Categories
BBC Broadband BT Uncategorized

The curious case of the Radio Interview (and the things that can happen from an innocent tweet!) (unpublished draft from August 2010)

Some time ago (mid June) someone (I think @ruskin147 or Rory Cellan-Jones of Auntie Beeb) re-tweeted a request from @ChrisMason (now @ChrisMasonBBC) for help in getting input to some work on the experiences of the rural broadband user.  Ever keen to get my message across (that the rural community needs ADSL as much as the city dweller, and that the rural communities are seriously disadvantaged and uncared for by the telecoms industry) I tweeted Chris and we set up a dialogue.  Over the course of the next few hours we exchange emails, and then phone calls discussing the issues at stake, particularly in the context of the government’s impending announcement on the “2Mb for all” policy.

After listening to my rant (!) Chris decided that I’d be a useful sound bite in the forthcoming article on Radio 5Live.

Within a few days the government made the announcement and Chris and I were in touch to fix up an appointment to record a few words.  In the end as I was attending a business breakfast in Cambridge, we agreed to meet there – Chris was coming from London, and then moving onto rural Suffolk to spend some time with a BT engineer to see the practical issues in rural ADSL.
Setting the interview up was an interesting process!  We sat down in 3 or 4 places only to find that peripheral noises were likely to be a problem both in recording and in editing – I’d not given too much thought to the latter but Chris explained that some noises (especially music) would distract the listener and potentially lead them to listen to the background (and hear the cuts in the edit), rather than listen closely to my dulcet (not!) tones.  We eventually relocated one last time to a balcony which had some quiet motor noise in the background, but this was better that the crisp clear notes of the wineglasses being set out in the restaurant!

I’ve done interviews a number of times – but all on video.  Each of these experiences had me (mostly irrationally) edgy and nervous, and was not what I would call pleasant and easy.  They’ve mostly been done for Microsoft Tech*Ed conferences, and are therefore to a closed community (but highly expert) so my testimony could be harshly judged.  But the sheer fact of a camera (or more than one) quite literally in your face is something I just don’t feel comfortable with.
With Chris it was so much simpler – no director, cameraman, soundman etc.  Just Chris, and his state of the art microphone with built in digital sound recorder.  Immediately it’s a more natural situation and more comfortable to deal with – just a conversation (which draws on the previous discussions).

Before starting Chris ran a couple of recordings to check that a) his microphone was really recording OK and b) to ensure that the background noises were sufficiently in the background to avoid the editing traps, then we were off.

Chris was impressive in his questioning – at no time was I led in any direction, but open questions were asked which allowed me to get across my frustrations, and make points that I wanted.  A couple of times I found myself just go down a cul-de-sac without any idea how to reverse out, so we just stopped and then started again.  Inevitably there were things that I forgot, and Chris helpfully reminded me of my previous comments, and we got the statements down.  But the most interesting points for me in the experience (as opposed to the subject under discussion), were the “when we discussed that before…” observations from Chris when I completely forgot a really good point, and even more so – Chris has a great ability to keep thinking further ahead in the conversation to keep it going smoothly rather than stop, check a list, and then kick off.  There’s a lot more to pre-recorded interviews than I thought!
 
During the day Chris had to go to Suffolk to see Mr BT, and then edit his footage (?) and then transfer to the studio for transmission.  Very kindly Chris also kept me in the loop to tell me when the interview would air, and late in the afternoon I got the confirmation that I would be used to cut into the Minister’s (Jeremy Hunt) interview at 5 to put certain points to him.  Earlier in the show would be the BT engineer segment, and then later a BT spokesman would be on. Fame (of a sort) at last!

