Posts Tagged ‘BT’

Free Wifi! (or is it?)

March 31st, 2012 No comments

How many times have you seen a sign like the one on the right, standing outside a cafe proudly advertising ‘Free WiFi’? but how many times has it been true?

I’m not talking here about places that while not charging for access, still require you to register first with an email address (such as The Cloud at Pizza Express), presumably to have some sort of identification in case you use the connection for nefarious purposes.

More often that not, this is the sort of thing you will see when you fire up your WiFi settings:

So where’s the free WiFi?

Both the BTFusion and BTBusinessHub SSIDs are secured. The BTOpenzone SSID isn’t but that isn’t free. You either have to buy vouchers or have a contract that allows access.

There is no other SSID present, so the ‘Free WiFi’ claim outside is false, although not necessarily a lie on the part of the cafe owner – I’ll come to that later but I want to talk first about BT Openzone, as I think this lies behind the cafe owner’s belief that they are providing free WiFi.

BTOpenzone isn’t always BTOpenzone

As you can see, my iPhone has connected to the BTOpenzone SSID; As an O2 subscriber at the time of these screengrabs, I had access to the BT Openzone network, but as we will see, not all BT Openzone access points are created equal.

OK, we seem to be connected, let’s browse the web. Oh wait, no what’s this?:

“Sorry your mobile provider doesn’t provide access from this specific hotspot”.

So why did you show the Mobile provider icons?

And here we have the BTOpenzone cock up. When BT Openzone first started, WiFi access points were installed in motorway service stations, hotels, railway stations, airports etc. It is this original network that BT grants access to O2, Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile subscribers, something BT refers to as Premium Hotspots.

Unfortunately, when BT decided to create a network of access points using the installed base of BT Home and Business broadband hubs, some not-so-bright spark thought it was a good idea to use the same SSID. The problem is that these pseudo-BTOpenzone connections are only available to BT Broadband customers, not O2, Vodafone etc. customers. Now, fair enough, that is a commercial decision on BT’s part to separate the networks but since my phone has previously connected and used a real BT Openzone access point, it automatically connects to this one (see screengrab), after all why shouldn’t it, It’s the same ID?

After a few years, BT have finally realised this and have started to rename these SSIDs to BTOpenzone-H for Home, but this is far from complete and as we will see, even new connections are still being installed with the old SSID.

So what’s all this got to do with free WiFi?

Anyone looking at offering free WiFi access needs to consider a number of issues:

  • Any connection must only provide access to the internet, it must not in any way allow access to any devices on your own personal network, otherwise you risk a security breach.
  • If bandwidth or data usage is an issue on the connection you intend to share, how will you limit the amount of data used?
  • Any malicious or criminal use of your connection by others could be traced back to you as the account holder. Despite the fact that you would not have been responsible for such actions, cases already brought show that those pursuing claims don’t care that an IP address does not correspond to an individual. Can you afford to have to defend such a claim?

Recently, a cafe owner I know announced that they were intending to provide free WiFi in the cafe. I pointed out the concerns above and asked how they were intending to address these. They said that BT were providing the connection and that BT had said the BT equipment would allow the cafe could provide free WiFi to their customers. Given my experience at numerous cafes as detailed above, I was curious as to what BT were promising.

After BT installed the Business Broadband, there was nothing obvious for customers to connect to, only a Business Broadband SSID (private encrypted network for the owner’s personal use) and the usual low-grade BTOpenzone only available to BT Broadband customers. Note that this is a new install but still displays the same SSID as a premium hotspot.

The cafe owner contacted BT and asked how customers were supposed to get free WiFi. The cafe tell me that they were told to give out their private key to the Business Broadband SSID! This is an incredibly stupid thing to do, exposing the cafe owner’s network to the public, and making them liable for any malicious/criminal activity carried out using the connection. It should be noted that a BTOpenzone connection does address all three of the above issues as it requires registration, and is routed out via a VPN connection, but it is by no means free to the cafe customer using the WiFi. BT have since told the cafe that the only public connection is the BTOpenzone. It’s that or nothing.

