Saturday, 20 November 2010

Powerless in the world-wide web

TECHNOLOGY is great when it works. When it doesn’t, it is a mind-numbing, business killing, debilitating nightmare.
None of these thoughts is very original, but I am prompted to utter them because of a chain of telecommunications challenges that have dominated my week.
First the landline in and out of our house went dead, overnight Monday to Tuesday. I used my mobile to telephone BT who supply the service and found myself talking to a nice young lady, by the sound of her, in Bangalore.
I pointed out I was paying for the phone call, so she agreed to ring me back. When she did, and while she had me on the phone, she did a diagnostic and found that BT had an “underground” problem. It could not be fixed straight away as a contractor had to be called in.
I had no choice but to accept this, forgetting that the internet line on which both my, and my wife’s, businesses depend used the BT lines. So that jacked up the scale of the problem.
I phoned Bangalore again. They repeated there was no hope of repair until Friday. Then we started getting phone calls on the landline. But when we tried to ring out the line was so crackly that it was impossible to conduct a conversation.
The internet was lost most of the time, although flickered on tantalisingly now and then.
On Wednesday morning my mobile stopped sending SMS messages, commonly known as texts. All attempts met with the little red cross that means a message has not been sent.
I couldn’t use BT to phone the company which supplies my mobile service, Vodafone, as recommended, so had to ring on the mobile. That meant they had to talk me through the procedure, then ring off and then ring me back to see if it worked.
The SMS had apparently lost network connection, although how it could do this and still make calls was beyond me and the nice young man, from Cairo in Egypt this time, who talked me through the process. We ended up shouting at each other, in an entirely friendly way, across the world’s airwaves down my crackly BT line.
The solution worked, although the Vodafone signal continued to be weak and remains so.
On Thursday the telephone man arrived and used all his clever gizmos to find the fault, which turned out to be a tree interfering with the line 60 metres from my property. It was too high for his ladders so he, and we, had to wait for a cherry picker from another job.
This finally arrived Thursday tea-time and the BT line was restored, along with the Internet and no more crackly phone calls.
Two hours later the electricity went off all together, so the family stumbled around in the dark with torches, making frantic phone calls and being updated on the fault, which turned out to be caused by a fire in a sub-station. Electricity was restored two hours later.
By then I had given up all hope of getting any work done. From Bangalore to Cairo to Britain there were people tried to solve my telecommunications problems.
I lost three days all together. I couldn’t even post this blog until BT had sorted the “underground” cable, which turned out to be so over-ground they couldn’t reach it.
Before rural England gets too uptight about broadband speeds, perhaps it should insist that fundamental modern services, like mobiles, telephones, Internet and even electricity actually work at all.

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