My wife and I were organising a car rally that evening, so whilst en route we listened to it live and I found myself substantially unembarrassed by the sound of my own voice (register your surprise in the comments!), I could hear where the editing was done, but it was surprising to hear three separate parts of the conversation edited together to give one much more focussed and pointed observation to which the minister had to respond.
Completing the service, Chris then emailed me the segments (mine, and both BT people) so that I can embarrass myself in perpetuity.
Even better, Chris has released the segments as audio boos, and you can listen here:
BT Engineer:
Minister & me:
BT spokesman:
As for (some of!) my views, well:
  • The rural broadband gap is really bad and getting worse.  In the old days of modems there was a gap between city centre (say 56.6Kbps) and rural lines (say 28.8).  But overall the difference was a factor of 2.  With the basic broadband of 512Kb and some providers delivering 50-100Mb, the factor is now 100+.  Content cannot be delivered assuming one or the other.  I would like to see some sort of rule of thumb that requires providers to ensure that the divide is no more than (say) a factor of 10.  This would mean they would HAVE to improve the rural experience before delivering insane speeds in city centres.
  • Working from home is normal, and the government wants us to do more.  One of the biggest unnecessary environment impacts is out of town people driving into the cities and towns for work.  We generally have no choice because the public transport options in rural areas are generally so rubbish.
  • Information technology businesses are, by their very nature, more able to work in distant locations – yet the Broadband structures specifically work against that
  • Consumption of high data amounts is now the norm – yet provision is not up to the demand.  Training and education courses require webinars or video downloads – who’d do that when the download will take many hours?
  • Patching (and waiting) – everyone needs to update and patch their computers.  Yet if a full patch is measured in GB rather than MB, then a) they are discouraged, and b) they will be exposed to the vulnerability for longer.
  • Remote working and support for customers – another ideal ‘work from home’ setup – again frustrated.
  • Opportunity for villages to do information businesses in place
  • SLA’s – there are no proper SLA’s in place for broadband provision.  You lose your phone line and ADSL, and who knows when it will come back.  This needs to improve so that any business can assure themselves of their connectivity.
  • Finland – has made ADSL 2MB a standard service.  Alongside water, electricity, gas etc.  A mature response.
  • And when sewage or gas is installed into rural locations – why is nothing done to piggy back the infrastructure and deliver a better broadband or mobile phone experience?
Categories
Amazon Broadband Customer Service Fail iPad Kindle Succeed Uncategorized Zen Internet

Zen Internet to Amazon Kindle – from triumph to disaster in 2 hours… and why you need to buy a windows PC with your Kindle.

I got home from the client this evening to 2 technical tasks.  Today was the day I left Virgin Media for an ISP that gives a damn.  Zen Internet is now the ISP of choice at Corylus Towers, and the upgrade happened as they said it would – today, and all I needed to do was tweak the router.
I had a new, unused NetGear router (DG834PN) that was going very cheap in the manager specials bin at Staples a few months ago for this very purpose, but on checking the Zen site for the “how to configure your router” discovered a NetGear specific instructions, and wondered if the Virgin specific router firmware in the old DG834 would take a tweak.  I wanted to do this as the Wi-Fi setup (including all the MAC filtering) would remain in place.
Lo and behold, 2 tweaks and the new userid and password and I’m connected.
What’s more my internet connection has moved from 1.6MB to 2.3MB without anything else being done (and I’m pretty sure the 668KB upload is a better connection too).  This bodes well for the other broadband line being migrated later.
So, having restored the Internet connection to the domestic network, the goal was then to get my newly delivered Kindle up and running.  I’d ordered the Wi-Fi only version as I have Wi-Fi in the house and office, and a MiFi unit to cover the situation when hotspots aren’t available.  I prefer it that way to subscribing to more data connections and hotspot services (although of course whilst the Kindle has free 3G, the unit is £41 more expensive).
The Kindle was unboxed, and set to charge for a bit.  After dinner, I grabbed the MAC address of the unit, and added it to both Wi-Fi networks running here and switched on.  The Kindle would not connect to the network, it could see it, and I could see that it was attempting a handshake, but all I got was “Unable to connect to wireless network…”.  Some surfing later gave me cause for concern, so I decided to try some diagnostic tests.
Thirty minutes later, and both network changed from WPA2 to WPA to WEP, from MAC filtering to none, (etc. etc.) nothing was working still.  The device would very nearly connect, but not.
In desperation I got the DFG834PN out,  and just plugged it in.  In factory default it’s completely insecure; but as it wasn’t actually connected to a phone line, it didn’t matter.  A quick check on the iPad confirmed it was working (and got me its IP range – the usual 192.168.0.x), and I tried the Kindle on that.  Again, nothing.
So over to the help line, noting with some wry amusement that the plastic protective sleeves were not yet removed from the Kindle…
At least it was an 0800 number, as the Kindle support line first cut me off, and then on the second call believed I had not bought one!  Eventually we got to work.  The usual interrogation by a customer support line took place, almost down to my inside leg measurement,; then after some initial attempts a full hard reset of the device was prompted.  After this the device briefly connected (albeit at what seemed to be 14bps), and I got a list of books I had already bought – but completely failed to download them beyond a few % (and again very slowly).
Some more diagnostics later Kindle Support decided (as I had over an hour ago!) that the unit was faulty in the Wi-Fi department.  “So I will send you an email with details on how to create a couple of logs files, you then just connect the Kindle to your computer and send us the files”…  At which point I asked why they assumed I had a computer to which I could connect the Kindle.  That caused some fun…  I pointed out that I had an iPad in front of me (which was working perfectly well on the Wi-Fi).  SO I was asked to connect the Kindle to the iPad “but the iPad has no USB!”. 
Several minutes later, Kindle Support had no idea how to overcome this particular problem, but I had shown mercy, and dug out the laptop and grabbed the files.  One of my reasons for reticence is that I would not trust the 3MB contents of these files not to contain data that I consider to be confidential.   I had a quick scan through, and all seemed to be OK, but when they said they’d call back in a couple of days I got properly annoyed.
I suggested that as the unit was not working properly it was “unfit for purpose” and “of unmerchantable quality” under the terms of the Sales of Goods and Services Act 1968 (as amended); and that I thought a more proportionate response (as they already had my money) would be to send a replacement and arrange for collection of the useless unit.
The resulted in a lengthy conversation with his supervisor whilst I listened to more muzak, when he came back, the answer was yes.  The support engineer wanted to know the name of my Wi-Fi network (not keen), but he went back to his colleagues to find out what next – which was go ahead.
So after about 70 minutes on the phone, my Kindle was factory reset (only have a hard reboot though as it stuck again), reboxed, and a replacement due to be with me in 2 days.
After I hung up, my wife commented that I’d remained very calm (surprisingly!) and guessed I might write a word or two about the experience.  Right on both counts!
Categories
Broadband Customer Service Fail Opal Uncategorized

