things that’s a pain in the bum when it happens.

As usual, I got in touch with BT – this time through the online fault-reporting process.  Despite knowing what the problem is, there’s nothing in the process that lets you bypass it – and trying to get through it by using the phone and talking to badly-trained customer service lifeforms is even worse.

So we go through the usual farce of (in no particular order)

  • Have you checked all the extensions? Yes. (I don’t have any, but sure, I’ve checked them if it makes you happy)
  • Have you tried the connection with another phone? Yes. (I don’t have a spare phone just for this, and I know what the problem is)
  • Have you disconnected everything else? Does the problem still exist? Yes, of course it bloody does. The problem’s in your master socket.
  • Do you realise that if we find the problem is on your side (don’t worry, we won’t) then you’ll be charged £130 on your next bill?  Yes, I do realise it. (You’ve been here seven times all told in five years, all for the same problem, and I’ve never been charged, so it’s a fair bet that it won’t happen this time.)

And once we were through that, the engineer was booked for Wednesday morning, between 8am and 1pm.

He turned up, 8.10 – a good sign. Agreed with my diagnosis, and had a better look at the hole in the wall where the cable comes in. (Which the other engineers should have done, but well, we’ll gloss over that)  The silicone sealant was perished, and there was no drip-drop (as he called it) outside – basically, a small curve in the cable before it goes into the house, so that the lowest point for water is below the hole. Between those two things, he could easily see why water would be coming in – particularly in strong storms, which is what’s always been the precursor to the problem.  So, replaced silicone sealant, and he pulled enough cable through to enable a small drip-drop.

As well as that, he agreed to move the master socket further up the wall – basically, if this new one gets water damage, it’s likely that my concerns are going to be about far more than just my internet going down!

All told, it took about an hour to do the work – and of course I didn’t get charged, because the problem was with the master socket. As expected.

Only time will tell if it’s completely fixed (hence why I’m writing about it here, as a reference point in case of future problems) but as we’ve now gone for belt, braces, and piece-of-string methods in one visit, I’m hoping there won’t be any further recurrence of the problem…

 

Fixing Things

So far, this year has involved a number of customer service clusterfucks, some of which I’ve mentioned on here, and it looks like a number of those issues are now on the way to being sorted, thankfully.

That list includes

  • The Cat boots – successfully returned to manufacturer, and a replacement pair are (apparently) on the way
  • The Credit Card company – seems to be sorted, with outstanding issues rectified.
  • My Accountants – this has been something that’s been ongoing for a year or more, where they’re just ridiculously slack and uncommunicative. If it weren’t for the fact that they’ve been free (for the last 18 months!) then I’d have moved on well before now.
    The free stuff is a story of its own, but basically when I complained to director level at the end of 2015, they told me I wouldn’t be charged until they’d fixed the issues.  Eighteen months later, the issues are still there, although having had some productive conversations with the Operations Director, I think they’re turning the corner at last!
  • BT – Hopefully, that’ll be sorted today. The engineer is due between 8am and 1pm, and fingers crossed things will be sorted.

There’s a couple of other things coming up that so far seem positive, but I’m waiting for them to come through properly before I write about them.

All told though, yeah, it’s all feeling a bit more fixed and positive.

Connectivity

Yet again, my home broadband connection has gone to pot over the weekend.

It’s an ongoing problem – basically, there’s a leak in the outdoors part of my connection, so when it rains heavily, water gets in, and corrodes the connections in the master socket.  I start to know it’s going to be bad when any phone call I make (not that I make many on the landline, but still) starts to get crackly.  After a while, it then gets bad enough that the next ingress of water breaks things properly, and leaves my modem/router dropping the connection and reconnecting on an all-too-frequent basis.

In the five-and-a-bit years I’ve been in this house, I’ve had four master sockets. Now soon to be a fifth.

BT refuse to believe that this is the problem – this has been going on for ages, and they’ve done line checks etc., but won’t replace the outside part of the connection, for some reason.

