back to article The right to repairable broadband befits a supposedly critical utility

I heard an electric discharge, a bit like a Jacob's ladder, immediately before a deafening crack of thunder. I'd never been so close to a lightning strike! All of the lights in the house went bright, then dimmed, then went back to normal. "Uh-oh," I thought, "I'm in trouble now." Everything in the house had been hit by a nasty …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Where I live, in France, I use Orange for my Internet/TV/landline connection needs. Orange owns the backbone and everything up to my house. If I have a problem, there is no finger-pointing to be done, it's all Orange's responsibility from start to finish.

    That is why I have no intention of leaving Orange for SFR, as SFR regularly asks me to.

    If I did that, then I would be right smack in the middle of the same problem you had, SFR saying that it's Orange's fault and Orange saying the reverse.

    I've been there before, I have no intention of going there again.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      But the one owner paradigm has the problem of the monopoly. You mention already, finger-pointing is prevalent when another uses the infrastructure. A typical blame game. That is one of the reasons why infrastructure should be publicly owned. It is a shared resource we all need and benefit from.

      1. Timo

        I'm not sure that having the local government owning the infrastructure is going to change that equation, unless you're talking about a municipal ISP that gives you the end-to-end service.

        Without that you're just going to get a different pair of entities pointing the finger at each other.

        If the cost of broadband would come down then it would not be a problem to have two providers, and do load balancing or failover. But that isn't going to help where people do not have even one option.

        This article is timely, we lost internet service from noon to 6pm on Monday, and I did realize a few hours into it that it has now reached the level of importance like water or electricity. It is sort of novel for an hour or so, and then gets to be a problem, especially interfering with working from home. Tethering to a mobile gave the minimum ability but syncing to onedrive/sharepoint was very slow. And I may not have been the only person using mobile data as a fallback.

        Luckily in this situation my workplace runs on Office so a decent amount of work could be done offline and then shared over lower bandwidth chat. And voice calls.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Where I live, in France, we also have Orange, but it took them 3+ months after moving in to sort out our problem, many hours on the phone, many emails... Finally a few weeks ago, we got connected, but with a paltry ±15mb down(usually less!) and less than 1mb up on VDSL for 5 heavy users. In the interim, we got a cold call from Bouygues, and they offered us a 4g solution which averages between 30 and 45mb up and nearly 50mb down! Two 4G modems for €40 a month for both! One for each wing of the house ;-} (my in-laws have a wing and their separate connection) I would suggest looking at a 4G solution, the coverage even here in the Tarn area is quite good. However we are locked into a contract with Orange, canceling it would be the same cost as keeping it, so we keep it for a backup line and the VOIP line for a year.

      1. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

        Do you have a minimum speed clause in your contract as we do in the UK... That's grounds for breach of contract and termination of service. I used it to terminate a contract with Virgin many years ago (100Mb service that was less than 18Mb at all times and as low as 37Kb That's not a typo)

        I also used it to get a lot of credits to my 'Zen' account after they made the mistake of telling my my line had been showing degradation for 11 months and they'd ignored it until I complained as my 70Mb average had dropped to high teens or low 20's.... far below the 40Mb minimum they guaranteed.

        Zen had a pretty reliable service... but their customer service is utter garbage.

        1. romanempire
          Thumb Up

          I beg to differ...

          On the rare occasion I've had to deal with Zen customer service I've always found them helpful, friendly and knowledgeable.

          Unlike BT who won't move from their script.

          P.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: I beg to differ...

            As have I - possibly the difference between reactive and proactive service though.

            If the line has been showing deg then they should have done something about it before 11 months.

          2. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

            Re: I beg to differ...

            I found Zen staff to be just as ridiculous in 'sticking to the script'... after claiming I had to agree to a liability to cover all costs before they would send out an engineer.

            I refused and stated very clearly that I would never agreee to such a thing, and had never been asked such a thing in 25yrs of dealing with any ISP.

            Cue them repeating themselves and me asking if they thought that me suddenly saying ok to it, after a complete email chain that says I will never agree to it and that even if I did agree to it, I would be lying simply to trick them into actually fixing the problem they had failed to fix after 11 months.

            Common sense... doesn't apply to 1st line tech twonks if it means deviating from the script... no matter what company it is (in my experience).

            In the end, I got an apology from one of the managers for the obvious 'baiting' their staff were doing... and I don't think I paid a penny for the service for 4 months.

            The last 2yrs with zen were a bit of a nightmare to be honest... all under the guise of 'covid' being responsible for a lack common sense. I can only assume that a lot of their staff had been affected as studies are starting to show that it can cause permanent cognitive loss.

        2. heyrick Silver badge

          I believe Orange France "guarantees" 512kbit download, and there's no figure for upload rate.

          My line is advertised as "up to 20mbit". I get around 3.4-4.5 depending on the weather, and around 750kbit up.

          Should point out, it's after 4.7km of ancient overhead-strung copper. When I first got hooked up, I had a single megabit, but later technology has managed to push that to nearly four.

          It's just me and I have a regular quality Netflix subscription, so it suffices.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Can't you put those heavy users on a diet?

        No, wait ..

        1. chivo243 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Perhaps one of them could push away from the table a bit sooner!

      3. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

        Just jealous

        Ah, the Tarn, how lovely, how envious I am. Good for you.

