Thursday, 12 March 2009

Meanwhile, back in the real world of blogging ...

Where to begin?

There is a hint in the rather surreal cartoon above. We lost our telephone wires in the big storm in January, and that took ten days to get restored. Then, because the repair was temporary, and the wires sagged lower than usual, a local farmer drove through them with a large and tall agricultural machine.

OK, so call the provider from a friend's phone and get it sorted, right? Um, no. Actually, this could have been funny.

Our provider is Alice, part of Tiscalli. They buy capacity from France Telecom and flog services on as an independent. You probably know the kind of thing. Part of their contract with France Telecom is that they take over the maintenance of the line, by, err, paying France Telecom to fix it when it goes wrong. But they have to call in FT. You can't do that; you can only deal with Alice.

Well, first the funny part (this all takes place in French of course):

"Hello Alice, there is a problem with the line - it's broken"

"OK, are you standing by your modem?"

"Err, not exactly, I'm 6 km away, calling from a friend's house, because our line is down"

"Yes, but I can't help you unless you are standing by your modem and reboot it and tell me which lights are on"

"No, I don't think you quite understand, I've seen the line, it's on the ground, and it is in two halves"

"Are you standing by your modem yet?"

"Just a sec, yes, OK, I'm standing by my modem". I think, dear reader, you will grasp that this lie was necessary to move on.

"Good, OK, switch it off and on and tell me what you see"

"I see an error light, because the line is on the ground and broken in two"

... Now I have to tell you that this pantomime went on for ten times longer than I depict it. In the end, after divine intervention, the baton was passed to someone in technical who, after more of the above (I swear it), did a remote test and declared "Oh, your line seems to be broken".

Hooray! They agreed that it would be fixed that week (this was Monday evening).

It was not. More calls. Apparently someone from Alice had been to inspect the site and had declared that the line was down and in two pieces (I though that we had told them that ...).

So what next?

Ah, well according to their service agreement with FT, the line would be fixed before the end of week 2.

Except it was not. (In brackets, hello, is this a first world country or what?)

Further calls to Alice became more and more weird. Their computers were down, our account was blocked, no sorry, it and a number of others were subject to some review which means that they could not be serviced for a while. How long? Well, a while. Etc etc etc.

Now you need to think about this for a bit (I know I have). Ninety nine times out of 100, Alice doesn't need to lift a finger. If a line goes wrong, it will affect FT customers too, so they will have to come in and fix it at their own expense.

But we fall into the 1% (or 0.1%) of cases where the line comes to us, alone. Or at least the last kilometer or two - a small section is shown below as it marches towards chez nous.

And I slowly began to realise that they weren't going to fix our line. Not now, not ever. They were simply, and cynically, waiting until we got so pissed off that we would leave them and rejoin FT, who could then fix the line at their own expense.

I have to say that the realisation stunned me, but I'm convinced I'm right. There is still a 1/2 kilometer of damage from the storm and it will cost hundreds to put right. Or about the revenue from 3 or 4 years of our contract with Alice.

We were in the shit and they were happy to leave us there. Call FT? Tried - "Sorry, you have to take that up with Alice".

So I got an extremely long ladder, put on a fluorescent jacket, climbed up the effing pole (we're talking 4-5 meters here), joined the two ends of the cable using household connectors, went back to the house, fired up the modem, and had working telephone and internet.

Since we still had no word from Alice a week later, we called out of sheer curiosity. Well, they said, the line is working so one of our technicians must have fixed it. Any details of the above on our computer file? Well, no, but clearly it had been fixed, so our problem was ...?

How about the 1/2 kilometer of line that is still trailing along the ground? You want it raised? Fine we'll raise it, but at your expense.

Well, thanks a bunch Alice, and may you all rot in hell, and with no internet to make your punishment even harsher.

So there we are.

I guess that we will simply have to change to FT and after a decent interval tell them that, surprise surprise, our line is on the ground and please come and fix it.


Blogging is a habit, I've realised, albeit a nice one. It has been really quite difficult to return to it after such a break. But I'm sure I'll get back into the swing of things. Anyway, lots of nice catching up on all your lovely blogs to look forward to.