This website is brought to you from a server in my loft. It’s been that way for over a year now, I think. That is only possible, of course, because my Internet Service Provider provides a reasonably-fast, robust connection with a static IP address. For the past 18 months, Vodafone has provided such a service, for around £24 a month, using Fibre-to-the-Cabinet technology. That means that whilst Vodafone provides fibre connections to a green box/cabinet half-way up my street, the ‘last mile’ connection to my home is in the form of a fairly standard phone line, using DSL technology.
It’s certainly been robust and reasonably cheap -and whilst the speed has been adequate, it’s never been great. Downloads have usually maxed out at around 1.4MBps (Megabytes per second), with uploads at around 1MBps. Not great, but just about sufficient.
And then my contract expired! At which point, Vodafone said that they’d just keep the existing connection arrangements going for an additional £3 per month… or, I could switch to using Fibre-to-the-Home technology with near-enough guaranteed 100Mbps (Megabits per second) speeds, which is the equivalent of about 12MBps -or, roughly, ten times the speed I was used to… and for £4 a month less. I mean, what’s not to like about an offer to upgrade to proper fibre-based Internet, with massively increased speeds, unlimited data transfers, a fixed IP address and all for less money than I was already paying?! So, naturally I signed up for the deal of the decade, in a heartbeat.
Installation of the new fibre connection took place last Tuesday, 21st September… which is the last time you’d have seen this website, as I had to lose my trusty DSL connection at the point the new fibre one was installed. Activation of the Vodafone account should then have taken place by midnight that same day. Except it didn’t. It didn’t get activated the following day, either. And despite 8+ phone calls to Vodafone trying to get it sorted out, it still wasn’t activated on the Thursday, either. No-one really bothered to explain what the problem was, except in the early stages of the saga when it was alleged that the OpenReach engineers who had installed the new fibre line hadn’t closed off their job properly -and without that closure, the auto-activation on the Vodafone side of things couldn’t happen.
I’d buy that explanation, except that it seems to me that a phone call to OpenReach on the Wednesday should have caused proper job closure to have taken place within an hour or two at most …but it didn’t.
I’d also not want to excuse Vodafone for culpability in the matter: on Thursday afternoon, I received a phone call from an OpenReach engineer who proudly declared that he’d ‘just fixed your phone line’. I asked what he was talking about, and he explained that he had been asked (by Vodafone) to go out and fix a problem with the DSL cabinet connection to my home. I tried to point out that the DSL connection may or may not have been faulty -but since I was trying to switch my DSL connection off and my new fibre one on, there was zero point in fixing anything associated with a soon-to-be unused DSL line. He laughed and asked me what I wanted him to write on the ticket: I had no suggestion as to what to write on an irrelevancy! But his call basically highlighted the fact that one of the many Vodafone minions I’d spoken to on the phone had not bothered to look at any of the paperwork associated with my account, nor bothered to familiarise himself with why I might have recently have made multiple daily phone calls to Vodafone. Rather than bother to take meaningful action to get my new fibre account authorised, he’d simply passed the buck to OpenReach and got them to undertake a fools’ errand of repairing something completely irrelevant to my actual needs! By way of a bonus, it turns out that the OpenReach engineer “fixed” my DSL line by disconnecting my neighbour! I might have no further use for a DSL connection, but she certainly does… so the misery spreads like a bad stain ever-wider!
Anyway, I had decided that if the line wasn’t working properly by 4pm Friday, some 72+ hours after it was supposed to have been active, I’d be cancelling the account completely and moving to another ISP. I held no hope that it would be working in time, so I started ringing around to see what other offers were available from assorted companies. At 1.30pm, a Vodafone lady called to say, could I please hard-reset my router (for the fourth time of asking as it happens), and if I did, she guaranteed it would soon all be working as intended. With nothing to lose, I did as she requested… and then she said, ‘Great. Just wait an hour or so, and it will all work’. Well, that was about the sixth time someone from Vodafone had asked me to ‘wait until Midnight’, ‘wait for 24 hours’, ‘wait for up to 48 hours’ or ‘wait for a couple of hours’, so my credulity on the matter of waiting ever actually fixing anything had by now been pretty much stretched to non-existence. So I said to her: ‘right, call me back at 2.30pm, please, and either I’ll confirm it’s working as intended, or I’ll be asking you to cancel the entire contract’.
And the router’s lights went back to blinking their non-connected red, as they had been since Tuesday. I resigned myself to having to cancel the contract. Until some 40 minutes had passed and… Miracle! Lo! …the connection light changed to a sold white light, indicating ‘connected and working’. And indeed, I could ping various sites and a quick speed test indicated I was getting a good 90Mbps connection.
The Vodafone lady (Nada) called back at 2.30pm as promised and I was able to give her the good news: no need to cancel contracts!
Unfortunately, it then turned out that my previously-fixed IP address (which lets you read this website) had been changed to a completely new fixed IP address -but she assured me that it was genuinely fixed at its new setting, so I could go an update my website’s DNS records with it. And, for the first time in four days, I’ve finally been able to connect to my own website via the public Internet!
Strewth! It was supposed to be a trivial account upgrade, resulting in an outage of no more than a few hours. It turned into a four-day outage, necessitating tens of calls to Vodafone and a pointless visit from an OpenReach DSL engineer…. but we seem to have got there in the end! At this point, I don’t have high praise for either OpenReach or Vodafone -though individual tech support team members at Vodafone were polite, helpful and clearly trying to do their best. But I do appear to have ended up with the fastest, fixed address broadband I’ve ever had in my life, for less than I’ve ever paid before -and I can’t really complain about that. Complain about the path to this nirvana I definitely have done, though, and shall continue to do so: apparently, automatic ‘compensation’ for my troubles has been promised. We shall see what that amounts to.
Anyway: all of that is by way of apologising for the substantial outage and non-availability this site has experienced in the past 4 days! Normal service has been resumed …and, if anything, the site should be a lot more responsive than before, because it’s coming to you via fast, fat fibre, not feeble copper wire!