    3. david 12 Silver badge

      In days gone by, in the same country as the Article, we had a monopoly provider. A tech would come out and say 'that's not an equipment fault, it's a supply fault'. Days later, a line tech would come out as say 'no line fault, it's a handset fault'. Weeks later, a technician would come out as say 'that's an exchange fault'. Months later, the fault would mysteriously disappear -- only to resurface next year...

      Meanwhile, in the USA, the almost-monopoly provider, AT&T, was notorious for service in the same line as 'I'm from the government, I'm here to help"

    4. heyrick Silver badge

      "If I have a problem, there is no finger-pointing to be done, it's all Orange's responsibility from start to finish."

      Exactly this. I pay through the nose for Orange, but living in rural Brittany there's no end of incidents...usually involving heavy agricultural machinery. As I live in a dip surrounded by many fields, 4G isn't an option.

      A woman two towns over was with Free and Free (internet) and Orange (phone line) argued for three months over what turned out, in the end, to be a faulty line filter.

      So I'll pay more knowing that any brokenness is usually seen to in 2-3 days.

  2. b0llchit Silver badge
    Go

    Human factor

    ...and then neglected to re-connect my line.

    The fault was not of the purely technological kind. In fact, it was a human error (or oversight) that caused the prolonged problem. I do believe that open systems are absolutely preferable and should be encouraged. However, it is debatable if "open" would have helped significantly in this specific case.

    Most people will never be capable of grasping the network's working, even at superficial levels. Let alone performing repairs. Computers are magic for most people. Many have learned that a square plug fits a square socket. And even that seems to be a hard lesson for some. So, doing repairs private will only be for a select small group.

    That said, we may need liberalization in the repair market. Just like you can call any plumber or electrician to solve your problems. That kind of open (network) may be beneficial to us all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Human factor

      Many have learned that a square plug fits a square socket. And even that seems to be a hard lesson for some. So, doing repairs private will only be for a select small group.

      In the mid 2020's we called these people "Survivors".

      The others we called "rat tucker"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Human factor

        .. or dead, depending on just how creative they got with the power sockets.

      2. Alumoi Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Human factor

        Rat tucker? I know about Darwin awards, but this is new.

    2. Blitheringeejit

      Re: Human factor

      > we may need liberalization in the repair market.

      Backed up by beefy statutory measures in the *repairability* market - an area where raw capitalism and especially the tech giants have failed us miserably. If you can't unscrew the case and replace the battery, you shouldn't be allowed to sell it - even if that does mean that the user pays an extra buck for it at the outset.

      1. Alpharious

        Re: Human factor

        Is it capitalism's fault or societies? This is not the same as repairing a dryer where the heating element design has been unchanged for the last 30 years. There are too many people out there that i do not trust to remove batteries safely. They have safety caps on my AC unit to keep kids from huffing the refrigerant. During the dark transition time in my life I encountered people who had "car problems" and when the other maintenance mechanic who did repair work as a side hustle went to fix it, he identified the cause of failure as the car being out of gas. We take for granted that everything is repairable by the average person, but at the same time we forget that there are hostile end users, or there are end users who do not have the technical skill.

        Now, the capitalism solution to this broad band problem would be a 5G box/cylinder. Those things are great. They not only do they have a battery so you can use your laptop when the power goes out, but they have an ups port as well. No more cable company, which really does not care to retain your account anyway.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Human factor

          As pointed out the other day... Silica Gel packets have a 'Do Not Eat' warning on them

          1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

            Re: Human factor

            I'm personally more in awe of the packets of nuts that show a warning "may contain nuts".

            That's just .. bonkers :)

            1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
              WTF?

              Re: Human factor

              I saw a 40cm square wooden spice rack for sale the other day, with a prominent label saying "unsuitable for dishwashers". It didn't mention whether it might contain dairy, gluten or nuts, but give them time.

            2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Bonkers

              Doh! That warning is just to save their Ass when it is discovered that said packet of nuts actually contains zero % of nuts.

              They can point to the warning and walk away smiling.

        2. midgepad Bronze badge

          Dryer, 30y

          My next one will move heat with a heat pump.

          I suspect the bearing I just replaced at the back of the drum of being technology cynical even 30 years ago, though.

        3. Alumoi Silver badge

          Re: Human factor

          20 years ago the car manual was full of mechanical and electrical drawings. Now it only says do not drink the antifreeze.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Human factor

            Crap. Now I know why I should have bought the manual...

    3. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Human factor

      I'm trying to work out exactly what the lack-of-openness actually was in this case.

      The TV and the modem were fried. The only realistic solution is to replace them. There is a problem with a lot of ISPs that they won't let you supply your own modem but I don't know whether this was the case here and even if it were, it's not owing to a lack of open standards, it would be simply a lack of regulation of the ISPs contract terms. But even a new modem wouldn't fix a disconnected wire outside the property. And the new TV will work as a replacement for the old one because of .... standards.

      Of course if your Internet connectivity is so critical you'd have some sort of wireless backup. Doing that is not hard if you have even 3G mobile connectivity. Doing that transparently is quite hard with IPv4 and NAT, but again it's not because we lack an open solution (IPv6) or that the present deployment is proprietary - it's a business choice. Much like the choice to build so much overhead into the provision of "customer service" that you can't afford to employ people who can deliver it.

      1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        Re: Human factor

        Wireless doesn't necessarily help much.

        During the recent gales we lost power. Nothing unusual about that - we live in a village in a rural area and even within the village we have overhead supply for both power and telecoms. Power goes off all the time.

