back to article Remember the bloke who was told by Zen Internet to contact his MP about crap service? Yeah, it's still not fixed

A broadband customer from Leatherhead, Surrey, who was told to "speak to your MP" after his ISP failed to resolve repeated line disconnections has now been informed he can leave his contract without penalty after Openreach failed to resolve the problem. Alan Brown, a network manager at a Russell Group University, got in touch …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Write your MP

    Given the experience of how unrepresentative our representatives are, "Whats the point?" is bang on accurate. I once got a reply from mine saying he had "already told me the governments position" on the issue. That's not his job, his job is to tell the government our position on issues. Completely whipped.

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      Re: Write your MP

      I once tried to make an appointment to see mine at her surgery. I was told that would only happen if I submitted a written statement of what I wished to discuss, in advance.

      She was one of the ones kicked out of a "permanent" labour seat at the last election.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Write your MP

        Our MP - very near Leatherhead, but I'll leave him anon to not get the Reg's libel lawyers anxious - is, like most Surrey tories, safe enough that "you could pin a blue rosette on a shit around here and it would get elected", as I heard not so long ago.

        We had need of him due to a local church school being closed unnecessarily. Naturally he didn't need to help, so he didn't, despite requests from us and from the local councillor at the time, also a Tory.

        A complicated sequence of events including COVID, shortages of space in the remaining schools and some deft manoeuvring later, the school briefly reopened temporarily despite furious lobbying by the local Diocese. So awful were they, we got it written up "in the back" in Private Eye - including the fact that Jeremy Hunt, who had a personal connection with one of those involved, did some behind the scenes lobbying of his own.

        Four hours - FOUR HOURS - after the postman delivers the Eye, our local MP is on the phone trying to arrange a PR visit so he could say "something must be done" on camera before going back to his nap.

        Conclusion: if you want to get them off their arses, give another MP credit.

        1. nematoad
          Thumb Down

          Re: Write your MP

          "you could pin a blue rosette on a shit around here and it would get elected",

          Sounds to me as if that is exactly what happened.

          I get e-mails asking me to contact my MP from various organisations, I never do as I have had dealings with him in before and he is well aware of my different attitudes to events in the recent past. Brexit being one of the main ones. So I never bother to e-mail him and if I do have to contact him I write. By the rules of Parliament he is obliged to reply. Though I have never had a satisfactory answer from him yet.

          Oh, he is a Tory and I, most definitely, am not.

          1. DJV Silver badge

            Re: Write your MP

            Yeah, same here in Norwich North - MP is a total waste of protoplasm. For the amount of good she does, the job could be more than adequately filled by long-dead roadkill.

          2. Da Weezil

            Re: Write your MP

            Yep total waste of time contacting ours, he has his lips firmly attached to the party rump and will blindly only vote for whatever the whips tell him, so much for being elected to represent US, he is only interested in representing the views of his party bosses.

            Democracy, does that happen anywhere anymore?

            1. Mark 78

              Re: Write your MP

              Seeing as so many are saying how crap their MP is, it's time for someone to say something nice..... I consider myself lucky to have a great MP, always available to help and tries holding the Government to account. Maybe a few more areas should try voting Green and she might not have to work by herself in Parliament.

              1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

                Re: Write your MP

                I'm trying to discern the motivation of the various downvoters for these comments. You've accused your MP of being popular and effective! How very dare you!

                As for those downvoting the "my MP is useless because X" comments, what's driving that? Are there a number of useless MPs reading this thread instead of doing any real work, or are people really so "my party, right or wrong" that they think their team is entirely without fault?

                A little bit of a tally so far:

                * Comments criticising Labour MPs: 0 downvotes

                * Comments criticising Tory MPs: 6 downvotes

                * Comments praising Greens: 2 downvotes

                * Comments praising LDs: 1 downvote

                I think we can see where the unquestioning loyalty is to be found.

      2. goldcd

        Re: Write your MP

        That doesn't sound too unreasonable.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Write your MP

          You haven't tried dealing with my MP. I have

          Calling him useless would be unkind to useless people

      3. Chz

        Re: Write your MP

        The real pity is that people have generally stopped voting for their MP and vote party lines the majority of the time. Our LD MP represented a party I generally view with distaste, but he was an *excellent* local MP. Always visible, responded to emails promptly, and at least put enough effort in to look like he gave a shit.