Seeing this from the cafe owner’s perspective, I begs the question as to what all those other establishments that promise free Wifi, yet only show BTOpenzone, have been told. Are they being told that this is Free WiFi for customers? Do the sales bods selling BT Broadband to businesses believe that BTOpenzone is the free WiFi because it’s free to BT Broadband customers.

Are you a cafe/B&B/hotel owner? Do you offer free WiFi? I’d be interested in your experiences.

Telephone signalling delays

March 17th, 2011 No comments

Phone KeysBack at the end of the 1980s, our telephone exchange switched to digital, in our case from Strowger to System Y. I can remember being impressed at the time with a number of things; one was how there was no longer a gap between ‘dialling’ the last digit and the ringing tone. The connection was instant. Fast forward 20 years and we now have a pause again while the connection goes through; what happened? We seem to have gone backwards. I’m not talking about the delay when calling mobiles and the network has to locate a phone, I’m talking landline to landline.

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BT Broadband Advert Wireless Nonsense

February 27th, 2010 No comments

BTI take most TV adverts with a pinch of salt but BT’s current broadband advert contains a completely irrelevant claim. It claims that their service provides “unbeatable wireless speed” in the UK. This is the equivalent of your electricity provider claiming their electricity produces warmer light or your gas provider saying it heats your room more efficiently.

Which wireless router or access point (if I choose to actually use wireless) is up to the customer and will therefore determine the speed.

This claim obviously plays on the consumer broadband mentality that suggests you are tied to the router provided by the ISP. Even if BT’s router is wireless-n it would be foolish to choose your ISP based on the router they provide.

At any rate, a fantastic wireless speed is irrelevent if the connection provided by BT is only a fraction of that.

BT Broadband’s OTT SMTP Requirements

January 18th, 2008 No comments

BTSince the advent of spam, most ISPs have their SMTP servers set to only accept non-authenticated connections from computers on their own networks, and justifiably so. Some (mine included) offer the additional extremely useful option of making an authenticated connection (username and password) from outside their network to allow you to still use their SMTP server from anywhere in the world, without having to change settings to your host ISP’s SMTP server. In both cases, I am free to set the “From:” field to an email of my own choice, as I don’t use the email address provided by the ISP – I have my own domain name(s) for that, and want my outgoing emails to correctly show them instead.

Not so with BT Broadband. I was asked to assist a colleague who was complaining that he couldn’t send email on his BT Broadband connection. To cut a long story short, BT Broadband firstly require you to log in to the SMTP server using authentication, even if you are connected via their own network. Why?

However, that is still not enough if you don’t want to use the silly ‘’ address they supply you with. You must also register every single ‘from’ address you wish to use via BT Yahoo first.

Makes me so glad I have a decent ISP.

Further information on how to set things up correctly on BT Broadband can be found from Paul Doherty and Peter Curtis.

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A Number with History

April 24th, 2007 No comments

Phone KeysYou may remember that BT managed to foul up the take-over of an existing line when we moved in January.

Well now we have started to receive calls for a decorating firm. The first couple were taken by the answering machine, so we ignored them as wrong numbers, but I spoke to one lady last week.

“You’ve got the wrong number” I said.
“No I haven’t, it’s on the side of your van”
“I don’t have a van, are you sure you’ve got the right dialling code?”
“Yes, it’s on the van”

I asked her where this van was, and went to look. Sure enough, there’s our number on the side of the van. I knocked on a house door and it appears that the number is correct, or rather was correct. The decorating firm used to have our number before moving, but hadn’t got round to changing the number on the van.

Fair enough, but what is extremely annoying is that when I ordered the line from BT, they assured me that it had never been used for a business purposes.

Congratulations BT, you’ve screwed up again.

I sent a complaint via BT’s website:

When I opened my account with BT, I was assured that the number given had not previously been allocated as a business number. However, we are now receiving calls for ‘xxxx Decorating’. I have managed to track down this firm who confirm that they used to have our number before they moved.

and it is clear from the response, that they completely failed to understand the problem:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding your recently obtained BT telephone number.

Please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused.

Unfortunately BT have to recycle telephone numbers, and in the years previous to your having this number a customer may have had it, and not requested it to be ex-directory. Once a telephone number has been registered on a calling list it will remain on it until has been removed by registering the number for the Telephone Preference Scheme.

