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Cowling Suffers 2-3 Week Broadband Outage After Car Hits Local Cabinet

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016 (10:27 am) - Score 1,422

Residents of a rural village in North Yorkshire (England), Cowling, have complained about the “fiasco” of Openreach’s (BT) response after some were left without broadband connectivity for around 2-3 weeks, which started when a car crashed into one of the operator’s local FTTC cabinets.

At this point we should say that the picture accompanying this article is actually from the aftermath of a similar accident that occurred in Bourne End (Buckinghamshire) last year. We don’t have a picture of the latest incident, but street cabinets often need to be completely replaced after such events.

Otherwise the latest incident in Cowling began on 29th September 2016 after a vehicle travelling near to Lane Ends on the A6068 ended up smashing into one of Openreach’s local FTTC (VDSL2) based “fibre broadband” street cabinets. Sadly the problem wasn’t completely resolved for another 2-3 weeks and some residents weren’t at all happy.

Alan McEwen, Local Business Owner, said (Keighley News):

“It’s been a nightmare. Obviously accidents do happen. However, this collision resulted in many small, local businesses, tradesmen and hill farms being without Internet.

I’ve been run ragged on the phone speaking to people from the Highlands to Belfast trying to get it sorted out. The most local person I could find to speak to was someone in Blackburn, who didn’t have a clue where Cowling was.

I consider the BT service to be appalling and not fit to operate as a service provider.”

In fairness we’ve seen similar accidents in the past and some of those have taken a lot longer than 2-3 weeks to resolve. On top of that the loss of broadband, while obviously very important, will always come secondary to any resultant police investigation and of course the potential for loss of life or serious harm during the incident itself.

Once the police work is done then the engineers can finally get to work, but such things are rarely an easy fix. Openreach can’t simply throw a new cabinet on top and they may need additional permissions or support from other groups (power companies etc.) in order to conduct the necessary repairs.

The problem may also be exasperated if the IDC connections and other cables have been damaged, both in the cabinet and going down into the ducts underneath, none of which are a quick fix.

However in this case it was noted that part of the reason for the repair taking 2-3 weeks was because, according to a staff member at BT’s retail ISP, “Openreach were awaiting delivery of a component“. This suggests that their local division might not have had enough replacement kit in-stock for this sort of eventuality.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

“We were first aware that there was a problem with this fibre broadband cabinet due to a road traffic accident late at night on September 30.

Our first priority was to make the cabinet safe as it has power running to it, which happened in the early hours of the next day.

Unfortunately we were faced with some technical and engineering challenges to get the cabinet fully up and running again and the service was restored on October 17.

We apologise for the delays and the inconvenience this caused to people in the local community.”

Clearly one area where situations like this could be improved is on the communication front. At present Openreach passes information about such incidents to ISPs and they in turn relay a softened version to customers, but it would be handy if Openreach also operated a central service status database that could be accessed / searched by the public.

A further bit of digging suggests that some people were actually able to get back online within 3-5 days, although it’s not clear if they were FTTC or ADSL subscribers.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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14 Responses
  1. wireless pacman says:

    Be interesting to find out from the local business owner what it was he really got annoyed over – the time to repair or the poor communication.

    Mind you, as broadband seems so important to him he should have just switched over to his back up. Oh,what? No back up? Tut, tut! 🙂

    1. DTMark says:

      Surely all business broadband connections should come with some sort of failover, which necessarily can’t be on the BT network.

      I’d thought that AAISP supplied some kind of router (‘Firebrick’?) that does exactly that, and the SIM card to go with it. I’d say that’s probably the minimum you need before you can really advertise the thing as resilient or high availability.

      Which, of course, is only going to work if there’s a workable MBB service at that location. There might not be..

      I’d also thought that this issue (“we don’t have the parts”) was more of a VM issue given that their cabinets have been there for decades and there isn’t one single universal specification or configuration for them all.

  2. gpmgroup says:

    Do ADSL lines go into an FTTC cabinet and come back out or do they go straight past in the duct below?

    1. MikeW says:

      ADSL lines go to the nearby PCP – the other green, copper wiring-only, cabinet. They don’t go into the FTTC cabinet.

    2. gpmgroup says:

      Thanks MikeW!

  3. Data Analysis says:

    So much for SML1 and SML2 agreements.

  4. Big Jock says:

    Can they not swap them back over to adsl till the fttc service is back up and running?

  5. Vince says:

    “Surely all business broadband connections should come with some sort of failover, which necessarily can’t be on the BT network.”

    …it would, if they’d pay for that. But most people want to pay the bare minimum and expect 100% reliability 100% of the time, but are always the loudest complainers when something goes wrong.

    Interestingly those who pay more for more resilience complain less when something does go wrong that even the resilience can’t help with in my experience.

    1. DTMark says:

      It only requires just one person to be connected to that cabinet to have taken a service advertised as “suitable for business” for the product to have been, IMO, mis-sold thanks to the single point of failure and appalling turnaround time for the repair.

    2. Data Analysis says:

      Yep so much for businesses that paid extra for a SLA.

  6. Apolloa says:

    I love these things, the people could not care less if the people in the car that hit it died or not, ALL they care about is Facebook and Twitter.. life was better in this respect before the Internet.

    1. dragoneast says:

      Rather tend to agree, th’internet has made us all more selfish (more so than efficient). But being an ISP site what’s life outside th’internet got to do with it?

  7. fastman says:

    FTTC business products will still be a Contended Broadband service and most wont have any SLA’s

    1. Data Analysis says:

      You can have an SLA on any BT business product in addition you can also have

      https://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/products/serviceproducts/serviceharmonisation/serviceharmonisation.do

      and “This means you can opt to pay for a six-hour repair on a fault,”

      in addition “Available on demand and can go up to Maintenance Option 4 for a fix within six hours If we don’t fix the fault in the agreed time you don’t pay for the expedite charge Available as a rental product for complete peace of mind or ‘on demand’, whenever needed”

      So much for them having any chance of managing that.

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