        If the power stays off for much over an hour or so we also lose mobile comms - there seems to be only one base station serving the village and it only has a short battery backup. So, after a while even our phones can't connect. Doesn't seem any point in investing in a mobile broadband backup.

        In the last storm it got more complicated. Our power was restored after a few hours but it was only for half the village - the other half of the village had no power for 2 days! Fortunately, for historical reasons, we have two phone lines for our house, with diverse routing (in the sense that they go in opposite directions from our house to different cabinets and concentrators, although they route through the same exchange to get out of the village). Our main internet connection is FTTC on one line, but I keep the second line (originally installed as a business ISDN line many years ago) as a backup, low-speed ADSL connection.

        So, we found ourselves with power restored, unlike most of the village, and with our slow ADSL line working, but neither our high speed FTTC line nor the mobile network was working. Lucky for us, but really bad for the people who didn't have either power or network for 2 days. Actually, our main line started working long before power was restored to the other half of the village. I suspect that restoring power to the phone cabinets was prioritised so people at least had working phones.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Human factor

          I suspect that restoring power to the phone cabinets was prioritised so people at least had working phones.

          It used to be mandated that phones were powered directly from the exchange, which is why it was also required to have one analogue phone in a business directly off one of the lines. In the days of VoIP that's pretty much gone, which is IMHO a shame as it's the one thing you'd need in an emergency.

          Communication is a critical resource in emergencies, so the local cell dying after a while is something that needs addressing.

      2. david 12 Silver badge

        Re: Human factor

        In any even slightly open system, he could have diagnosed 'not plugged in' himself.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      "That kind of open (network) may be beneficial to us all."

      Here in Italy, the Communications Authority (AGCOM) issued a directive two years ago that made mandatory allowing the use of equipment not supplied by the ISP itself for internet connections. ISPs must make available all required configurations and can't hinder the use of compatible devices.

      That means that if your modem/router stops working you can easily replace it with anything that can work - you can keep a spare one around just in case, of course if the fault is not upstream - as in this case.

      You can also build easily fault-tolerant configurations if you need them - for example using routers that allow more than one internet connections (i.e. a cabled one and a FWA one).

      ISP are still trying to fight it to death because it removed a easy revenue and data hoarding streams from them, and empowers users to do more with their internet connections, showing quickly any limitation of their networks.

  3. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
    Holmes

    Lightning Protection

    Protecting equipment from lightning is somewhat complex; there are standards for this that vary by industry.

    One of the primary issues is that the circuitry can get quite complex quite quickly and the testing can be difficult.

    I have had models (SPICE) for devices commonly used that had little resemblance to reality (the model predicted clamping within picoseconds but the reality was about half a microsecond which is ancient history in electronics). Another issue is that full clamping may only limit the surge to twice the rated voltage of the protection.

    Protecting data carrying ports (such as modems) is very complex.

    Failure modes vary from immediately dead to (as the author found) malfunctions over a period of time (this is the same problem as even a mild static discharge).

    Transient protection for consumer goods (i.e. inexpensive) is not likely to survive a very localised hit, and things downstream may get the hit as well, depending on the specific 'protection'.

    Disclaimer: I have designed flight control computers that are required to be protected against lightning strikes.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "Protecting data carrying ports (such as modems) is very complex."

      My choice was to connect the VDSL modem to the switch using a media converter and a fibre cable. In case a lightning strikes the telephone line, it can't get past the media converter, and damage more expensive equipment.

      I've seen protections for VDSL lines, it's not clear how good they are at keeping the line performance.

      Of course switching to FTTH greatly increase the protection.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Lightning Protection

      A direct hit is virtually impossibly to protect against. In a different lifetime I've arrived at repeater cabinets to find blackened ends of cables where line cards used to be and the entire paintjob of the interior changed to "matt black"

      All you can do is setup for reasonable protection. Fibre isolation is the best choice if you can get it.

      Power cables have the advantage of passing a lot of intermediate grounded points where the strike can flashover. It's almost always strikes on the comms cables which are the problematic ones

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Lightning Protection

        It's a weird one. Comms cables, such as the usual telephone wiring between a local street box and a house are only going to instantly melt due to a lightning strike. A direct strike to a property's telephone connection isn't going to do much in reverse either other than a very quick destruction of a relatively small amount of the wiring. It's the "near" strikes that are probably the most damaging for equipment.

        I remember when young that we always had to unplug the telephone from the house aerial if there was a storm. These days I'm not sure why... a lightning strike that's just travelled 2 miles through air really isn't going to give a shit if the the 50cm between the aerial socket and the TV has a coax cable connected or not... it's fireworks regardless.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Lightning Protection

          Not telephone, television! Did anyone else have this craziness of having to unplug the TV during a storm?

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            Re: Lightning Protection

            Yup, we always had to as kids. I can't remember the last time I did it because, if I'm honest, I've never heard of an aerial being hit and it's just one of those habits I unconsciously fell out of. (Although, if the lightning gets close, I will turn off and unplug my desktop computer - to protect against power surges.)

            I'll stick my neck out and say I assume an aerial is only grounded when plugged in. Which would mean, while connected, you can get an upward leader from your aerial to the clouds. But there are probably far more attractive leaders - from trees and aerials higher up the hill.

            TL;DR if you're aerial is one of the tallest structures around because you are at the crest of a hill with no nearby trees, then it's probably still worth unplugging it when the flash-thunder interval is under 5s (1 mile).

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Lightning Protection

              I'll stick my neck out and say I assume an aerial is only grounded when plugged in.

