Understanding BT Openreach

Many of us, when we have talked to our internet service providers about our ADSL connection, have been informed that Openreach will have to sort the issues.  That brings up the questions “who are Openreach and what do they do”; and, more importantly, “why can’t our internet service providers deal with issues themselves instead of passing the buck.”

Here we investigate how Openreach are involved in the internet process, exactly who they are and what, on earth, they actually do!

BT Internet Solutions

BT Internet Solutions are passed over the telephone infrastructure that provides our landline phones on ADSL.  When it comes to other providers, they also use the same BT infrastructure for their ADSL.  They essentially rent the line from BT, and pay either a subscription, a registration fee or license.  The lines and exchanges are still owned by BT and therefore are not under the jurisdiction or control of the internet service providers.

Calling Your Provider

When you call your provider and they aren’t BT internet, they may well do tests on your line and in the exchange.  They may even already be aware of issues in the exchange or on the line itself, and inform you of this.  When this is the case, they will escalate the issue to BT Openreach. 

Who are BT Openreach?

BT Openreach are the outsource managers of the BT network.  They interact with the different providers of internet over the BT infrastructure and sort the issues in the infrastructure.  Sometimes, the providers that we use will have their own equipment installed in the telephone exchange and, so, will be able to work with this - but outside of their own equipment, they’re not allowed to touch anything.

Problems with Escalation

Sometimes, there are issues getting your problems escalated to BT Openreach.  Essentially, the internet service providers will want to ensure that there are indeed problems - in order not to send BT Openreach staff on a wild goose chase.  They may, therefore, attempt to delay you and ask for retests on the line over a prolonged period to ensure that you don’t have instability rather than a problem.  They may take you through a rigorous troubleshooting process on your line to ensure that all of your set-up is correct.  This is why it’s well worth doing a few things before you actually call your provider.

Things to Do before You Call Your Provider

It’s a good idea to do a speed test on your line for a 2-week period if you perceive issues are developing.  The 2-week period of test results that you log and show your provider should leave them in little doubt that there are actually issues on the line.

The challenge is that underperformance is not always classed as an issue and, sometimes, you just won’t get the internet connectivity you want because of the limitations of where you live.

Distance from the Exchange

The further you are from the telephone exchange, the more your internet will slow down.  If you live many miles from the telephone exchange, you may well get very poor ADSL connectivity.  If, however, you live within 200 meters of the exchange - whether you’re with BT Internet, Tesco Broadband, AOL or any other provider - you’ll likely to get pretty good ADSL connectivity; perhaps even over 20 Mbps.

Tesco Broadband

Tesco Broadband has been one of the main companies to be criticized in forums and online about their inability to escalate issues to BT Openreach.  A lot of the uproar is anecdotal, but it seems they can take weeks or even months to get line issues sorted – and they don’t seem to be communicating very well with BT Openreach.

It begs the question whether some providers have a better relationship with the teams at BT Openreach than others, and whether you should perhaps look to deal with these companies. 

Certainly, companies such as Sky, Plusnet, BE Broadband, and BT Internet themselves seem to get things sorted quicker than many of the other companies.

Be Polite and Be Honest

When it comes to talking to your internet service provider when you have issues, it’s important to always remain polite.  The people on the other end of the line are just doing their jobs, and they’re more likely to help you if you remain calm and polite, but persuasive, rather than if you get angry and start shouting.

They need to work within the limitations of their jurisdiction and, if the issues are with BT Openreach, you just need to make sure that problems are escalated to the said provider in order to ensure that you get the problem resolved.  It may be worth finding out whether the problem is in the exchange or in the telephone line, and then speaking to BT Internet or Openreach yourself in order to see what the time frame is for resolution.

Your provider will be very reluctant to offer you time-frames because they won’t know themselves, and perhaps won’t be able to give you a time-frame with any degree of confidence.  However, if you were the consumer speaking with BT Openreach, it may be that you get a better response all together, and you may get a better idea of when your internet will be back up and running as smoothly as it should.

Top Tip

When you’re troubleshooting a connection in your home, make sure that you check that your WiFi router is plugged directly into the main socket through a microfilter.  Also, make sure that all of the devices around your home have microfilters installed to split the voice and data components to reduce interference. 

Check the quality of your cables.  The more twists, bends and coils in your cable, the more likely you are to receive poor connections if you’re connected on a wired basis.

My connection through my Ethernet cable is actually slower than my wireless at the moment, because the Ethernet cable is in poor condition. So there you have it!

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