        Replaced by a Con MP who only responds to communications that toe the party line. (Which, as a freshman MP, is all he does) Though I admit it's hard to judge his public presence given the events since the last election.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Write your MP

          We had a very responsive and effective LibDem MP one Nick Clegg (whatever happened to him?) He was replaced by a former bar worker Jared O'Mara. God knows what the Labour Party was thinking, maybe he ticked the right "minority" boxes: ginger, thick, young, snowflake, Corbynite, disabled (allegedly). Suspended by the party, inexplicably readmitted, then resigned. Allegations of sexual harassment, racist hate speech, financial irregularities, transphobic, homophobic. Possibly more stupid than Diane Abbot. Even by Labour party standards a complete waste of space, or as a former member of his communication team expressed it

          The most disgustingly morally bankrupt person I ever had the displeasure of working with and who had inexcusable contempt for his constituents.

          Inexplicably the constituency still voted Labour next time. So far the replacement is merely "ineffective" but that's a massive improvement.

          1. mistersaxon

            Re: Write your MP

            What does having ginger hair have to do with his fitness to be an MP? Are you saying all ginger people are thick? Dishonest? Labour voters? You'd better explain that pointless piece of spite or retract it, don't you think?

            No, it wasn't "humorous" or "satirical" - it was, frankly, racist. And no, I'm not ginger, before you ask, though what that would have to do with it is beyond me.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Write your MP

      Mine called me "vexatious" as I didn't blindly accept the SNP party line (no wonder folk call them the "Natzis".....and no wonder they are so touchy about the comparison....)

      He also hated that I pointed out the multiple times when he was flat out lying and how own party's press releases contradicted him....

      1. Dave K

        Re: Write your MP

        Same on both sides. I'm in Aberdeenshire and we had a Tory MP previously (thankfully not any more). He voted in favour of every single Brexit related item that came up. When I pointed out to him that his constituents voted against Brexit and certainly didn't want a Tory ultra-hard Brexit, he was completely dismissive and just toed the party line regardless.

        1. Mishak Silver badge

          Re: Write your MP

          And that's where the system is broken. An MP's primary responsibility should be to support what the majority of their constituents want, not what the party wants.

          1. Adelio

            Re: Write your MP

            just take a gander over the pond. Our politians seem to have a lot more freedum that in the USA.

      2. Trigun

        Re: Write your MP

        The SNP as a party do appear just a tad authoritarian, which is why I think people make that comparrison. Not that we have it that much better down south at times.

  2. TonyJ

    I hate to say it but my brief experience with Zen some years ago was just as terrible.

    I was getting sub-dialup speeds on my then 8Mbit ADSL.

    They were utterly ambivalent to it - they blamed my kit, they blamed openreach, they did everything in their power to avoid trying to fix it. They wouldn't acknowledge that they were replacing a service that ran at around 4.5 - 5Mbits perfectly well for years, just playing the shrugged shoulders game.

    Ultimately I exited within the cooling off period. I can't remember who I went to but it was back to normal speeds immediately.

    I was genuinely surprised given their outstanding reputation for customer service back then.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not just Zen

      I'm with IDNet, which according to reviews has even better customer satisfaction ratings than Zen, and they really are no better in getting line faults fixed (in fact, I found they are even worse as I was with Zen at our previous house and when we had problems Zen was a lot more helpful).

      I'm on FTTC, and the line drops several times a day; IDNet said they can see there's something going on but that OpenReach won't send someone out to fix it and there's nothing they can do.

      Having said that, the attitude is not really surprising when 90% of the phone lines and last mile is owned and operated by a monopolist like OpenReach, who couldn't care less about the reliability of it's old copper (and often even aluminum) network when there is no regulator worth the title looking after them to enforce quick problem resolution through strict regulation and harsh penalties.

      We intend to relocate in the near future, and I was thinking of going back to Zen. Oh well...

      1. Silver badge

        Re: Not just Zen

        At least you have choices. Up here in the States you often have one ISP servicing any specific area, with the only alternatives being having a business line installed by that same ISP (need the proper paperwork and 10-50k USD sitting around for that) or satellite. Last-mile with 5G or etc. isn't an option either, since it's really only done out in the boonies, and not in built-up suburban/residential areas.

        1. Smirnov

          Re: At least you have choices.

          "At least you have choices."

          Yes and no. I have lots of choices of ISPs but since they all use the same network owned by the monopoly that is OpenReach this doesn't necessarily help getting faulty lines sorted out.

          "Up here in the States you often have one ISP servicing any specific area, with the only alternatives being having a business line installed by that same ISP (need the proper paperwork and 10-50k USD sitting around for that) or satellite. Last-mile with 5G or etc. isn't an option either, since it's really only done out in the boonies, and not in built-up suburban/residential areas"

          I know (I lived in the American SW many years ago), and I agree the overall broadband situation is even worse.