              Hardly ever. The aerial input tends to have capacitive coupling between the actual socket and the innards, mainly to keep voltages induced in the antenna lead from mains cabling, or static, from reaching the electronics. TV sets that employed more tubes than just the CRT nearly always needed galvanic separation between chassis and antenna socket as the chassis could be 'hot'.

              Also, with your antenna mast bolted to the chimney or bracketed to a high point on a wall it's already an attractor for lightning, having the lead plugged into your TV won't make a whole lot of difference there. It's mainly to try and keep the TV from being part of the lightning's path and getting its circuits grilled.

          2. The Unexpected Bill
            Go

            Re: Lightning Protection

            Very early in my schooling, I remember a teacher telling us students that if we saw a weather warning symbol appear during a TV broadcast, we should turn the TV off and unplug it right away. I dutifully went and told this to my parents. Of course, neither they nor I ever did so and none of our TVs ever suffered lightning damage.

            Many years ago, and in spite of knowing better, I once strung an Ethernet cable across the yard between two structures for a temporary connection. That was fine until one day when a storm rolled in. Even though the storm still seemed to be quite a ways off, there came a tremendous crash of thunder and a brilliant flash from the wireless router (already in very sad shape) sitting on my desk. That was the end of it. I never did find any obvious damage on the circuit board, so I'm still not sure what produced such a light show.

            Going back to TVs and lightning, a very rurally situated friend of mine and his family were weathering a storm at their home when all of a sudden the fire department showed up at their door. They were all very surprised by this, until one of the firemen explained that someone had seen lightning strike their TV antenna tower and produce a brilliant fireball. Convinced that there had been an explosion, someone called it in. They went to check the TV and found it no worse for the experience, apart from a severely magnetized picture tube that the degaussing coil eventually cleared up. The TV went on to operate flawlessly for several more years after that and even survived a mishap with excessive line voltage from an incorrectly wired generator. (It is the latter that actually did more damage, smoking a few diodes within the power supply. Once replaced, the set came right back to life.)

    3. RichardBarrell

      Re: Lightning Protection

      > Protecting data carrying ports (such as modems) is very complex.

      Huh! I had wrongly assumed that it would be relatively simple - that either you can use an opto-isolator and that solves it, or you can't and you're totally doomed. ;)

      1. AlbertH

        Re: Lightning Protection

        Any opto-coupler will usually have an isolation rating of between 5 and 10 kV. Even an induced lightning spike can be in the vicinity of 2.5 MV, so the opto-coupler will flash over easily!

    4. AlbertH
      Mushroom

      Re: Lightning Protection

      I used to design telephone line connected gear - answering machines, fax machines and the like. The only lightning protection that worked at all effectively assumed that a good, solid mains earth with low ELI was available, and used a pair of tritium-filled gas discharge tubes. These were the only protectors that were fast enough to handle lightning spikes.

      Of course, because they were filled with a slightly radioactive gas, the "green" eco-loons banned them, depriving manufacturers of telecom equipment from the only lightning protectors that worked at all!

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You get what you pay for

      The local Nepalese community around here would argue with you and then beat you to a pulp, after all, they are almost all former Gurkhas. I have no hesitation in employing them to work on my house.

  5. Jonathon Green
    Boffin

    I’m kind of struggling with what “right to repair” means or how it would work in this context.

    Plug your own broadband router/modem in? Fine.

    Look after the cabling on your side of some agreed boundary (like the old BT “master socket” or it’s equivalent)? Fine.

    Random people diving in and repatching a kerbside cabinet or equivalent (which is what appeared to be required in this particular case)? Errr… No thanks!

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      I thought the same. I can go into the cable system and figure out where my line is (or probably I can't, having never done it, but I'll at least figure that out before doing something). Having recently had a network debugging phone call with a nontechnical person, including the verbatim quote "Should we connect the router directly into the WiFi" on a network that has only one router that also does the WiFi, I do not want the average user going down to where my line is. If the downside is that I don't either, that's a reasonable precaution.

  6. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

    resilience

    If your life is so critically important to be online at all times, then maybe you need to be responsible for yourself and have some backup. Just a 4G connection would get you up and running in 99% of circumstances that causes a fixed line to fail.

    Mains electricity fails from time to time. That's why we all have a battery powered torch at home, Or some candles, maybe four of them. I have no sympathy for someone who does not have the forethought to think ahead for blindingly obvious scenarios...

    As for having devices and software that do not work when it cannot phone home? Well that is your own fault. Smart device. Dumb user.

    1. Philip Stott

      Re: resilience

      Australia is a big place. Maybe the author can't get 4G where they live ...?

      1. Trollslayer
        Flame

        Re: resilience

        Satellite internet?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: resilience

        I live in rural Leicesterhire, 5 miles from the nearest town,rather than use my mobile as a backup for my broadband most of the time my mobile is using broadband for the connection via wi-fi calling on the ground and first floors. I can sometimes get 4G in my home office in the attic but like another commentator the mobile signal often disappears if there is a power outage.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: resilience

      That's fine if you can arrange the resilience. Plain old telephone lines are (were) self powered by batteries at the exchange, precisely so that emergency calls would be possible when mains electricity failed. Now that's all being stripped out for fibre and VoIP, so it's your job as a confused pensioner to specify and fit a suitably rated UPS. Public organisations (by which I mean government, banks, utilities etc) used to have multiple ways of contacting or paying. Now, the woodworm economists are eating all that away on cost grounds. So since the local office is long gone, you call a phone line and get a recorded message telling you to go to the website and send an email. An address to write to? Not likely. The bottom line is that we are all being herded into using the internet with little or no attention to those left behind and what may happen when the system fails.

