Tag, you're it.

Owing to BT living up to their usual low standard of customer service, it has now been almost a week without broadband at home. Apart from the inconvenience of not being able to work from home, I must say I’ve not missed it as much as I thought I would.

True, I spend all day in an interweb enabled office, and have a lovely iPhone to tide me over when out and about, but I thought I would be a slobbering wreck without a constant connectivity at home. Luckily I seem to be made of sterner stuff!

For those interested (and as a cathartic measure) here’s why I’ve got no ADSL….

Many moons ago, I had working BT broadband and telephony service and all was right with the world. Except it wasn’t all right. It was too expensive. So I switched my phone service over to Talk Talk. No problem there.

Then for some reason known only to themselves, BT rebranded all their broadband offerings, asking me to choose from one of their new Options. I tried, honestly I did. But their upgrade website didn’t recognise my phone number as a BT retail phone line. Well no, it wouldn’t, Talk Talk are looking after that bit.

So I forgot about it.

A while later I got an email from BT saying I was now on dial up and needed to dial the number ever 90 days to ensure my account stayed active.

Eh? Dial up?

I logged in and sure enough, I was on pay-as-you-go dial up. Hmmm. Ok, how about my monthly broadband bill?

Nope, they’d stopped charging me and the ADSL was still active.

Being the honest citizen I am, I kept my gob shut and said nothing. The line kept working, and I kept dialing in every now and then in order to keep my long time BT email address.

Well that was never going to last and after a good run they cancelled the line and removed my account. Fair enough.

So I order broadband from a new provider, this time from an outfit called Zen, about which I’ve heard good things. But they couldn’t activate it as my ADSL line was ‘tagged’ as being a BT Retail line. The tags are simply markers on the line saying which provider has ‘dibs’ on it and preventing other providers from nipping in and stealing it.

The normal course of events seems to involve people moving out of a property and not canceling their broadband. This leaves a tag on the line which the new owner can’t remove. In that case the new provider rings BT Wholesale directly and have them remove the tag.

This wasn’t allowed in my case… because I still live in my own house!

Ok, fine, I’ll ring BT and tell them to remove the tag.

Which they can’t do, because I don’t have an ADSL account with them. No, I don’t, because owing to reasons known only to them, they canceled it. And without an account they can’t issue a MAC code (for transferring an ADSL account to another provider) nor remove the tag on the line saying it was theirs. And in any case, it’s up to the new provider to ring BT Wholesale and request the tag be removed.

Except they tried that and were told to bugger off as I was still the current occupier.

I then had several conversations with people at both BT and Zen, both telling me they couldn’t do anything and that I had to phone the other party.

After a lie down, some calming whalesong music and a cup of herbal tea, I tried again.

This time I told the chap at BT in ‘robust’ terms that I was stuck in the middle here, and to think of another avenue for me to pursue. In a desperate move to get rid of me he said he’d put me through to the Broadband Service Team where I spoke to the first (and only) friendly, useful and genuinely trying to be helpful BT person in the whole saga. He tried all manner of things (whilst speaking to himself about what he was doing, and to be honest the tools they have to work with sound awful). He spoke to the mythical tagging team for me. During the 20 minutes or so of him doing that I got cut off.

That went down well.

Luckily it was an after-work-beers night so that made things better.

On arriving home I had a phone message from my friend at BT, apologising and saying the tagging team were doing something. He admitted he didn’t understand what it was exactly that they were doing, but it involved a CBUK number.

I looked this up.

A CBUK (Consumer Broadband United Kingdom) number actually identifies the physical circuit in the exchange and is used for technical diagnostic stuff.

The next day I rang them back, and having asked the usual helpdesk guy to put me through to the Broadband Service Team (which he did) I set about explaining my situation.


This time the guy said as there was no account there was nothing he could do.

I said there was, and that if the information I had given him wasn’t sufficient for him to sort out my problem (as it had been for the guy the day before) then could he please go and get someone for whom it was enough.

Sorry sir, there’s no account on that line.

Ring. The. Tagging. Team. Now. Please.

Ok sir.

He then comes back and says they will be removing the tag within the next 24 to 48 hours and can he have a contact number on which to call me and let me know when it has been done.

It’s now been 24 hours, and whilst I have my doubts about the success of said tag removal, at least I know what approach to take when calling BT.

1. Research the issue, and determine yourself what needs to be done and by whom.

2. Ring BT (the cancellations department as they are UK based and seem to have more ability) and tell them what they need to do.

3. Repeat step 2 politely, but firmly until they sort it.

And for the record, this post is bought to you via the power of an iPhone tethered to a Macbook Pro 🙂

UPDATE : A week later….
It was no surprise when the 48 hours passed without my hearing anything, so I gave them another day or two and rang back.

Again I was put on hold whilst the tagging team was consulted.

Then, in an unexpected move, I was given a MAC code to migrate my service. Hang on. I was told they couldn't generate a MAC or remove the tag (without the tagging teams input) as my account had been removed from their system.

Oh well, at least it was progress of sorts. I then emailed the MAC (I'm not calling it a 'MAC Code' anymore as the C stands for Code 😛 ) over to Zen, who replied within the hour saying it was an invalid code.

Calm… calm..

Rang BT again and confirmed the code was correct.

Rang Zen, where their guy instantly spotted the fact there was a forward slash missing. “Let me just correct that..[tap tap]. There you go, you should get an email shortly with your new activation date.”

And I did! It's due to be switched over on the 17th August.

We shall see.

Waffle about: 


The planets must be aligned in some way as I appear to be in the blogging mood again after a while away. It looks to me like the whole shape of blogging is changing around this here interweb, and in a way which I approve of. The rise of Twitter and Facebook has meant that people have another, more immediate outlet for their updates and no longer feel the need to blog.

Previously, (on LA Law) I would collect all my outrages, comments and moaning until I had about half a page worth of blog material ready to go. Not anymore, as these things are out in the ether before I’ve had a chance to calm down/stop laughing.

I suspect this cultural shift is a good thing as it removes a lot of fluff. Well, if not actually removing it then at least putting it in a place where you’d expect to find it. You don’t go to Facebook or Twitter for an in depth read for example. (Mind some, some teens are barely able to sustain coherence for 140 characters. *old man mutter)

As if to provide an example of the difference, I have an Adium (OSX messenger app) window open to the right of the one I’m currently typing in. (Apple’s Pages 09, fact fans). In it I get realtime Twitter updates and I can see that my good friend Cally (to whom I’m also related in some way that’s too complicated for me to work out after two beers) has recently seen and enjoyed the latest Indiana Jones film. Which is good, as I have it on my ‘to watch’ list at the moment. This kind of real time stuff is great, it helps me stay closer to people who live far away. I like that.

And the immediacy of those updates means that for me at least, they carry more meaning. It’s like being in a pub and hearing the numerous conversations that occur between members of your group. Sure, you may not be wholly interested in them all, but merely being able to hear them all makes you feel part of a group, of interacting socially.

It’s when you combine a strange eclectic mix of Tweets that it becomes something greater than the sum of it’s parts. The mix I have of family, friends, a Mythbuster, Stephen Fry, techies who’s opinion I value, Jason from the Gadget Show and a porn star provides not only a stream of interesting, funny and useful comments, but mixes together to provide a view on life that I’d never otherwise be aware of.

Waffle about: