Confidence in BT evaporates after latest broadband fiasco

The reputation of BT in Shetland was in shreds this week after the tele­coms giant failed to act to get thousands of broadband customers back online. Businesses and thou­sands of people at home across Shetland encountered persistent prob­lems with some being offline or suffering hopelessly slow internet connections for up to 10 days.

Today the problems were finally solved, ending the agony and anger for island customers. Ian Brown of Shetland Broadband, who was dealing with people’s problems throughout the time, said: “It’s been absolute hell!”

The failure to cure Shetland-wide problems some dating back to Tues­day last week eventually prompted MSP Tavish Scott to wade in to support local communications ex­perts who complained they were making no headway with BT.

BT had declined to act earlier in the week because the lack of comp­laints led it to believe there was no widespread fault. Once the pressure was applied and it did start to
throw resources at the problem it was unable to find the fault until this morning.

According to an apologetic spokes­man Mitch Reid, engineers eventually discovered that service had “degraded” on one of five broadband links between Glasgow and Lerwick. The service was rerouted at 11.12am, finally bringing customers up to speed.

The failure was perhaps the worst in a line of recent system collapses which have seen confidence in BT’s broadband service in Shetland evaporate.

Shetland Islands Council broad­band specialist Marvin Smith warn­ed that such problems could jeopard­ise efforts to harness the “massive” potential to generate money for Shetland through exploiting the internet and email.

He said contracts held by the growing local army of home busi­ness workers were also put at risk from prolonged breakdowns and unrel­iable service, citing the ex­ample of one woman he had spoken to this week who was unable to do her internet market research work for the government.

“That’s critical for Shetland,” he said. “It’s money from outside com­ing into Shetland for homeworkers. We don’t hear much about them but there is a lot of them.

“An economy like Shetland relies on a lot of people doing lots of different pieces of work and if they can’t get broadband connections it’s not just infuriating it actually means they can’t do their work and puts it at risk.”

Mr Brown at Shetland Broadband said it was not just homeworkers but bigger businesses in the islands which risked damage to their reputa­tion if emails went unanswered and work was held up.

BT defended its response, saying that so few ADSL broadband cus­tomers had registered a complaint that it was not alerted to the scale of the problem until Wednesday, hav­ing checked its lines in Shetland and found no faults. Nor had other inter­net service providers (ISPs), like Plus­net and Tiscali/Talk Talk, noti­fied it of mass problems encountered by their customers in Shetland.

Mr Reid said this afternoon it had received only 38 fault reports from customers complaining that their broadband was running very slowly.

The problems appeared to have no pattern to them, affecting custo­mers of most ISPs but not at all times in all places. Some reported to Shet­land Broadband that their internet connection was so slow it was like being back in the first days of going online in the 1990s when even a simple web page took minutes to load up.

Eventually, late on Wednesday afternoon, BT Wholesale finally announced to business customers what they already knew only too well – that there was a fault, issuing a message carrying the stock phrase: “Engineers are making progress towards full restoration of service.” It set an expected clear time of 16.59. But the target was missed like many before it last week.

At the time Mr Reid said the fault seemed to “lie deep within the system”, possibly on the mainland, after BT Openreach engineers had found no faults in the Shetland lines.

With talk of customers demanding refunds or withholding BT payments, Mr Reid apologised for the lengthy loss of service and slow speed of detection. “We’re sorry that people are experiencing problems but it’s very difficult for ourselves to become aware there is a widespread problem if people are not reporting them to us.”

He said the company had not been able to see the faults on its system and had only “a handful” of complaints. It had believed the last of the problems had been remedied following the second of last week’s failures, which happened at a “node” in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

But Mr Smith from the SIC said many people would not use the BT “helpdesk” because it was so frustrating. “Anybody that’s a BT customer knows fine well there is no point in phoning the call centre because they go through this process to presume that it’s your fault and your problem and they won’t accept it is a fault on their network, so people don’t phone to log the fault.”

People’s frustration with the lack of response after contacting the BT “helpdesk” led to Mr Brown inviting those who were not his customers to contact him about their experiences so that he had a dossier of evidence to press home to BT the seriousness of the problem.

“We are saying: ‘Look we have all these people with a problem. It can’t just be individual line faults.’”