      I'm not against progress - looking at the situation in Ukraine, internet and mobile communications are all that is still working in some places. But the whole point of resilience is to avoid single points of failure, not move to new ones.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: resilience

        " So since the local office is long gone, you call a phone line and get a recorded message telling you to go to the website and send an email."

        Both of which are a lot less secure than even the phone. From the banks' perspective so called 'secure internet banking' is in reality liability transfer banking (their liability transferred to you the customer when it proves insecure).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: resilience

          Oh, the liability moved much earlier - when they moved from magswipes to Chip and PIN.

          Before then, the bank was required to prove that you had authorised a payment, post chip & PIN (IMHOP bait and switch) you have to prove you did NOT pay for something - the burden was wholesale transferred to the user.

    3. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: resilience

      Completely agree with the point about smart devices - living in a rural area means I am absolutely certain there is nothing critical in my house that won't work without the external network connection.

      However, mobile data is only a viable backup in urban areas (which, by the way, suffer far fewer service interruptions than rural ones). Out here, not only is the mobile network very slow, it is also very unreliable. There is only one cell site for the village, and its battery backup is very short. Certainly nowhere near the "2 nines" of backup that you mention.

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: resilience

      There were some problems with the DSLAM I get my VDSL2 link from last summer, making the connection intermittent for a few days until they could repair it. Even though I'm lucky to see more than 1 bar at home, I was able to workaround via my phone.

      Fortunately I had a Lightning cable just long enough to balance my phone on a sill against the top of a high window while still connecting to my computer's USB port. Yeah Bluetooth would have worked too but a cellular connection on one bar drains the battery pretty quickly so it worked better to connect via USB.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The finger pointing issue is a more general problem than utilities provision. I know of 4 instances in recent years of retaining wall failure and these seem to run on for years. One has left a house teetering on the brink of a landslip - and a closed road - for well over a year. In each case it seems to be the local council arguing responsibility with insurers.

    We need legislation to ensure that, in the event of stand-offs between service providers (in the widest sense of the term) the individual has the right, after a reasonable lapse of time, to put the parties on, say, a week's notice to finally resolve the issue after which the costs of rectification and any additional costs, loss of service, etc, will be split equally between them. Providing those additional costs are made sufficient (maybe throw in some statutory compensation) to make attempts to game the system too expensive, the parties should have sufficient incentive to resolve things quickly. Perhaps as an additional incentive the extra costs should come out of the management bonuses rather than shareholders' funds.

    As to the suddenly dumb "smart" devices - well, if you will buy such things..

  8. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge

    Common devices

    "...very easy to repair with common devices and easy-to-learn techniques."

    Note: dumb 'Murican posting.

    While I can go to the corner hardware store and buy all sorts or electrical or plumbing (for water, sewer, or natural gas), covering both "lines" (wires/pipes) and components (switches, outlets, breakers/panels, valves, faucets/toilets, etc.), and all the necessary tools -- and I can learn how on YouTube -- there is a disconnect when it comes to data:

    1. We can easily buy wires (Ethernet or coax), but not the components. That usually involves research and purchase all online. (RadioShack, we need you!)

    2. Aside from some simple repairs (example: I've replaced all three toilets through this pandemic -- ugly work, but such a wonderful upgrade plus satisfaction), and especially when the house's "internal" systems interface the "external", you need someone government licensed with tested knowledge of Building Code, often with a municipal permit for the specific project and follow-up inspection. And for the most part, our problems with data services are at this interface.

    Similar to what others have said above, the think the solution is for companies to agree to equipment/interface standards and open up repairs to a licensed network of independent trained-and-tested repairfolk. I also think hardening the network to this kind of thing by running more (any!) fiber, all the way to my outside wall (not the neighborhood node, not the curb) will reduce hardware problems on their side of the interface. Also, more government oversight of outages by actually treating ISPs like public utilities will force them to shore up their side of the system or fork over the fees.

    Let's also divorce the ISP from the content provider. Let AT&T and Comcast (and others) provide infrastructure and the main data link as utilities, and split the provide-the-TV-streams into separate companies. I'm still talking "live" bundles of channels, but with a standardized interface that I could change TV-stream providers OR broadband providers and keep the same DVR and other internal equipment.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Common devices

      > hardening the network to this kind of thing by running more (any!) fiber, all the way to my outside wall

      It brings other kind of problems. The other day somebody somehow broke my fiber in the corridor duct. Support had to come and splice it back together, which was quick, but the technician with the required tool wasn't available immediately. I don't know how expensive that scifi-looking fiber splicer is, the technician didn't know either, but I guess it's way beyond the budget of a home tinkerer.

      My point is, there always will be problems and the need to have some repair technician drop by, because you either lack the tools or the know-how to fix your problem. Technology won't change that. I agree fiber is the thing to have, but it comes with new issues, its fragility being the main one when I think home Internet, but also the complexity of cabling: It's way easier (and cheaper!) to crimp a new RJ45 on some twisted pair cable than to make something usable out of a stretch of naked fiber.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Common devices

        Oh, there's a bit more to a fiber splice - the loose fibers are actively dangerous. That's why they give people the expensive training and special tools.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No line test

    What I don't understand here is why the ISP didn't do a line test, see it as identified as not on consumer premises and get it sorted out. I know my ISP would have done just that, also let me do my own line test via their website. With the caveat of it it turned out not to be a genuine fault openreach would bill me.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: No line test

      "What I don't understand here is why the ISP didn't do a line test"

      Presumably because they don't really give two hoots about individual subscribers.

