Monday, December 28, 2009

France Telecom, oh France Telecom

Living in a forest on a dirt track communications are quite important. In October I bought a Livebox so I could have wifi internet access around the property and a cordless phone. For five years I'd had ADSL that worked reasonably well though it always went off for a day or two after heavy rain or a storm.

The day after I got the internet and phone working with the Livebox, the red light came on. No access. No phone either. Just a blip, I thought. France Telecom will sort if out quickly. Called them. They tested the line. "No problem with the line. It's a problem for Orange." Called Orange. Answered a few questions. "No problem at our end. It's a problem for France Telecom." Called France Telecom. Same response. Called Orange again. Same response. Finally France Telecom agreed to send a team of technicians. The team turned out to be two subcontracted youngsters from Cavaillon, in a hired van, who couldn't even look at the line because they didn't 'have a ladder'. They went away. Other teams of 'technicians' followed. All subcontractors. All young. None brought ladders and ladders were apparently the key to restoring the serivce. There were teams who couldn't find the house. (SatNav anyone?) And teams who refused to go onto a neighbour's property where the FT box is sited, even though the neighbours were fine about it.

Finally, seven teams were sent over 5 weeks. 14 'technicians'. In all that time I had no phone and no internet access. I wrote to the National Consumer Service three times. No reply. Not even an acknowledgement of the letters. On the other hand, FT still managed to collect my monthly fee for the non-existant service efficiently.

When the service was finally restored - and I imagine shareholders paid for the seven completely ineffective, wasted visits - I felt reasonably reassured.

Not for long.

A neighbour this week pointed out to me that the 'repair' to the line was this: the young 'technicians' have draped a line across a neighbour's grounds, all the way over the lawn, through the cherry orchard and up on to the dirt track, draped in hawthorn hedge, before connecting it to the telephone pole.

It's just a loose wire lying on the ground.


I'm not alone round here with this problem. Two friends and neighbours have been offline for three and four months respectively and nothing seems to be happening to restore the service they are paying for. There is clearly something very wrong at France Telecom. The workers are unhappy. Suicides are bizarrely common. Maintenance and repair is being farmed out to younsgters who seem to have little training and no interest in providing a service. Seemed to me that each time they would come out here and go away saying they didn't have a ladder they were probably billing France Telecom on multiple occasions with some nonsense about not having the tools for a complex repair. I don't get the impression that FT checks what the subcontractors are up to.

I'll now have to fight again to get the line properly secured between the poles and the house, before a wild boar stumbles into it and disconnects me again.

France Telecom may need to rename itself France NotTelecom.

March 2010 update. The line is still lying on the neighbour's lawn, months later. I've written and called FT. Received one strange message left on the answerphone which in translation appeared to say: "The arc bobs against a god." Unless it was code meant for a spy I can't possibly imagine what they were trying to communicate. FranceTelecommunications are clearly not communications capable of, you know, communicating.

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