BT OpenReach Accidental Disconnection?

Apologies to those who weren’t able to access our online radio show or podcast at the weekend. Due to an apparent BT Openreach mixup, we’d lost our phone and broadband for a week. This post documents our issue, and has been posted this in case it is helpful to others in the same boat.

The Problem

On the 30th of July 2015, our phone and broadband dropped out. Red lights on the hub. No dial tone. Outside – 2 Openreach vans:

The possible culprits? O lost service as they were working on a neighbour's line

The possible culprits? We lost service as they were working on a neighbour’s line

I had a chat with one of the guys – he’d been working on a fault two doors down. I suggested that what he’d done may have knocked me off. No apparent concern and he told me to report it as a fault, as he couldn’t work on a problem that he’d not been assigned to.

After reporting online and finding the problem was “near my property”, I finally got a message two days later that there’d be an update on the fault by the end of the following week. We endured 7 days with no phone or broadband, and very poor feedback from BT and Openreach. It was only by persistent blogging, tweeting and posting in BT’s forum that we were able to get any information, and to get back online.

The cause

After doing some online research, and chatting with a former BT engineer, I have a clearer picture of what has probably happened. When working on a neighbour’s fault, the Openreach engineer either accidentally damaged our connection, or “switched pairs” – which was explained to me as selecting a new set of wires to that customer’s house from the nearby green Openreach cabinet.

Other possible causes have been offered: accidental disconnection of a line at the pole DP (Source: BT forum) or dampness in cabinet due to recent rain (BT’s Indian helpdesk). Given the two Openreach vans out front, I find it hard to buy either of these.

Faulty Fault checker

Since Day 2 of the fault, the online BT Consumer Fault Tracker appeared to have developed a fault too. So, no help there!

BT's faulty fault checker - 03 Aug 2015

BT’s faulty fault checker – 03 Aug 2015

Note the interesting grammar in the error message:

Getting info from BT

Trying to find out what’s happening has been a challenge, largely due to the fact that BT and Openreach are separate organisations now.

If you need to get information on the status of a fault, here’s some advice:

Don’t phone them:

Don’t waste your time with the BT Call Centre. Wait times seem long, it’s a faff getting to someone who can help you, and the Indian call centre you get connected to, whilst they try very hard to be helpful, just don’t have access to any quality information.

Don’t tweet them:

BT’s @BTCare Twitter service is actually pretty good – For general enquiries, and for first-line advice, they’re OK – but they don’t seem to have access to any information, or the power to action anything. From the responses, we’re guessing the feed is run from the UK (Northern Ireland?), presumably by a PR team keen to make sure BT looks responsive without actually doing anything or solving problems. Messages are chatty and quick, but not overly helpful:

  • “Sorry about this. Do you have a fault with your services? Have you been advised at all what the problem is?” (yes, as per tweet – no broadband for 7 days)
  • “Can you chat to us here (url) and we will look into this for you?” (this received after posting a screenshot of a poor chat experience)
  • “Sorry to hear that – you can check your fault online” – (Although their fault reporter is broken)
  • “Let me know how to get on on the 7th” – (Would rather you told me the status, not the other way around)
Example of feedback from @BTCare twitter

Example of feedback from @BTCare twitter

Do – Chat online

A former insider at BT has been in touch to report that live chat is the way to go. Generally less wait, and although, like phone support, this is outsourced to India, the staff on the other end of the online chat generally have a better grasp of English and have time to look into problems as opposed to running through scripts.

Online chat - Come back in a week, nothing to see here!

Online chat – Come back in a week, nothing to see here!

So, online chat seems to be the best option – but if your line’s been disconnected by Openreach, don’t expect any information any time soon…

Do – try the BT Community forum

An often forgotten resource, but this yielded results for us. Go to, create a free account, and post about your experiences. Messages to the forum seem to be answered largely by volunteer BT supporters. The chap who was helping us is an ordinary BT customer who’d posted over 50,000 messages! You may not get an answer from a BT person, but you may get the information you’re after. For uis, we made a couple of useful contacts from similarly-affected customers, and it;s also a great place for research – reviewing the successes and failures achieved by other customers helps to build a strategy for getting results from BT & Openreach. Well worth a read.