          Funny enough, all these problems could be easily sorted out by regulation.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: At least you have choices.

            "Funny enough, all these problems could be easily sorted out by regulation."

            The problem in the USA IS regulation (state level)

            Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) awarded private telcos mergers and legal monopolies and over local loop in exchange for promised work but then didn't hold them to the part about doing the work. It's been going on for about 30 years.

            The result is that AT&T has been reassembled in 2 parts (east/west of the mississippi) in ways it can't be touched by the FTC and without those 1930s antitrust settlement "universal service for all at a reasonable price" requirements

            Unsurprisingly, when you dig in there are very cozy arrangements between PUC commissioners and staff and the utilities being regulated, lots of holidays and freebies being handed out, etc.

            The amount of FUD those telcos are now emitting about Starlink is high and they were fouind to be astroturfing at least one "astronomy pressure group" trying to get legislation passed (real astronomer groups are actually working with Starlink to mitigate issues, not trying legislative approaches)

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Not just Zen

          "At least you have choices."

          It's a bit of a Hobsons Choice in many cases though. No matter the provider, they all come via the same OpenReach lines. If that's where the problem lies, then changing provider won't help. Those us us with different options on who provides the cabling are in a better position, but that is generally limited to two providers in most cases. And then, like many people, there's satellite with all it's own problems such as weather, latency, cost and not having large trees or hills in the way. (Although Starlink seems to obviate most of those issues apart from cost.)

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Not just Zen

            Starlink is competitive pricewise with 300MB/s links and they're claiming to be able to offer this before the end of August

            Given that 1:1 high speed comparison, it's not as bad as it looks, expecially with the high cost of gfast or fttp install

  3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    "The highest level of escalation"

    I think a couple of months ago, Private Eye Magazine ran a list of issues that Boris Johnson was personally taking charge of apparently. It was moderately amusing if you're heartless.

    I guess there ain't no cure for the summer downtime blues.

  4. Mike 137 Silver badge


    When I "upgraded" to FTTC I initially got very poor speeds, so Openretch came out several times. I finally persuaded the "engineer" that my 30 ft of internal wiring wasn't the problem, so he did a time domain reflectometer test on the incoming line. He found what he described as an impedance imbalance and went to fix it. He returned a couple of hours later, saying he'd found some 50 copper pairs in a road manhole with 1970s "dry" crimps full of water and had to fix them all. My speeds were a bit better after that.

    Openretch are progressively abandoning maintenance of the copper infrastructure preparatory to phasing it out - theoretically in about five years.

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      Re: Opencircuit

      Have they figured out who's going to pay to dig up everyone's front gardens yet ?

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Opencircuit

        Just before the phase-out date the government of the day, if it's still conservative, will invent FTTE Broadband (Fibre-to-the-Exchange) and claim victory.

      2. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: Opencircuit

        "Have they figured out who's going to pay to dig up everyone's front gardens yet ?"

        They probably won't. My neighbours have FTTP, and the fibres emerge from a street duct just by the edge of their front garden and have just been led on the surface against the boundary fence up to where they run through the front wall of the house.

        Resilience not...

        1. Silver badge

          Re: Opencircuit

          And then the neighborhood dog comes up and takes a chomp... Dead Internet and likely Fido as well, if glass fibers in the stomach are any indication.

        2. vogon00

          Re: Opencircuit

          Mmmm...yep, seconded! Although I don't live in a Virgin Media service area, I have in the past and still have friends that do.

          Almost without exception, some portion of the 'drop cable' from the street to the house is exposed. My personal favourite was at an ex-neighbours home. After the install was completed, said neighbour invited me round to look at the 'speedtest' results. I found:-

          A drop cable that comes up out of the tarmac pavement at the base of their 750mm high garden wall;

          it had no mechanical protection on it's way up the public side of this here wall and could be damaged by anyone passing, bu accident or design;

          It was then clipped to the wall with a single plastic-and-masonry-nail 'cable clip' (Too big for the task, of course) into a mortar joint between the wall's capstones;

          It then draped nicely down to the bare earth flowerbed behind the wall, waving gently in the breeze;

          after that, it ran over the shrubs and tree branches up to their house, where it entered the premises via a hole that looks as if it 'was drilled using a dull apprentice';

          Neighbour-boy was sooooo impressed with the up/down speeds he'd forgotten to check the outside workmanship before they left to deposit his gift of tea and biscuits elsewhere. One VERY angry phone call and emails photos later, another appointment was made to do things properly. This time, we had a 'proper' underground conduit ready complete with draw cable in place and waiting for the Vermin Media knuckle-draggers - we didn't even bother asking them do that. You'd be surprised how hard it was to get them to use it! Dumb, process-driven cnuts!