    2. elaar

      Re: No line test

      Line tests aren't particularly accurate though. If it's disconnected at the green box it still usually comes back as "customer equipment not connected".

      1. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

        Re: No line test

        "Line tests aren't particularly accurate though. If it's disconnected at the green box it still usually comes back as "customer equipment not connected"."

        That's not true. A line test has to detect the NTE (master socket) in order to pass. If the result comes back with something like "masterjack not detected" some CPs service desk employees don't know how to interpret that result and will say it's not a fault, but that's a problem with badly trained staff not the test itself. It's very much an old school result you get from some older test heads and has been replaced with more modern results like "dis at or near customer premises" or "dis in local network" which is much easier to interpret.

        With the more modern test equipment on most FTTC services you even get service test failures when the actual copper line tests pass. So you would get something like a possible copper joint fault when the test sees a lot of retrains and errors. There's no hard failure but the service test will give a failure on the balance of probabilities. This seems to be something that's been implemented because so many CPs employ staff who can't actually interpret the detailed data you get along with your headline test results.

        The most likely reason for getting a bogus "CPE not detected" sort of result you're talking about is a misjumper. These are usually caused by some engineer managing to incorrectly jumper a DSLAM port to the wrong d-side pair meaning that yes the line test passes but it's completely the wrong line that's being tested. When you get that sort of result though a decent CP engineer will notice that line attenuation has changed.

    3. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: No line test

      Also, my VDSL modem tells me the length of wiring it sees, and whether there's something, which may or may not be a working DSLAM, at the other end.

      If the connection is down and the modem doesn't offer any info beyond that, I might whip out a multimeter (which any discerning self-repair person should have) and poke the connector contacts. If inconclusive, an oscilloscope will be tried next.

  10. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Consider yourself fortunate

    ... living in major metropolitan areas like Coober Pedy. Here in the USA, we have people who still depend on taking their laptop or tablet to Starbucks to borrow the WiFi. And this isn't following a storm. It's SOP. It's not the middle of nowhere either. These are people who can flip their middle finger at Bill Gates' house on their way to that Starbucks.

    It was pretty bad during the height of the Covid lockdowns. People who had been using the public library's WiFi were turned away when they were closed. Some thoughtful supermarkets put WiFi hotspots in their parking lots to serve the unconnected. Broadband needs to be 1) regulated as a public utility. And 2), underserved communities need the equivalent of our Rural Electrification Administration to fill in the holes in coverage. No more handing subsidies to incumbent providers who just take them to spend on coke and hookers instead of maintenance and building out.

  11. Mr Dogshit

    Meanwhile, people in Ukraine are eating snow.

  12. Colin Bull 1
    FAIL

    Orange have form ..

    I have a friend who had a tree very large tree fall on the corner of their house in France which had the Orange phone line connection attached. The phone line was coiied on the ground. Faults can ONLY be reported on an Orange land line. Catch 22. After driving to a friends house and reporting the problem they were told the diagnostics were showing the line was NOT faulty, it must be the internal equipment. 3 week later an engineer confirmed the cable on the ground was in fact not connected to the house.

  13. Mike Lewis

    Backup Internet Connections

    I had a team of three technicians trying to fix my broadband and failing. The fault was found days later by a fourth who discovered after quite some time that another company's technician had disconnected me at the junction box while repairing my neighbour's connection.

    I rely on the Internet for medical reasons so I have my usual connection plus a 3G modem and the hotspot on my phone. All three use different ISPs in case the fault is with the ISP's network. If the power goes off, my laptop batteries will last a total of 21 hours and I can charge them in my car with a 12 VDC to 240 VAC inverter.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Backup Internet Connections

      another company's technician had disconnected me at the junction box while repairing my neighbour's connection.

      I had that once many, many years ago. It was when I had Home Highway (BT's cut-down ISDN service). Apparently the engineer had been looking for a spare wire pair by testing for dial-tone. Since they didn't find dial tone on my line they just unplugged it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: no dialtone => available for re-use

        "the wiremonkey had been looking for a spare wire pair by testing for dial-tone. Since they didn't find dial tone on my line they just unplugged it."

        Situation still ongoing. Ask AAISP what their "broadband only" lines do, in an attempt to minimise the same risk. In 2022.

  14. trifle7
    FAIL

    Psychic fair cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances...

    "A problem that I now began to realize we do not yet take seriously enough...

    ... Connectivity stealthily entered this category of necessities over the last decade"

    'Smart' lights/phone/toaster/toilet seat etc. etc. a necessity? Hmm.

    Besides, the drive towards smartness 'won't work when untethered from Mother Borg' wasn't so much stealthy as a rapid onslaught; the kind of which has been raised in the public consciousness by those of us who've actually paid attention (oh and for much longer than the last decade).

    So much for being a "futurist" then...

  15. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Standards. Standards!

    Or bloody bureaucracy if you like to avoid checking things. Surely its not beyond the realms of amateur engineering to have the test equipment the engineer is using to spot its not connecting to the users premises and for the users equipment to say when its on so the engineer, no sorry the fucking equipment, can say job done, job not completed as customer equipment not connected/powered on cos the line has been powered. Or at least make the fucker take a timed photo of the output connector.

