September 17, 2009

Why Everyone Needs a Phone Line in UK

I can't wait!! My shipment arrives today! Or at least it's supposed to... one more hour.. counting down! Maybe by the time I finish this post, it'll be here!

After yesterday's fiasco with the Internet guys, my confidence is not very high in the systems here (what systems??). I took the day off, or rather it became more like working from home, to wait for the Virgin Media guys to come and install internet. There I was, all happy to finally get real broadband, instead of my 3G dongle thing. But as the time passed, and I waited and waited, I finally called up the hotline to find out when they were coming cos in this country, no one really gives you a specific time and you have to just WAIT. The lady on the phone told me they'll come before 1pm but specifics she won't give me i.e. just be PATIENT.

Finally they come and they start poking around the house looking for the correct socket. After climbing up and down my small balcony to examine the wires running outside and testing every single hole in the wall, the guy told me it seemed like I couldn't get Virgin Broadband in my house though from my postcode it seemed like I could. What?? After I had waited 3 whole weeks for this appointment you tell me I can't get Virgin broadband??? (background: they're the only ones that do fibre-optics cable, the rest of the providers give you ADSL through the telephone line, which means you need an active phone line first but more on that later) Anyway, they poke around outside some more and finally they call me over to the common corridor, and point to a bunch of wires hanging from the ceiling opening, looking pretty despondent, "Ma'am, these are our wires. Unfortunately, they don't go anywhere. You'd have to get permission from your landlord for us to drill some holes through the ceiling and door and run these wires in the common area to get it into your house. I doubt you'll be able to get that permission though." Geez, thanks guys! So what do I do now??

The background to it is that UK has like 3 major TV/Cable/Phone providers (like Starhub back home) - British Telecom, Sky and Virgin Media. The rest of the telcos like Vodafone, O2 etc do some mobile and internet but not that comprehensive. Since there are these major providers who do everything, you'd think that you can just call up one company and get it all done in one installation and one bill right? WRONG. Apparently, whilst everyone has 3-in-1 packages, for most of the internet here, it's all through ADSL. And what does ADSL need? An active phone line. And here's the punchline - only BT provides the phone line. So that means that before you can do anything at all with anyone, you have to get BT to activate your phone line (and pay them while at it, this is the hidden cost that NO ONE tells you when you see all those cheap packages - £11/mth!!), which is why everyone ends up getting BT internet and phone. I was totally resisting this monopoly cos I really don't think I need a home phone line, since I had my mobile. After a lot of research, I thought I could bypass this by getting cable internet through Virgin (I wanted TV too but apparently I can't get their TV from where I am) and TV through Sky. Which brings us to yesterday's fiasco. And now I'm back to what I was trying to avoid i.e. getting a phone line. I don't even want to think about how long more I have to wait for the phone line and THEN the internet.

I proceed to call up Sky (my provider for Cable TV who's coming to install TV on Sat) to see if they can do an all-in-one installation for me when they come around. I get passed from one person to another and everyone I speak to has thick Scottish accents, which for the life of me, I cannot decipher over the phone. I kept going "Sorry? Say that again? I don't understand," to them and they must have thought I was a nincompoop. Finally after a long time, this is what I understood - I'd have to get my Sky TV and become a customer first, before he could send an order to BT to activate my phoneline (through Sky) and this will take 10-15 days. After my phoneline is active, then he will set up my broadband order and send me a self-installation package through the mail (another 3-7 days) and I will be all set! Errr, that's another 2-3 weeks if my maths doesn't fail me. By this time, I was totally exhausted and told him yah, whatever you need to do, go ahead. I just want my broadband, with or without a stupid phone line. The system just tries to wear you down with all its silly rules and regulations and waits to the point where you just surrender and let them do whatever. And this is supposed to be a first-world developed country??

That's the story of my Internet/TV/Phone fiasco, which I hope will not be repeated today with the movers. I had similar problems with them, having to call them up once every few days to check where my shipment was and everytime they told me they'd call me back with the information and not once did they call. I always had to call back to chase. So I'm really praying very hard that it comes today, and I'll be having TV from this weekend onwards! Plus my Kitchenaid, containers, vases, books, coats and toiletries!!! Oh and I watched Julie & Julia last night, so I'm quite inspired to cook, which means I want my things!! Please please please let it be here today!


* Y || said...

There is a way to get round not having the phone.
But your place must already have the cable facilities.
My memory's a bit fuzzywuzzy now but I did get BT cable (I think it was BT) without the phone because the place I was staying at already had the cable wiring or something of that sort. So all the tech guys had to do were to wire it up to my place.
In any case, London needs a lot of patience. I hope your home boiler etc is all good and new and working.
Mine broke down in the middle of winter before - not too good a thing to happen
Take care and do enjoy yourself!

EL said...

which is precisely what i was trying to do until i waited 3 weeks to find out i actually did not have the cables.

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