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PC Advisor publisher sings the broadband blues: part I

Fight for fat pipe proves illusive

When he and his family moved into their palatial new home in South London, PC Advisor publisher David Fernando was dreaming of a new life in the broadband fast lane courtesy of cableco Telewest.

More than a week after moving into the bourgeois enclave of Sutton, bereft of communication with the outside world ? save an intermittent mobile phone connection ? that fat pipe dream has turned into a broadband nightmare.

Here Fernando chronicles his as yet unresolved, Kafkaesque attempts to get broadband.

FALSE DAWN
Tuesday 13 May

09.20am ? Contact Telewest and order telephone, cable TV and broadband package for my new house. Speak to a helpful lady called Dale. It is agreed that everything will be installed the day after I move into the property, Friday 30 May, between 10am and 2pm. All very concise.

The total package will be £43.50 a month and I pay a £50 deposit on Visa there and then as I am a new customer. A welcome pack is to be sent to my new address ? they can't send it to my current address as "the system doesn't allow that". Hmmm, alright then. I am asked for a contact number and I give my mobile number as I will not have a landline until the Telewest install.

10.05am ? Within 20 minutes of hanging up, I receive a text message from Telewest on my mobile welcoming me as a customer. A nice touch, but it made me unsure of what else I might be sent as a marketing message from Telewest. I never receive texts from people or companies I don't know, so this should be easy to track.

MOVING DAY
Thursday 29 May

Move into new home. Telewest Welcome Pack awaits me complete with details of my account number, password, new Blueyonder email address and pin number. Very easy-to-read leaflet clearly explains what I have signed up for. Reminds me in two places about the day and time of the actual installation ? tomorrow between 10am and 2pm. Slogan over everything is "Getting together with Broadband is easy".

Friday 30 May

1.37pm ? I call the very pleasant Louisa in Telewest customer services to double-check that the engineers are going to show. She'll investigate and call me back.

2.50pm ? Telewest engineer Dave appears on my doorstep with a crew of two. Dave has a problem ? other Telewest contractors need to "clear" (which means "dig up") the cable at the front of my house as the pavement appears to have been recently covered in Tarmac. He had "called this in" earlier that day and has since been told the job has been done ? taking two and a half hours and 25 metres of cable. However, all four of us spend 10 minutes looking under the front hedgerow for evidence of this activity. We see none.

4.15pm ? Dave learns that, by mistake, the contractors have instead "cleared" another property with a similar address to mine some two miles away. "This ain't gonna happen today now mate but as you is a priority, give us your mobile number and I'll make sure we call you back and do it over the weekend."

Saturday 31 May
No call from Telewest. Mobile signal very weak at my new house so can't rely on effective connection for lengthy call to Telewest.

Sunday 1 June
No call from Telewest.

BACK TO WORK
Monday 2 June

10.20am ? Back at work, I call Telewest. Speak to Gareth Jarvis in customer services. He can't say when the cable will be cleared as the contractors have been "unreliable recently ? although they are improving". He says the notes on the system say there was a "problem" with my house. I tell him the problem was that contractors dug up the wrong bit of pavement. When will I be connected? He'll investigate and call me back.

4.30pm ? By now more than a little irritated I call customer services again and speak to a Mark Coburn who makes huge reassuring noises and offers to set another installation date for Friday 13 June. He promises to personally handle my problem and call me back with an update before 10pm tonight: "I'm on shift until then". Imagine letting Telewest near my home on Friday 13th.

9.45pm ? Mark hasn't called me back so I call customer services and track him down to Telewest's Basildon Contact Centre. "I hadn't forgotten you Mr Fernando!" Cutting it a bit fine, weren't you? "I'll just check on the latest situation with my supervisor." I hold.

9.55pm ? Mark Coburn's back. "Sorry, the department we need to speak to shuts at 8pm, can we call you tomorrow?" Why didn't you call me at 8pm and tell me this? Mark accuses me of getting personal when I respond to his "I'm only trying to help you!" with a "Well, you're not very good at it." Clearly rattled, Mark promises to get a manager to call me first thing tomorrow (at 8.30am) and reassures me that it should be solved on Tuesday ? can I be at home? Mark then humbly asks for my mobile telephone number again as he seems to have mislaid it...

DAY OFF WORK
Tuesday 3 June

9.30am ? No one has called yet, so I call Telewest and this time I get the very helpful sounding Jen in customer services. She will check with installation and call me back. Has she read the notes on my file? Yes, she has and is very apologetic.

10.10am ? Jen calls back and states that the contractors have to be emailed about my problem as they can't be spoken to directly by phone. Of course not, it's not as if you're a telephone company or anything.

Problem is, the contractors have now emailed back saying something like: "Don't worry, we did that address last Friday ? it's sorted." But of course they didn't, and it isn't. They got the wrong address. Jen understands my immense frustration and will keep trying for another response from the contractors and call me back later. She doesn't.

6.30pm ? I call Telewest again and speak to a Gaynor in customer services. Re-explain the whole thing. She empathises in extremis. Will investigate and call me back in 15 minutes.

7pm ? Gaynor has spoken to the operations department. They will send somebody out to my house tomorrow to examine the pavement just to make sure it hasn't been dug up already. Then they will call me and offer an alternative installation date. I give my mobile telephone number again.

7.30pm ? While sweeping my front path, I dislodge a small piece of concrete from the base of my gatepost. Underneath is a bit of black tubing sticking out of the ground. Inside the tube is a length of bright blue cord attached to something underground. A cable? Was it there all along?

PC Advisor publisher sings the broadband blues: part II, will be posted on Monday


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