Recently I wrote a column about a constituent and her unenviable problems with BT.
Since then I have been on a personal campaign to gather my constituent’s experiences as BT customers and to raise them directly with BT.
If you would like me to add your experience to this data, please email me. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now I have another constituent Mr Alexander, whose experiences are just as astounding.
Mr Alexander has a serious medical condition that makes him dependent on his landline as an emergency service.
Mr Alexander’s landline stopped working in November and remains inactive still.
BT have a regulatory obligation to provide a landline service to all homes.
My team have been chasing this matter urgently, daily, since Mr Alexander brought it to our attention before Christmas.
Despite this complaint having been escalated to the highest possible executive level, the phone-line still does not work.
Given that BT receive Government money precisely because they are obligated to provide this universal service you might think that as an MP I would be able to get Mr Alexander’s phone line mended.
Sadly this seems not to be true.
BT is a private company and as such my influence is actually very limited.
There are all kinds of reasons and excuses being offered to Mr Alexander for failing to provide this service, many of you will have encountered similar if you have ever dealt with BT; ‘it is BT Openreach who are delaying things, there is a traffic management hold-up, we have a gas/water pipe nearby, a blockage further along etc.’
Whilst I am sure there are elements of truth in all these reasons for delay, had BT acted immediately upon being alerted to this problem they would have seemed reasonable in November in a way they don’t now.
As Mr Alexander reasonably asks, ‘How can they just be finding a ‘blockage further up the wire’ now?
Even worse the level of customer care, given by BT to their customers, regularly offends and further frustrates, often adding insult to injury.
For example, Mr Alexander not only has no working phone, but he is now receiving impolite letters threatening to cut off a service that has not worked since November.
It is impossible, when being confronted with the mail bag I continually receive not to consider the matter from the customer perspective and wonder if things might not be better if regulated industries had some sort of direct accountability to government, at least for the services that people depend upon.
What could be done differently to help Mr Alexander?
On a happier note, some representatives of BT visited my office last week specifically to outline their progress rolling out fibre optic broadband.
The headline target is 99% rollout by 2020. Which is fabulous news for most of the constituency.
However, and you can probably guess, there are parts of rural Scotland that BT consider to be ‘uneconomic’!
For these areas BT plan to ‘allow’ local communities to ‘fund the gap’.
So remote rural communities, probably the most in need of connectivity and opportunities to work from home, will have to partially provide this service for themselves, as it does not offer sufficient shareholder value to BT.
So that is being packaged as ‘BT Community Fibre Partnership’.
Again it seems the public might not be best off with private provision for essential services…
BT’s slogan used to be “its good to talk”, lets hope that we can make some real changes for the better with this company so that we ensure that everyone is able to be connected.