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Dec 29 2006

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correspondence with a corporation

Recently I have been experiencing a small problem with my BT broadband connection. I should point out that in general my experience wth BT’s broadband offering is very good. Whilst not the cheapest around, the quality and reliability of the connection are better than I have heard reported from friends and colleagues with other ISPs. But for the past two weeks I have been having great difficulty in getting the support department to fix (or even recognise) a problem I am having with my VOIP connection.

I upgraded to BT Total Broadband (up to 8Mbps) from my previous 2Mbps BT contract for two reasons – firstly the additional bandwidth obviously, but secondly because it offered free VOIP calls after 18.00 and at weekends. Thus I would be getting a second phone line for no additional cost. Indeed, given that the contract I changed to was actually cheaper than my existing BT contract, I was initially quite pleased.

Too soon.

The BT Total Broadband contract includes a DSL router made for BT by Thomson) and branded by BT as the “Home hub”. That hub offers VOIP connectivity and WiFi access as well as wired ethernet connectivity to the net. Despite the fact that BT have heavily customised the standard Thomson Speedtouch interface, it is still an attractive package. However, I am not the standard user that BT intends to support. For a start I use Linux, not Windows. This normally gives support departments problems.

Having signed up, taken delivery and configured my Hub all was well until I opted to include what BT calls its “softphone” package as well. This is a software only SIP package which is supposed to allow PC users to make VOIP calls from the PC in addition to using a standard phone (or DECT phone) attached to the hub. This can be useful for laptop users for example who may be using their machines in rooms without immediate access to the telephone handset. Obviously, being a Linux user, the BT softphone is useless to me, so I downloaded some potential alternatives – linphone, wengophone and x-lite to try. Unfortunately for me, my Hub threw a fit when I fired up the softphones. Indeed, after attempting to use linphone, the router rebooted, and rebooted, and rebooted, and rebooted. Eventually I tried a hardware reset to get back to factory settings, but even that failed and the hub now just broadcasts BOOTP requests over the ethernet connection.

Having fritzed my hub I went back to using my D-Link router until I could source a replacement. I soon took delivery of a Thomson Speedtouch ST780WL (big brother to the hub). I configured this in the same way as the hub in the expectation that all would be well. My mistake. Whilst, indeed, all is well with my standard internet connectivity, I cannot get the VOIP service to work. In desperation (trust me) I contacted BT Broadband support. That started a thread of correspondence which has lasted so far for two weeks and has descended to the level of farce. No-one , but no-one in BT support seems capable of reading and understanding my request. My experience is shown at Problems with BT Broadband I have anonymised the relevant contact details for obvious reasons.

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