He took the action after being told on Tuesday by BT that all known ADSL faults affecting Shetland had been cleared. “They don’t seem to care,” he said on Wednesday. “They don’t seem to be able to be shamed into doing anything!”

He said the continuing lack of resolution to the failures was ridiculous with lines being off from Unst to Sumburgh and customers who were used to getting speeds of 2.5 Megabytes a second having to endure a totally unusable three kilobytes/sec.

He said the problems stretched back to October which had been “a diabolic month” with 10 so-called outages lasting from four minutes to five hours 50 minutes. Then on 2nd November the lightning strike in Sanday, Orkney, took out about half Shetland’s broadband users and the following day a recurrence of the Edinburgh problem wiped all BT-dependent customers out for a few hours. Despite BT’s assurance that all faults were rectified by Saturday evening it became obvious that was patently untrue.


Add Your Comment
  • M Juel-Beer

    • November 11th, 2010 20:27

    Fixed??? Not here it isn’t no Broadband service in Walls (it’s 8.30pm on 11/11/10)
    The reason I haven’t complained is our IP isn’t BT, it’s a BT problem, try explaining to a call centre in India.

  • S Terris

    • November 11th, 2010 22:18

    Same here in Weisdale. It failed about 5pm and came back approx 9.30pm.

    I totally agree with the comment about calling BT. My ISP is Orange. Its not an Orange fault its the BT lines to the mainland, so who do I call? I’m sure if I called BT they’d say call Orange for 25mins @ 5p per min for nothing to be resolved.

    And for this BT Infinity stuff? I’d just like the normal one to work please!

  • Mike Grant

    • November 12th, 2010 10:30

    From my personal experience with BT this past week, the reason “so few ADSL broadband customers had registered a complaint” may be due to the difficulty in actually reporting a broadband fault to BT! When I called to report a fault, I found myself – after 15 minutes in a call queue – spending the next 45 minutes unplugging this and that, twiddling various settings, etcetera – the technical support person just would not accept that the fault was not with my setup, despite me pointing out that various other people locally were experiencing similar.

  • Bob Skinley

    • November 12th, 2010 18:15

    This week has been an absolute nightmare. The trouble first started for me at about 9pm on Monday when I was getting speeds of around 20kbps. I spent the entire day on Tuesday trying to get it through to BT that the problem lay with them but they steadfastly refused to acknowledge the problem. I phoned them, I e-mailed them twice and I created a stooshy on the forum on the BT website. It is a disgrace that you have to go to such lengths to get anything done.

    There is absolutely no doubt, that BT are by far and away the worst of any of the major corporations/companies I have ever had to deal with. What they laughingly call “customer service” is virtually non-existent, as they treat their customers with utter contempt. BT’s sole raison d’etre seems to be to screw as much money out of Joe Punter for as little effort as possible. As a company, they represent, to quote a phrase from years ago: “the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism.” Their attitude reminds me of the well-known Monty Python “argument” sketch, where in answer to everything the man just says “no it isn’t.”

    Simply not good enough BT, must do better.

  • Mark Dobson

    • November 13th, 2010 18:31

    This problem is affecting many people across the UK. Although ‘working’ connections can now be established most provide very poor download speeds. Upload speeds don’t seem to be affected. Helpdesk engineers weren’t aware of the problem when I called. After logging a BT Complaint via Email I have had a return telephone call by a BT engineer who acknowledged the issue. He asked for a test to be undertaken (once only so the result can be used by engineers in fault finding), engineers shall contact me…
    I suggest readers undertake the speedtester procedure and log a fault at,2705,2721
    Good luck,
    Mark (County Durham, England)

  • Edward Sim

    • November 17th, 2010 21:08

    Sir, It comes as no surprise the poor service offered buy BT and is the reason I moved my broadband and phone supplier some time ago. When they eventually fixed the “Sandy” fault my broadband speed was as fast as its ever been, probably due to many not back on line due to other failures.However this only lasted a day and I was then experiencing speed as low as when I had Dial up internet a long time ago… I did contact my ISP but found it impossible to deal with someone in Islamibad. I did complain and they did try and assist and find out what the problem was, which is more than can be said of BT..
    The coments made by the BT spokesman are tipical… always blaming those who complain or in this case blame the lack of complaints for there failings… Almost like when you take your car to a garage….and they say…we have never had this problem before yours is the ONLY complaint we have ever had!!!!


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.