So we go through the farce of doing fault-tracking, “We can’t find anything” and then booking an engineer to come out.  Every time, I get told “If it’s a problem past the master socket (i.e. with my own wiring) then it’ll cost £129.99 on your next bill”.  It won’t be with my wiring, because I’ve got precisely one socket, and one connector/splitter (also supplied by BT) on it.

Everything else will be fine, it’ll just be corroded connections in the master socket. Again.

This time, I’m going to aim to get the engineer to reinstall the master socket, but do so higher up the wall (so water doesn’t get in, as it can’t climb cables) or on a longer cable inside the house, so I can put it on a shelf or whatever, and again, let gravity deal with the problem.

The engineer’s coming out on Wednesday morning, so we’ll see what happens from there. It’d be nice (and really quite novel!) to have it sorted properly this time. But only time will tell whether that’ll happen or not.

Changing Meters

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been – again – having issues with nPower and their circus-clown cohorts, Lowri Beck. I’ve written about this before, where they had said they hadn’t been in my house for four years, despite being supposed to be checking things at least once a year.  (And having supplied meter readings to nPower – so fuck knows how they managed that without having been in the house!)

Anyway, when they did come round back at the start of July, it turned out the electricity meter was fucked faulty, and so needed replacing. Fortuitous timing, as it’d been OK two weeks previously, when I took a reading from the damn thing.

The problem – as usual, with Lowri Beck – is that their meter replacement teams don’t work weekends. And nPower won’t do anything to compensate their customers for having to take time off to replace a meter (or anything else), even when it’s at nPower’s behest. All of which left us at a bit of a standoff.

Eventually, having progressed through the layers of nPower’s customer services section, I finally got to speak to someone who had the power/rank to be able to book in a job for a Saturday.  It was still a bit random, as more urgent jobs would take precedence over a lowly meter reading – but it got done. And only one cancellation before the person came out to do the job.

Because Lowri Beck couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery, the fitter had actually come from… London. All the way up to Milton Keynes – so was only able to do one other job on the same day.  It does make you wonder just how Lowri Beck stay in business, when they’re that disorganised and cretinous.

Anyway, an hour later, I’ve got a new – well, new to me – meter, and we can hopefully start seeing something approaching account normality.

Mind you, they did still manage to mis-enter the supplied readings from the new meter, and would’ve over-charged me quite significantly if I hadn’t been keeping an eye on the account…

 

Clowns, the lot of ’em.

Weekend of Quiet – the nPower farce

As I said earlier, the only scheduled thing for the weekend was a visit from Lowri Beck,  the clowns who are nPower’s third-party partner in the area – who needed to check my electricity meter.

Supposedly they legally *have* to do this once a year – and they allege they haven’t been inside my property in four years (i.e. before I even moved in), so it’s hardly a legal requirement in the first place. Saying they haven’t had access is utter bollocks, by the way,  as someone from the company was in there to check the gas one a month ago, and I’ve had people from the same company in to do readings before (except they then lost them, due to being useless cunts)

Anyway, the guy turned up, and in his most helpful manner said “Oooh, that’s not good. How long’s it been doing that?”. To which, of course, I said “Doing what?”, as I’m not a fucking mind-reader, and couldn’t tell you one end of a meter problem from the other.  “That” he says, and points at the meter.  “Go on, give me a clue.”

Turns out, there’s a flashing light that says “I need replacing”. It wasn’t there two weeks ago when I took my own meter reading, but now the clowns are here, we get the full circus lights. *sigh*

So – I now need to get a replacement meter.

But in a fit of truly inspired crap customer service, Lowri Beck’s installers only work Monday to Friday, 9-5. So to get a new meter, I’m going to have to take time off work, costing me money for something that’s entirely not my fault. And nPower won’t offer any alternatives, compensation, or understanding. (Which is no surprise whatsoever)

I’ve got it booked in, but it looks like it may just be time for yet another fight with the asshats at nPower.  Oh goody.