Back then, a 56K modem was exciting. Today, if you connected a badger to a telephone line, it would provide a faster internet experience, but back when Kappa jackets were not chav accessories, 56K was Star Trek stuff.
I did a speed test on my BT line yesterday as I was concerned it was suddenly taking me three days to download the latest edition of The Times on my iPad. I was informed that the connection was barely achieving 0.2mbps. For people with friends, this means it’s rubbish. Our badger friend would chuckle at my result, spitting complex HTML5-laden websites out of its bottom every second.
The last time I checked, we were getting 6mbps.
So, for the first time in ten years, I had to call BT’s technical support line. I’ve heard some stories about these people, but never experienced them first hand because, to be perfectly fair, our broadband service has not faltered once in a decade.
The chap who answered my call was, as I have been led to expect, Indian. He was perfectly friendly and had a good grasp of the English language. And why shouldn’t he? I imagine many of the stories I’ve heard and have read probably came with a fair degree of misguided preconceptions.
He did a check on our landline. After quite a long time, this proved we had a landline. He then diverted me to speedtester.bt.com which asked me to say ‘yes’ to something, enter my telephone number and then click ‘submit’.
We both waited. No pleasantries were exchanged. Just slow, measured breathing on both our parts. We’d spent a fair amount of time together now – these were comfortable silences.
BT’s speedtester website looks like something I knocked up in 1995 when I first discovered Microsoft Front Page. It may well have been one of my creations, actually, because, after about twelve minutes, it said there was an error. The error was me, apparently – I’d tried the test more than once within an hour. I hadn’t.
We gave up, eventually. Tired, slightly emotional and, I suspect, marginally close to suggesting we go out for a beer, my new Indian friend suddenly exclaimed, ‘Mr Ellis, hang on. You had 20mb upgrade on eighteenth of the months. After ten days, your speed will be normal.’
Upgrade? I’ve had no upgrade, I tell him. But he was insistent. BT had kindly upgraded me but had failed to warn me about the ten day period when the connection would inexplicably soil itself and return to Neolithic speeds.
‘Perhaps they tried to ring and you were out,’ he offered. Bless him. He was trying to make me feel better.
But no, BT hadn’t bothered to tell me. So, rather than turning to the all-to-easy target of outsourced support operations, maybe its critics should look a little closer to home. Laughable diagnostic websites and woefully inadequate communication with its customers is a far bigger problem than some guy sitting in Bangladesh who is only allowed to run telephone line tests and apologise on their behalf.