However, I can arrange a renumber for you, free of charge.

Once again please accept my apologies for the inconvenience and distress this may be causing you.

It has nothing to do with being on a calling list and therefore nothing to do with TPS. However, if they had bothered to actually check anything, they would have seen that this number has been registered (by BT on our behalf) with TPS since we got it.

Update – Jan 2008

At the time I discovered the van in question, the decorator assured me that he was getting the number on the van changed that week. It is now nine months later and I was recently annoyed to find that our number is still on his van. I used to pass on his new number to potential customers, but since he doesn’t seem interested in us being inconvenienced by calls for his business, we now simply tell callers they have the wrong number.

Update – Mar 2010

Three years later, his van still shows our number.

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Moving House with BT

December 28th, 2006 12 comments

Phone KeysWe’re moving house shortly, and one of the many things we need to take care of is the phone line.

We are currently with ntl for both telephone and broadband, but the new address, despite being in an ntl area with all surrounding streets having cable service, was never cabled up. That means switching to BT.

Even if the street did have ntl service, we were still going to go back to BT for the phone line, as we cannot get free itemised billing on ntl, and the phone line goes dead during a local power cut (in contravention of OFCOM regulations). We would however have preferred to stay with ntl for broadband.

No problem sir… or is it?

A few weeks ago, I called BT to see whether we could take our existing phone number with us (originally a BT number before being ported over to ntl). I was told that this would not be a problem as the new address was still within the same exchange area. “Just give us a week’s notice when you know you are moving”.

Having a firm moving date, I called yesterday to place the order, only to be told that the BT line at the new address had been ceased for a long time and that an engineer* would have to call to check the wiring was intact. Strange that, since the current owners have a fully functioning BT phone line. The CSA claimed that it must be another non-BT line. How, if there is no cable? She got very shirty:“There are lots of other companies, sir”. Yes, but it’s called wholesale line leasing – the line is still a BT line at the end of the day! “No sir, the BT line has been ceased for a long time”.

Not wanting to cause further damage to my head or the wall, I hung up and called back later.

It seems, however, after talking to someone who did understand wholesale line leasing, that the current owners have chosen to pay their line rental to a third party provider, and although the line still belongs to BT who have leased it to the third party, BT have no details about the line. I find that very hard to believe, as BT must have a record of the leasing arrangement and that they are receiving an income from the third party for the line. BT would also be responsible for maintenance on the line, so are they saying they have no records for that either?

Need more staff

It gets worse: the earliest appointment for an engineer is 23rd January! That’s almost a month away, to perform a task which will take a few minutes (and may even be done without a visit). Pathetic! This means that despite giving BT two weeks notice (one week more than requested), we will be without a phone line at the new address for almost two weeks at the very least. It also means that we will not be able to take our number with us, unless we left the ntl line live after we move out (allowing the new owners use of a free line for two weeks) Not bloody likely!

It also extends the period without broadband, as I cannot order broadband until the line is working. Now because of this debarcle, for the first two weeks, I won’t even have dial-up access.

I would not be surprised if it is BT policy to deliberately ‘forget’ about wholesale leased lines just to put a spanner in the works, as sour grapes for being forced to lease lines to third parties.

I have posted a complaint to:

Jillian G Lewis – Customer Service Director
BT plc
Correspondence Centre
DH98 1BT

I’ll see if I get any response.

Update: 3rd March

Over 9 weeks later and no response.

Update: 17th March

Over 11 weeks later, and I’ve just had a message on the answering machine saying “this is a courtesy call regarding your letter” and “you will be contacted within 10 days”

Question: why not just contact me? Sounds like an NHS style fudge, so they can say they responded within 12 weeks.

Update: 17th May

Well, it’s now two months since I got the message saying that someone would contact me within 10 days and almost five months since I originally wrote to BT. I’m still waiting.

*This use of the word engineer is very annoying and the reason that real engineers have lost their status in this country. The man who comes to fix your phone or television is not an engineer, he is a repairman, or a technician. He may be highly skilled in his job but he does not actually engineer anything. The person who actually designs the telephone systems or television is an engineer. You would not refer to a nurse as a doctor. In other European countries, you are not even allowed to call yourself an engineer without proper credentials.