The Latest

  • Day 1: All service lost whilst BT Openreach working on neighbour’s property. Reported fault online
  • Day 2: No update
  • Day 3: Call from India that they were hoping to look at the fault by the end of the following week. Online chat – Told “no updates for a week”
  • Day 4: No update
  • Day 5: No update
  • Day 6: Online chat – See below. Research into “pair pinching”
  • Day 7: We spent several hours posting in the Community forum, digging into aspects of how Openreach work, and spreading the word about “pair pinching” and the “123 test” – more on this later. The perseverance worked, as we got our service back within a few hours.

Day 6 was an interesting one, as we got the following admission via an online chat – an admission of a mistake by Openreach, as opposed to a fault.

“Pete i am sorry that a silly mistake by the engineer has disrupted the service in you’re house but they will fix it. At this moment the back office haven’t updated the further work they have carried out”

A week of waiting, and fixed in under an hour. But what happened?

A week of waiting, and fixed in under an hour. But what happened?

We’re now pushing to find out what happened, so we can close the book on this. Hopefully BT will be able to get the requested status report from Openreach.

Reason for the problem? Not sure…

We’ve asked BT for a summary of the fault, and were told that the fix involved “jumpering in the Primary Cross Connection Point” – “There was a problem in the junction of 2 cables inside that box which has been replaced by the engineer”. Not quite sure what that means. Does “replacing two cables” mean a new pair was assigned?

The BT support person contacted a colleague, to be told that a “dual-skilled engineer reached the site today and did some jumpering in the distribution pole” outside the premises. Openreach appears to be claiming that this was a network fault, not a mistake/accident/”pair-pinch” by the previous engineer.

BT support staff admitted there seems to be a conflict in the information from Openreach, but have no way of getting more information from Openreach from their office in India. They didn’t seem to know what to do next, so it’s been escalated to the Level 1 Fault Desk Service Manager’s Manager. We’re due a call tomorrow…



Apparently this is possible after 3 working days have elapsed, which they have. Not tried this.


Line Loss due to “Pair Pinching”?

In searching around for information, I see the concept of Openreach taking a working line (accidentally or deliberately) and giving it to someone else isn’t that rare. It seems that if Openreach, or one of its contractors, needs a replacement line (known as a “pair” – pair of copper wires), they hunt through the mess of wires inside a cabinet for an unused pair. On occasions, it seems that they have “robbed” a working line by accident.

We’re very grateful to listener ‘Speedyrite’ for pointing us at the following story. An example of a line contractor being caught engaging in the process known as “pair pinching”, “pair stealing”, “pair theft” or “stealing copper”. This story contains detailed information about the problem, and especially issues due to work by Kelly, a subcontractor to BT Openreach. There are numerous comments to the first two articles giving even more information on the practice.

BT Community – We’ve been discussing our ongoing fault over in the official BT Community forum, where forum user John46 (one of their ‘Distinguished Sages’), tells us that there’s a “better chance of winning the lottery twice in a row” than having your line accidentally reused by Openreach. From the above links, it’d seem there’s an awful lot of double-lottery winners out there!! The thread is here: BT Community – Line down – Come back in a week

The “123 test”

We’ve seen a recent report from three customers in July 2015 reporting phantom short calls to the speaking clock on 123 – Could this be the “123 test” referred to in Alex’s article? BT Community – Phantom 123 calls. Been charged 38p for a call to 123 you didn’t make – it could be an Openreach man in a cabinet or up a pole spending your money. Please contact us if you’ve been affected so we can see how widespread this is…


Happened to you?

If you’ve been affected by a similar problem, we’d love to hear from you to see just how widespread this is… please contact us, or add your comment below. We might feature your experience in a future radio show…


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