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Opencircuit

            They are almost certainly contractors paid a fixed rate per job. Anything "complex" will be bodged and rarely will VM bother to spot check any of the work done. Customers who complain will likely get the same firm of contractors back who, if you are lucky, will bodge it up to minimal standards and almost certainly won't be getting paid again by VM. They rely on getting as many jobs done as possible as cheaply as possible to maximise the profits from the fixed price installs on the basis that most people will either not know or not care if the job is done properly and the few that do and require a no-payment "upgrade" won't eat into the profits as much as just doing all the installs properly in the first place.

            Having said that, I don't know how much VM pay their contractors. It's probably a lowest tender bid and there might not be any profit in doing the job properly so a good reason for VM to not bother to check if the job is done properly.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Opencircuit

            " and could be damaged by anyone passing, bu accident or design"

            I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often

            The local Virgin cabinet frequently has its front cover off/loose (local oiks use it as a stash point for various contraband) and looks like it's been crowbarred open more than once.

            I've noticed cables ripped out on a couple of occasions and measured appalling contention ratios on neighbours installations (throughput is particularly bad "Just after school", etc)

            Virtually every single virgin drop is flapping in the breeze at footpath level. It'd only take one idiot with a vendetta to cost them hundreds of hours in repair costs (That's why I'm not even considering them for service. It's bad enough with Openwretch)

            Stuff like this reminds me of why "Made in Britain" became a warning label across the commonwealth in the 60s and early 70s. You have to wonder if Openreach recruited British Leyland management

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Opencircuit

        telegraph poles. They'll use telegraph poles like they already do around here.

  5. John Sager

    Zen may be happy to let him go and avoid the continuing trouble ticket expenses. The problem almost certainly lies with the Cu/Al wiring, so Openreach. If he goes to another ISP they may be reluctant to take him if they know the history and his broadband wouldn't improve either.

  6. Recluse

    He needs to migrate to Andrews and Arnold (AAISP)

    Seems a classic case to let AAISP loose on BT Openreach

    More here

    1. Bertieboy

      Re: He needs to migrate to Andrews and Arnold (AAISP)

      +1 for Andrews and Arnold - been with them years, the price has never gone up and the service is exemplary!

      And for bonus - any problems/questions of a technical nature, just ring up and talk straight to a highly competent teccie.

      1. Mnot Paranoid

        Re: He needs to migrate to Andrews and Arnold (AAISP)

        Even for those of us on usage based tariffs, their COVID policy has been nothing short of sublime.

        It's just a shame their IRC channel has really gone down the toilet in recent years - infested with non-customers and miscreants.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He needs to migrate to Andrews and Arnold (AAISP)

      It's an impressive sales pitch by AAISP. Maybe he should try showing that to Zen and asking them to match it?

      But then if Zen also matched the A&A prices, they could probably more easily afford it :)

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: He needs to migrate to Andrews and Arnold (AAISP)

        "But then if Zen also matched the A&A prices, they could probably more easily afford it :)"

        Well yes, unfortunately its a race to the bottom with ISPs trying to attract customers. If you want decent anything then expect to pay a reasonable price. I would have signed up with AAISP years ago but I'd regularly blow through their caps just on streaming. I've got a 500mbps Virgin connection and thankfully they're actually reasonable now compared to when I left them some years back when YouTube used to buffer.

    3. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

      Re: He needs to migrate to Andrews and Arnold (AAISP)

      £54 a month for upto 80Mb with an 800GB data cap... no thanks. I can burn through that in a week. We stream everything, barely ever have live broadcast TV on. Netflix, Prime video, iplayer... and others.

      They may be a decent company and they may have great customer service... But their pricing is atrocious in comparison.

      Even Zen who I used to be with for years until I sold my house a few months back had really dropped the ball with reliability and poor customer service. In the last 18 months I was with them... I had around 6 or 7 months free because of problems with the line that lasted about 13 months... that eventually resulted in Openreach replacing the conk in the exchange, rewiring from the pole to the house along with some extra box added to my house for something and all new wiring from the exchange to the cabinet.

      Moving in less than 2 weeks... and trying to decide on a new ISP.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ultimate victory for ISPs

    unhappy about your service? Getting nowhere with your MP / PM? Ultimately, your service is YOUR problem, so thank you, and fuck off...