How not to manage a customer relationship, and why #Opal #fail

I signed up more years ago than I care to remember to Nildram for my ADSL service.  Over those years I kept paying slightly over the odds in order to have the benefit of a few things:
  • An 0800 fall back telephone access in the event of broadband failing
  • A 20:1 contention ratio
  • Decent customer service.
Over time Nildram changed hands and now sits inside Opal.
This morning I received an email from Opal offering me and upgrade that would save me some money.  Having enquired about it I discovered that the features above were no longer part of my current deal.  As part of the transfer from Nildram (or possibly before) the contention ratios were dropped to domestic levels, even though business grade contracts were in place.  So that would explain the drop off in performance…
Frankly I think downgrading a service and continuing to take the money is fraud. I will have words with trading standards.

The FRIACO call back was decommissioned some time ago (and it\’s availability was one of the reasons I did not downgrade my service some time ago).

I’ll let the following speak for the customer service.

Having made my representations to the sales person, I was advised that they had no means to record and pass on my comments to get a more formal response.  In fact the only real response was to re-sell me the upgrade to a new service.  They would or could not address the concerns that effectively broke the trust relationship between customer and supplier.  I would rather pay a bit more to a company I trust than stay. 

I was also concerned that the pitch was that this happened before Opal were involved.  This attempt at absolution is not acceptable.  When you buy a company and promise nothing changes, you are renewing a client relationship based on trust and a contract.  To argue as they did that as the contract was a rolling 1 month contract, and therefore I was “out of contract” is ignorant and wrong.  If a contract renews automatically until it is cancelled, the renewal inherits the same terms and conditions.
The net result is that an attempt to get me to upgrade my service and get me fully into the parent company fold, has instead irritated and annoyed me, wasted my time, and led me to leave.  I am not willing to invest more time and energy into sorting out a problem with a company that I now don’t trust when I can put that effort into finding a new supplier.
Would you do the same?
Categories
BBC Broadband Government Uncategorized

The curious case of the Radio Interview (and the things that can happen from an innocent tweet!)

Some time ago (mid June) someone (I think @ruskin147 or Rory Cellan-Jones of Auntie Beeb) re-tweeted a request from @ChrisMason for help in getting input to some work on the experiences of the rural broadband user. Ever keen to get my message across (that the rural community needs ADSL as much as the city dweller, and that the rural communities are seriously disadvantaged and uncared for by the telecoms industry) I tweeted Chris and we set up a dialogue. Over the course of the next few hours we exchange emails, and then phone calls discussing the issues at stake, particularly in the context of the government’s impending announcement on the “2Mb for all” policy.

 

After listening to my rant (!) Chris decided that I’d be a useful sound bite in the forthcoming article on Radio 5Live.

 

Within a few days the government made the announcement and Chris and I were in touch to fix up an appointment to record a few words. In the end as I was attending a business breakfast in Cambridge, we agreed to meet there – Chris was coming from London, and then moving onto rural Suffolk to spend some time with a BT engineer to see the practical issues in rural ADSL.