  16. Persona Silver badge

    Not a viable solution.

    A broadband network designed to favor uptime and repairability means that pretty much everyone should be able to fix almost anything that goes wrong

    As the major problem was something left disconnected, what you are saying is that you should be able to go to the the network equipment under the road or footpath and fiddle with the connections to see if it would restore your broadband. By the same token all your neighbors should have that right too including those that feel their broadband works better if yours is disconnected.

  17. DaemonProcess

    Big sparks

    I personally witnessed a 3 foot spark between the phone line and the central heating when our house was struck by lightning. Surge protectors are fine for protecting you when someone else in the area has been struck but not much use when you yourself are struck.

    The surge down the phone line blew up much of the green junction box before the line was broken/vaporised. I guess electricity can flow along liquid metal for a microsecond. A strike is several 3-15 consecutive rapid strikes down and up as the potential balances out between ground and sky. All this time it is seeking other ways to find ground. I witnessed plasma glowing up the standard lamp and it also blew our land line phone right up the stairs.

    The question now is whether anyone has had a strike blow up the diode on the end of their fibre connection. If it sits in a metal box which is earthed I guess the answer is yes and if situated close to ground then a constant stream may also melt the thin fibre strands at point of connection. I once got one of those stuck in a finger - worse damn splinter ever due to brittleness. Dont ever breathe them in.

    Local Wimax had been installed in our old French village for those people STILL stuck at equivalent to isdn speeds on their adsl. It works well, but would be even better if the church would only allow the aerial to be moved to the side of their steeple.

    I certainly feel for the people in rural Australia and USA who are stuck with monopoly suppliers and terrible customer service. Starlink is a disruptor if you can also afford battery backup and that isnt fried. A solar panel and Powerwall set-up would be useless after a strike, which would start by blowing up the control circuitry and then fry wires in all of the panels. Our strike travelled 30 metres down the shielded electric cable through the garden and took out the light in the garage on it's way to the remote earth connection.

  18. hoola Silver badge

    Missing the point

    I am not quite sure what they think is going to be achieved by this.

    In something like a router or modem the repairable parts will be:

    replace the PSU with a new one

    replace the board with a new one

    Or, just replace the entire box

    The first needs no expertise, the second a screwdriver. Beyond that I just don't see how you can make circuit boards easily repairable. Specialists can fault-find and replace discreet components and whilst it would be an improvement from just binning things I am not sure it is necessarily going to have the outcome that is expected.

    In the examples of the lightning strike it is possible that the PSU may had expired but highly likely the receiver end of the input will be fried, maybe along with tracks on the board.

    Replacing SMT devices is more challenging due to the assembly process and the fact they are stuck to the boards before flow-soldering.

  19. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

    I'm still laughing at the fact that you have a TV antenna. WTF? This is 2022 you know.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      TV antenna

      Some of us don't want to pay subscriptions to the likes of Vermin... not that I could because they won't cable my property up despite it running past the end of my drive. NTL omitted to provide a connection point back when it was first installed.

      I have an antenna in my loft that gets me FreeView. I also have a satellite disk that gets me FreeSat (the former was in place when I moved into the place in 2003 and saw no reason to get rid of it).

      I also limit my IOT devices to the absolute minimum. No dimming lightbulbs or the like.

      I do have a 33kWh home battery that does work when there is a power cut. Storm Eunice took the power out for 8 hours. Mine was the only house around with lights and heating. Several neighbours have enquired about my 'generator'.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      @jollyboyspecial

      You know, TV services are still provided by terrestrial transmitters, and many people still watch on this medium.

      When your significant other has news stations on for 8+ hours a day, there really is no need for satellite or broadband to receive it (although it appears that I have somehow ended up paying for Sky, Now [it's cheaper to pay for Now than to get multiple remote Sky boxes!], Netflix and Disney+, just to get certain programs we want to watch, and get Amazon Prime Video as a freebie from their delivery service).

      Here in the UK we have three reasonable 24 hour news stations (I include Al Jazeera in these, because they have a significantly different view of world affairs), plus the oxymoron that is GBnews, and until recently the propaganda channel RT, all available on terrestrial TV. So for much of the day, terrestrial broadcast TV is all we need.

      IMHO, there's actually something to be said for linear TV (i.e. you see what is broadcast). With on-demand services you can narrow your exposure to just what you want to see. I would not be really so informed if I had not had to watch one of the only two or three available channels during my formative years, forcing me to watch things that did not immediately peek my interest (or turn of and do something else instead, which also has benefits).

      Now, if you want to watch something like NCIS or CSI, or Firends all day, or even just blockbuster films, you can channel-hop, and never see any news, current affairs or contemporary documentaries.

      Couple this with getting "news" from mainly social media sites, and we have ended up with a population astonishingly uninformed and unaware of what is going on around them.

      1. Evil Scot
        Windows

        Re: @jollyboyspecial

        You have just outed yourself as an old fart. (See Icon) I get that Kids TV reference. Although I was old enough to get a Sat Box and broaden my horizons with non UK centric broadcasts.

        However the in some cases streaming can broaden your horizons. The Buggles were right about MTV.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: @jollyboyspecial

          Actually, the kids TV reference would have been "Why don't you just turn off your television set and go (out) and do something less boring instead". (the "out" was removed at some point, apparently to make it scan better).

          I didn't mean to quote that, but I did echo it's sentiments.