  8. TVC

    I guess some jobs just go wrong.

    14 years ago I was with Plusnet. I got fed up with 300k downloads and being told I was too far from the exchange. I moved to Zen and my download speed increased immediately to 5mb. Never looked back.

    Every time since, any problems have been proved, with Zen's help, to be at my end.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I guess some jobs just go wrong.

      I suspect/hope that there is some truth in that.

      I suspect that Zen are also a bit stuck in the middle because most of the actual hardware stuff connected to your connection is at Openreach's end, and if they are being intransigent, what can you do?

      But, after this length of time, in fact, surely after more than a couple of weeks of problems, both parties should have done the equivalent of "OK, let's connect it up to a new port and see if that fixes it". Sometimes a specific piece of hardware is at fault, sometimes the config has got screwed up somehow, and sometimes it's somewhere in the phone line twixt exchange and house - in which case the problem is definitely Openreach's to resolve.

      I used Zen for a good number of years and had a reliable connection and no problems. The only reason I'm not using them now is because I moved, and my flatmate had an existing (and slightly cheaper) connection which they were perfectly happy with. I would be quite sad if Zen in general had lost the plot since then, and I would hope this is just an isolated case (little consolation that that is to the customer in question).

      1. iGNgnorr

        Re: I guess some jobs just go wrong.

        I've had similar problems. Openreach never fixed anything despite Zen sending them half a dozen times over a couple of months. Suddenly, a few weeks after everyone had given up, things got better overnight. Our guess is that Openreach changed out some of their kit overnight ... never admitted to anything though

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I guess some jobs just go wrong.

      "Every time since, any problems have been proved, with Zen's help, to be at my end.'

      Had the same experience with Zen after I moved to them from Be (anyone remember Bethere?). The line was never stable but Zen got it sorted out in no time.

      As mentioned earlier, I'm currently with IDNet (I only moved to them because they didn't had any minimum contract length back then as I wasn't sure how long I stayed at my current location), and they have proven to be completely useless on more than one occasion.

  9. hairydog

    The point is that Zen are in the right here. They cannot do anything to resolve issues within the Openreach section. They can only lean on Openreach. Which they have done, without success.

    BT (owners of Openreach) is a private company that exists to make a profit, not to provide a service. This was a political decision to set up.

    The best way to lean on OR/BT probably is to contact your MP. But he chose to ignore that advice - perhaps his MP is as useless as mine!

    It makes no difference which ISP you go to: they all depend on Openreach engineers fixing the same fault in the same pair of wires.

    The difference with Zen is that they don't bullshit you. The people you speak to are knowledgeable, not reading a script. And if your connection is good, your service will be good too. But it is always going to depend on the weakest link in the chain, and that's clearly in the Openreach sector in this case.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      " The difference with Zen is that they don't bullshit you. "


      and as a free clue, attempting DSL line diagnosis on flapping PPPoE faults isn't terribly impressive (amongst other issues)

  10. ShadowSystems

    Just a thought...

    What if you wrote to your MP as indicated in the article, but you also sent a copy of the letter to your local newspaper as an OpEd piece to be run in their editorial column for all to read? If your letter gets printed it may cause a public "Me too!" uproar that the MP can't simply sweep under a rug or blow off with mere platitudes. It would also light a fire under the company you're complaining about to get the problem solved in the hopes the same news outlet will print the follow-up good-PR article to prove that they (the company) "cares about their customers" like they claim.

    Would becoming a proverbial squeaky wheel & a thorn in $Company's arse by putting your issue in print for all to read (as well as writing to your MP) not get things solved faster to your satisfaction?

  11. Blofeld's Cat

    Oh Fawkes ...

    A friend wrote to her MP responding to one of the government's consultation invitations, politely expressing her reasoned opinion on the subject.

    She received a reply thanking her for her comments, and a glossy booklet explaining the government's view on the subject, and why she was completely wrong.

    That's the sort of thing that happens when your MP is also the PM.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: Oh Fawkes ...

      It happens with almost all MPs who are in the governing party.

      However, I still write to my MP as requested by several campaigns. Not because I expect it to make any difference (or even for him to read my well-reasoned and individual comments) but because all MPs weigh their correspondence.

      My MP is an ambitious young so-and-so, who is a (very) junior minister. So he definitely won't be supporting anything but the government policy, whatever his constituents say. But, I like to believe that, for some issues, MPs do report how much mail they are getting on the subject. So I make sure I write to him on anything I consider important, just for the small chance that he reports that this issue is causing grief, even in his safe seat, and should probably be left to quietly drop.