 

Setting the interview up was an interesting process! We sat down in 3 or 4 places only to find that peripheral noises were likely to be a problem both in recording and in editing – I’d not given too much thought to the latter but Chris explained that some noises (especially music) would distract the listener and potentially lead them to listen to the background (and hear the cuts in the edit), rather than listen closely to my dulcet (not!) tones. We eventually relocated one last time to a balcony which had some quiet motor noise in the background, but this was better that the crisp clear notes of the wineglasses being set out in the restaurant!

 

I’ve done interviews a number of times – but all on video. Each of these experiences had me (mostly irrationally) edgy and nervous, and was not what I would call pleasant and easy. They’ve mostly been done for Microsoft Tech*Ed conferences, and are therefore to a closed community (but highly expert) so my testimony could be harshly judged. But the sheer fact of a camera (or more than one) quite literally in your face is something I just don’t feel comfortable with.

 

With Chris it was so much simpler – no director, cameraman, soundman etc. Just Chris, and his state of the art microphone with built in digital sound recorder. Immediately it’s a more natural situation and more comfortable to deal with – just a conversation (which draws on the previous discussions).

 

Before starting Chris ran a couple of recordings to check that a) his microphone was really recording OK and b) to ensure that the background noises were sufficiently in the background to avoid the editing traps, then we were off.

 

Chris was impressive in his questioning – at no time was I led in any direction, but open questions were asked which allowed me to get across my frustrations, and make points that I wanted. A couple of times I found myself just go down a cul-de-sac without any idea how to reverse out, so we just stopped and then started again. Inevitably there were things that I forgot, and Chris helpfully reminded me of my previous comments, and we got the statements down. But the most interesting points for me in the experience (as opposed to the subject under discussion), were the “when we discussed that before…” observations from Chris when I completely forgot a really good point, and even more so – Chris has a great ability to keep thinking further ahead in the conversation to keep it going smoothly rather than stop, check a list, and then kick off. There’s a lot more to pre-recorded interviews than I thought!

 

During the day Chris had to go to Suffolk to see Mr BT, and then edit his footage (?) and then transfer to the studio for transmission. Very kindly Chris also kept me in the loop to tell me when the interview would air, and late in the afternoon I got the confirmation that I would be used to cut into the Minister’s (Jeremy Hunt) interview at 5 to put certain points to him. Earlier in the show would be the BT engineer segment, and then later a BT spokesman would be on. Fame (of a sort) at last!

 

My wife and I were organising a car rally that evening, so whilst en route we listened to it live and I found myself substantially unembarrassed by the sound of my own voice (register your surprise in the comments!), I could hear where the editing was done, but it was surprising to hear three separate parts of the conversation edited together to give one much more focussed and pointed observation to which the minister had to respond.

 

Completing the service, Chris then emailed me the segments (mine, and both BT people) so that I can embarrass myself in perpetuity.

 

 

 

Even better, Chris has released the segments as audio boos, and you can listen here:

 

BT Engineer

 

The Minister and me!

 

BT Spokesman

As for (some of!) my views, well:

  • The rural broadband gap is really bad and getting worse. In the old days of modems there was a gap between city centre (say 56.6Kbps) and rural lines (say 28.8). But overall the difference was a factor of 2. With the basic broadband of 512Kb and some providers delivering 50Mb, the factor is now 100. Content cannot be delivered assuming one or the other. I would like to see some sort of rule of thumb that requires providers to ensure that the divide is no more than (say) a factor of 10. This would mean they would HAVE to improve the rural experience before delivering insane speeds in city centres.
  • Working from home is normal, and the government wants us to do more. The biggest environment impact is out of town people driving into the cities and towns for work. We generally have no choice because the public transport options are so rubbish.
  • Information technology businesses are, by their very nature, more able to work in distant locations – yet the Broadband structures specifically work against that
  • Consumption of high data amounts is now the norm – yet provision is not up to the demand. Training and education courses require webinars or video downloads – who’d do that when the download will take many hours?
  • Patching (and waiting) – everyone needs to update and patch their computers. Yet if a full patch is measured in GB rather than MB, then a) they are discouraged, and b) they will be exposed to the vulnerability for longer.
  • Remote working and support for customers – another ideal ‘work from home’ setup – again frustrated.
  • Opportunity for villages to do information businesses in place
  • SLA’s – there are no proper SLA’s in place for broadband provision. You lose your phone line and ADSL, and who knows when it will come back. This needs to improve so that any business can assure themselves of their connectivity.
  • Finland – has made ADSL 2MB a standard service. Alongside water, electricity, gas etc. A mature response.
  • And when sewage or gas is installed into rural locations – why is nothing done to piggy back the infrastructure and deliver a better broadband or mobile phone experience?