          And while I admit that streaming could broaden your horizons, I would contend that in almost all cases, it doesn't. The whole point of linear TV is that you don't get to choose beyond what channel and whether to turn off, and get presented things that you may not know that you will like, whereas if you do choose, you are most likely to choose something that you already know. And couple that with one of my bugbears of 'intelligent' algorithms that try to second guess what you would like, and you are much less likely to select something that you've never come across before.

          I don't make this a binary choice. Of course there are benefits to streaming media, and being able to find specific information when you want it, but I was saying is that linear TV, whether delivered through a TV aerial, satellite or data services has a place as well.

  20. Graham 32

    "At the beginning of the last decade, such a minor tragedy would have been rated as #firstworldproblems"

    And the first example of it now being a serious issue? "My smart lights, gone dumb, stay dimmed"

  21. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

    One of the things you need to be aware of when it comes to broadband and telephony provision in the UK is the acronym MBORC. Lightning strikes are often considered MBORC. As soon as you hear MBORC that means your SLA is out of the window.

    Depending on what service you have a fairly typical repair SLA for a total loss of service here in the UK will be two working days. You can pay extra for shorter SLAs but nobody does. Yes you think, I can manage for 48 hours without an internet connection, right up until you discover that your SLA doesn't cover sundays so when your service drops on friday afternoon you might not get it back until monday afternoon and that's a weekend worth of Netflix lost, not to mention not being able to change the settings on your central heating.

    And then the term MBORC rears it's ugly head. Of late there have been MBORCs declared for storm damage and flooding over large areas. MBORCs for power supply failures to street cabinets are not uncommon. The same goes for lightning strikes. Some other fun ones are "vehicle strikes" - when a vehicle has hit a cabinet or pole. Even rodent damage can be declared MBORC.

    All these things are MBORC - Mattersd Beyond Our Reasonable Control and whenever the carrier decides unilaterally to declare MBORC all bets are off and your connection can be down for weeks.

    The cry of MBORC is the Openreach equivalent of the knights of the round table shouting "Run away! Run away!"

  22. itzumee

    BT Openreach are pretty hopeless

    I had a problem with my FTTC service dropping my broadband connection, contacted Plusnet who confirmed it was a line fault and booked a BT Openreach engineer to investigate. Guy turns up, fixes the problem but a few days later it recurs, so not fixed after all. Another service visit, another part replaced in the cabinet or junction box on the telegraph pole, but speeds are way down on what they were before the fault, but the connection is stable so left it at that.

    Days later, the connection keeps dropping again, another service visit and after much bleeping of his diagnostic gear, the guy is telling me it must be the wiring from the junction box inside my front door to the master socket - his diagnostic gear was telling him so. He proposes replacing the cable, but the problem is the tiled floor would would need ripping out to do it, so he then suggests laying the new cable and nailing it to the skirting board, drilling a hole in the wall so get the cable to the master socket.

    Given that I'd seen the original cable being installed and that it's relatively new cable, I told the guy I'd leave it and see how it goes. Days later the fault fixed itself. I contacted Plusnet again to see what'd fixed the issue, the report from BT was that they didn't know exactly what had fixed the fault, as replacing parts in the exchange cabinet hadn't fixed it, but something else had.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Living Without Electricity: lessons from Lancaster in 2015

    https://www.theblackoutreport.co.uk/2019/12/11/lancaster-floods-living-without-electricity/

    Over the first weekend of December 2015, Storm Desmond brought unprecedented flooding to parts of Cumbria and North Lancashire.

    The flood affected one of Lancaster’s main electrical substations, with the damage causing a city-wide power failure that took almost a week to fully resolve.

    Supplies were cut to 61,000 properties with more than 100,000 people left without electricity. It took the commandeering of 75 sizeable diesel generators, many sourced from Northern Ireland and the south west of England, to get on top of the problem and slowly start to restore power.

    At the time, the incident was described as a ‘1 in a 100’ event.

    Looking at the trend for more extreme and unpredictable weather, that description is rather questionable. What isn’t in doubt, however, is how the fallout to the Lancaster power cut offers us an insight into how our systems cope with such adversity.

    Following the incident, the Royal Academy of Engineering in partnership with the Institution of Engineering and Technology and Lancaster University undertook a series of fact-finding workshops to highlight possible areas for improvement.

    Its ‘Living Without Electricity’ report catalogues the city’s experience and outlines several key recommendations.

    The review found a community bound together by the stereotypical ‘Blitz Spirit’ and camaraderie forged in times of hardship.

    Local shops and supermarkets distributed free food and other essentials, while volunteers from Christ Church continued running their overnight shelter for homeless people.

    They used head torches and gas cookers to provide food, while the chef at a care home for the elderly built a barbeque so residents could eat hot meals.

    But recovery efforts were hindered by what in isolation would appear to be a few relatively trivial issues.

    The combined knock-on effects, however, resulted in a population cut-off from modern society and not really knowing what was happening.

    [continues]

    Please read the linked article, and the full report. And reject BT Digital Voice, and all its evil brethren.

  24. Binraider Silver badge

    "Smart" stuff that demands always on connections is frankly, crap.

    Online-demanding games that have single player modes? Crap. (Looking at you GT7, and virtually everything Ubisoft).

    Windows activation insisting on a connection before you can do anything too. Crap. (Most recent versions of 11 starting to angle that way - even "Pro" boxen").

    No, I am in no rush whatsoever to flood my house with dependencies on a service that NTHell or OpenArse can drop for weeks at a time with very little recompense and certainly no repercussions for failure.

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