      Or, at least, to avoid the feeling that "if I had written, it might have made a difference, this time".

  12. BenDwire Silver badge

    Déjà vu

    I've been there, done that, and even wrote to the MP. However, I did eventually get it fixed.

    It's a long story, but in essence I lived at the end of a 5km line mainly supplied on overhead wires. Being 10 years ago I only managed to get 1-2Mbps at the best of times, but after 4 months of intermittent service I switched to Andrews & Arnold as they were promising to get dodgy lines fixed. After A&A initiated many more Openreach 'engineer' visits I was eventually blessed by a visit of someone who knew what he was doing, and he discovered that in all probability the cable was broken underneath a ploughed field - a thing they apparently call 'Plough Strike' in the trade. He said that such repairs would take a significant amount of time and money, and I should try writing a snotty letter to overlords of Openreach, at that time headed up by none other than Ed Davey.

    Of course I got a standard letter back in response saying that he couldn't get involved in such matters, but interestingly within a few short weeks roadworks were set up beside the field, new manholes were excavated, and new wires pulled through and connected. I was stunned when my speed shot up to a heady 3-4Mbps.

    The moral of the story is to use people who can apply pressure on your behalf. A&A were (and still are) exceptionally good, and between their equipment and my Syslog files they gave Openreach undisputable evidence that it was their problem to fix. Did Ed Davey do anything? Officially, no, but I can well believe that something was said to someone along the way.

    BTW I'm still with A&A to this day, simply because of their customer service and technical support (not that I need it as I've long since moved). Slightly more expensive, granted, but worth every penny as far as I'm concerned.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anon as I worked at Zen previously, and not for an insignificant amount of time.

    Too late taking that to DSO. We would never have let it get to now to reach that level. Once the first article was run, that was the legit enabler at least. Referencing to an MP isn't a bad shout, as long as it's not presented as "nothing else we can do now". It's very effective if we were genuinely being fobbed off ourselves as an aid to the challenge, however it shouldn't be just used to leave the end customer to their own devices.

    What I am interested in knowing though are what specifics are there on the fault so far.

    There must be something unusual about this case for it to be just running on without a whole heap of things already being ruled out. Certainly during my time we all knew which were the long running faults and made sure they were properly covered in our services reviews or Industry forums if required, not only for the merits of individual cases but often to highlight the wider weaknesses or themes for others.

    Balled dropped certainly although I'm not entirely sure we have the full story here either.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      " There must be something unusual about this case for it to be just running on without a whole heap of things already being ruled out."

      rotting cables (140 metre run in my case, which has dropped to sub 16MB/s at times)

      openreach playing musical cable pairs(*) when people in the street complain (at one point adding 40m to the loop (August 2020) - which was removed on Friday when the circuit was transferred to a "new cable". Some poor sod got bumped to make that happen and won't be happy...)

      (*) "Find the least bad pair, move the complaining customer to it, too bad for whoever was on it" - and yes the Openreach contractors freely admit to doing it on orders of Openreach managament. They also freely admit the in-ground cabling is rotten but claim that Openreach management refuse to deal with it by replacing them and force them to simply keep bodging. (I have to wonder who got dumped on my old bad pair and how long it'll take before I get bumped again)

      Pits flilling up with water every time it rains (resulting in DSL line problems starting about 24 hours after sustained rain does and clearing up a few days after is stops)

      Apparent overload of the processors in the ECI cabinets - lots of PPPoE dropouts and multiple customers complaining over multiple ISPs - Openreach flat out lied to Zen about this, saying nobody else was complaining, only to have a tech show up mentioning he bumped into another tech at the cabinet working on an identical fault for a different customer/ISP

      Apparent overload of the backhaul to the exchange head end and/or the head end crapping out regularly (the techs have all mentioned this and the number of callouts they get)

      These problems have persisted over 5 ISPs, 15 years, 5 routers, 3 NTE5 blocks, 5 faceplates, 2 drop cable replacements (and there´s nothing on the inside end of the line other than the router, no extension cabling at all and indoor cabling runs a whole 4 inches)

      And yes Zen DID say "Nothing more we can do"

      The distribution and trunking cables in this area are lead sheathed paper insulated - and the ground is a swamp (quite literally, itś in the Doomsday book) with very high water table.

      Couple that with 40 years of the local council not clearing drains (surface flooding has been a constant issue) and it seems the pits have been soaking in dirty water for decades and any breaks don't have sufficient air pressurisation to keep water out.

      That there's a water issue is underscored by my Fritzbox reporting "Bridge taps" of varying lengths and varying distances along the line when the weather's been bad for a few weeks. Real bridge taps don't move around, this is insulation breakdown/foreign battery raising its head

      Openreach have been actively and openly hostile to getting this fixed and I'm far from the only affected customer on the cabinet (at least a dozen people in the vicinity chave confirmed similar problems with both DSL impairment and massive levels of PPPoE dropouts)

      It's also far from the only area suffering similar problems. The problem is OFCOM and a large part of the issue is "Regulatory capture"

      Ofcom refuse to take individual complaints so Openreach can get away with shafting customers (one of very few regulators worldwide who refuse individual complaints) for years, as has been repeatedly demonstrated.

      "We don't care, we don't have to, We OWN the regulator"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well, where to begin with that lot!

        This has prominent fault written all over it. As there are multiple people impacted, I'd be asking you to get details of the other service providers for the locals to see which contacts we had to co-ordinate the efforts.

        In isolation though, first off I'd target the lead aspect of it and be a real nuisance about it. I've been in a number of meetings where Openreach have very proudly made claims about the aluminium footprint being all but gone and isolated to a particular town. Lead long gone... They were quite surprised when a small group of us pointed out this to not be the case. If there is no lead, make a fuss about it. Someone should be raising it in one of the Copper forums.

        Second, the service has to be suitable for the environment. That is purely their domain. If there are challenges with under ground, fix it with overground and poles. Probably get some resistance to that but it opens up the conversation of why not and the true barrier; cost. Not your problem though. The supplier takes on that risk.

        DSO may help with certain aspects but it needs broader exposure and importantly not to end up too focused on too narrow a solution to this. Hopefully things are starting to tick in the right direction. I suspect it'll take a week to get properly moving but beyond that you'd be expecting some clear plan on what needs to be done or worked our regarding the full end to end.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "As there are multiple people impacted, I'd be asking you to get details of the other service providers for the locals to see which contacts we had to co-ordinate the efforts."

          You might, Zen haven't - and I DID suggest they liase with other ISPs to start comparing notes on line faults

          Back when I ran an ISP in the 1990s we would regularly get issues of "fault clusters" in smaller towns which kept recurring. It was common for the issues to be "fixed" by a contractor, merely to recur a week or less later

          It turned out that contractors were writing off jobs as "fixed" when the lines were clearly still impaired, because otherwise they didn't get paid. Pulling in my telco sales rep and showing him the way the reports clustered physically on a map had the desired effect and several distribution cables were replaced as a result

          Ironically this made my ISP an 'enemy' of some of those contractors - they'd been farming the faults and regarded them as easy money - which suddenly stopped coming in.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        as a followup:

        Zen WERE given a written heads up about line issues before accepting my contract, to which the response was "We will deal with any issues when they arise"

        The only reason i switched to Zen was because tech staff, several directors and board members resigned more-or-less simultaneously, taking all technical clues with them

        Zen was recommended by industry insiders (they aren't the cheapest - but given the background I want a responsive ISP, not a cheap one) including one of those tech people formerly from

        I had assumed that as they use Fritzboxes (I had a 7390 at the time and changed to a 7590 due to the constant disconnections, with no effect), they might be able to diagnose the line better and/or already know of problems in the area (they claim to have other customers here)

        Yes, I would go with AAISP in a heartbeat, but I'd blow their caps, so they're a non-starter

  14. greenwood-IT

    "Please" leave us without a penalty..


    It definitely sounds like an OpenReach issue - so you can see why ZEN want this guy to leave ASAP. Any future ISP will have the same issue, so he'd be far better staying with ZEN and insisting that based on the contract that he's been paying, THEY need to get it sorted.

    I've had problems with BT recently (not naming the product), and after months of zero support, I started "abusing" every one of their adverts on Facebook - all done very politely by just pointing out how bad they were. Within a month of my campaign, I'd got a call from someone high up who asked "if I'd had problems?" :-) He's not put me in direct touch with someone technical who actually understands the product - almost a happy ending - it's still not working correctly, but they guy I'm talking too actually understands the problem and appears to be kicking arse and getting some progress.

    This article, and a lot of public exposure of the issue will do more good than writing to your MP - in fact, despite my local MP having broadband and a website, he doesn't "do" email? :-( (he does do email, but only for his friends - not for his constituents!).

    Chat soon.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: "Please" leave us without a penalty..

      "Any future ISP will have the same issue, so he'd be far better staying with ZEN and insisting that based on the contract that he's been paying, THEY need to get it sorted."


      The response to their "offer" consisted of a paragraph pointing out that the choices were Openreach or Openreach and they were the 5th ISP with the same sets of problems,

  15. Valeyard


    so that you can enjoy your services with ourselves.

    I have a pet irrational dislike for this, why is ourselves used here and what ever happened to the word "us"? same with "me" and "you" being replaced by myself and yourself for absolutely no reason by otherwise normal people

    1. legless82

      Re: ourselves

      It's not an irrational dislike. It's because it's simply wrong.

      Ourself, yourself, myself etc. are all reflexive pronouns. This means that they're only correct when the subject and object of the sentence are the same.


      "I dressed myself" is correct. "You dressed myself" is not.

      Personally, I blame The Apprentice.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: ourselves

        > It's not an irrational dislike. It's because it's simply wrong.

        It's a major sign that you're dealing with an Arnold Rimmer

      2. Valeyard

        Re: ourselves

        Personally, I blame The Apprentice.

        Good point, it's usually middle managers and the sales team at my place that do this..

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just got FTTP

    why - Openreach have been out twice in last 6 months to fix telephone/broadband issue and worried will continue going forward. Though last time engineer did identify - the unsealed entry point to house had let in water and corroded copper property is only 7 years old!!! - fix was sealant, not sure how long that would last.

    When the installer, from an Openreach subcontractor, come to install FTTP he couldn't get back to pit due to issues with duct (think a T junction) - no problem, but by that time he'd wrecked the existing copper broadband - Openreach turned up two days later and fixed everything

  17. ijs

    These issues are common.

    My whole village suffers exactly the same issue irrespective of the ISP. The reason is Openreach, they own and operate the copper and some of the infrastructure.

    I setup monitoring equipment across the village and the drops are random. These issues also cause slow upload speeds which is also a massive issue with TCP as timeouts occur resulting in more requests and more problems.

    Every time Openreach gave me an excuse I modified the monitoring equipment based on RaspberryPi’s to account for there latest excuse at the end, i even included radio’s to monitor for radio frequency interference of which we had none.

    The only solution was to get a FTTP line which solved the copper issue.

    The real issue is that openreach unlike the ISP’s are not regulated, you cannot complain to anyone so there is no watchdog able to impose fines are get openreach to solve the issues. We need central gov to create a body that actually regulates all of the connection not just the bit that is customer facing. For some of us the ISP does not provide the copper and some of the infrastructure so its irrelevant which one you choose.

    At the time of my faults, I wrote to my local MP and he did nothing. He even lived in the village so presumably had the same issues as the rest of us mortals.

    Complaining to the ISP only eventually gets you to the point where they release you from contract early which is actually your right given that the service cannot be provided. You change to another ISP that is regulated but you still use the same first mile infrastructure so the issue is still there.

  18. legless82

    As a counterpoint

    I've been on Zen's FTTP for a couple of years now without any problem.

    About a month ago, the connection dropped, and looking at my router logs it was full of PPP timeouts. Called Zen, went through troubleshooting with someone who knew what they were actually talking about, and they determined an Openreach fault.

    First Openreach droid turned up, looked at my ONT and declared that because the PON light on my ONT was a steady green then there was nothing wrong with the Openreach side of things and refused to investigate any further. He logged a response back to Zen saying that the fault was with my equipment.

    I spoke to Zen, and they escalated within Openreach and a second chap turned up a few days later, ran some tests and declared there to be no issue at all between my house and the exchange, and disappeared.

    I called Zen again and explained the quandary of my Schrödinger's internet connection, that was apparently simultaneously fault-free and non-functional, and they escalated once more within Openreach.

    A couple of days later, I had a call from Zen to say that Openreach had discovered a fault in one of the network switches connecting the FTTP head node to the backhaul connection, and the switch was tagged to be replaced in a couple more days.

    Sure enough, the connection came back a couple of days later, and Zen gave me around £75 as compensation for the lost service.

    Now, I don't know how my experience would have differed with other ISPs, but having had dealings with Virgin Media and Plusnet in the past, I have doubts as to whether I'd even have been able to talk to someone sensible, let alone get it resolved.

  19. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Contacting elected officials is useless. Contact media instead. If those react, then elected officials will magically appear.

  20. Velv

    ""Given this, if you would like to move provider, we will let you leave without penalty for ending our contract early. "

    Yeah, great. He can leave Zen for another ISP, who's service is provided by, ah, yes, Openreach.

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