March 20, 2017
This is, sadly, a long and winding tale. The short version goes something like ‘Oh, man, you’ll never believe the hassle I had trying to get broadband at home’, to which a common response might be along the lines of ‘Don’t feckin’ talk to me, wait ‘til I tell you the hoops I had to jump through’.
For those of you joining us from abroad, a little background is in order. eir – formerly Eircom, formerly Telecom Éireann – are sort of like Comcast in the US, or BT in the UK. A former jewel in the Irish semi-state crown, they’re the company with the ‘copper in the ground’ when it comes to telecomms. Once a reasonable model of efficiency and ‘public good’, they have now become a bauble to be tossed around between funds, while they continue to lose their sheen due to competition and (de)regulation. (A giant fuckup, in other words.)
Seeing a number of their networks appearing on my WiFi list, I resolved to enquire about getting service…
‘It has an internet port.’ This was Rakesh’s answer to my enquiry about what sort of ports their modem might have. I tried, gently, to suggest to Rakesh that there may be no such thing as an internet port, but he wasn’t having any of it. Trying a different tack, I enquired as to the make of the modem. This was greeted by the kind of heavy sigh that is reserved for ‘difficult’ customers, and he put me on hold. Upon his return he announced that the modem was made by Huawei. This was, at least, something I could work with. I give Rakesh details of the telephone number that I used to have (at this address), so that he might look up my particulars. This is not as straightforward as you or I might think, as the number has been recycled to someone in a nearby town. So Rakesh takes my name and address, issues me a Prospect ID number, tells me that I can have unlimited broadband, at a speed yet to be discovered, and it will be an eighteen month contract.
Now the way this works is that they must install a telephone line and then test the line for speed. No indication of potential speeds will be given until a telephone line is installed. Should the speed fail to meet with my approval, we all walk away, no fees incurred. This seems a little inefficient to me, but I go along with it.
I also decide to take notes.
Having heard nothing, I telephone eir. (They were still Eircom at the time, only morphing into eir during all this, but I shall refer to them as eir throughout, for sanity’s sake.) Robert tells me that there was a problem with my order, and my address has been rejected. It appears that eir don’t know exactly where my house is, and they need to know so they don’t come and try to install the phone line in the wrong house. There is a lot of to and fro about who my neighbours are, and if I’m near such a house. Robert says that Rakesh shouldn’t have set up the order, and this is the second order that week that he’s seen this with. I can really only keep reassuring Robert that my house exists, that I am sitting in it, and it’s really not that hard to find, as it is quite house-like, with a roof and walls and such trimmings.
I speak to Conor in eir. He tells me that my order is confirmed. And I get an SMS assigning me a telephone number - progress!
I get a call to arrange installation on Monday 21st September. This is getting exciting.
Dermot – who works for KN Networks, a contractor for eir – arrives and immediately announces that I am too far from the exchange to get reliable service. He goes away in his van, and comes back to clarify that it is another exchange entirely that is in question, but I am also too far from that one. ‘Sure, go ahead and put in the line’, says I. Dermot refuses to put in the line, as the order is for a ‘bundle’ – of line and broadband – and he can’t guarantee the broadband speed so he can’t install the bundle. ‘Sure, go ahead and put in the line’, says I, again. No, says Dermot. Dermot is standing in my hallway, wearing little work-y pants and a little work-y belt and little work-y boots, but is steadfastly refusing to work. In fact, Dermot is being paid not to work. (In the old days, before eir sub-contracted out its soul, Dermot would have worked for eir, and could have just phoned the office and got things sorted out.) I lose it, a small bit. Dermot tells me I’ll have to cancel my order, and place a new order for just a phone line.
I phone eir, and speak to Michael, and then Rebecca, and finally Eric, who is a manager. I have to wait twenty four hours before I can cancel my order and place the new order. It is, of course, up to me to call back when the twenty four hours are up and begin the process; there can be no question of anyone from eir handling this from their end.
I cancel the ‘bundle’ order, and place a new order for line only. I get a new Prospect ID.
I get an SMS from eir, offering to complete my ‘bundle order’. (!!!)
I phone eir. Shane can’t find my address on the system. He’s never seen this happen before, and can’t understand why the back office would text me if the address is not on the system. He takes my number and offers to call me back.
Shane does not call me back.
I phone again, and get through to Joel. It seems that I need an ‘ard key’. I have no idea what that is, but I want one more than anything. Joel apologises for the inconvenience (a first!), and puts me through to technical support. The call times out. I ring back, and get through to Shannon, who tries to connect me to Joel. Joel is busy, but Shannon takes my number and Joel phones me back. I like Joel. He is perceptive, helpful, wants to get to the bottom of things and is willing to take some responsibility for getting things done. (He’s also not from around here, and I have a feeling that he won’t last long in the culture of halfwitedness he now finds himself in.)
Joel talks to tech support, who can’t help. He talks to his Team Leader. This is still about not knowing which house is mine. I explain that a man has been in my house, refusing to install the phone line that I want installed, and this must count for something. Joel says they’ll figure it out, and I’ll get a text the following day with an ard key, and then I’ll be able to phone back and continue with the order.
I don’t get a text the following day. I phone, and get connected to a different Shane. I’m then, inexplicably and without warning, transferred to Leanne. I get an ard key, and a new order number.
I get a phone call from Wayne in eir, cancelling my order, and assigning me a new ard key and a new order number. Wayne gives no reason for this, and I don’t have the energy to ask for one.
I get an email telling me that the installation will proceed on 19th October.
I get an SMS telling me that my new phone number is now active.
Completely out of the blue, Joe phones. Joe works with KN Networks and will be here in ten minutes time to install the phone line. I don’t have the heart to tell Joe that the installation isn’t scheduled for another week, and I just go with it. Joe arrives and pulls some wires out of the wall in the hallway, then goes away to ‘see about the line’.
Joe phones to say they have the line ‘three quarters of the way’ but they won’t get it finished today. Joe says he’ll make sure that when the job is rescheduled that it will come back to him, otherwise the next man will be starting from scratch. Joe says he’ll phone me in a day or two when the line is ready.
Joe does not ring back.
I get a phone call from KN Networks advising me of installation the following day, 16th October. This is news to me. I explain that Joe has been in my house and fiddled with some wires. She says she knows nothing about that.
Needless to say, nobody calls to me the following day.
An SMS from eir, confirming my installation on the 19th.
Needless to say, nothing happens on the 19th.
As nothing happened on the 19th, I phone eir and speak to Camilla. I explain that I’ve been trying to get a phone line for two months now, and I think I’d like to speak to a supervisor. Camilla is not impressed. She tells me there is no supervisor until 12pm, and can I phone back. I ask if, perhaps, the supervisor can phone me. Camilla says, definitely, no. She says she could put me through to ‘another centre’ and they might have a supervisor. I say I’ll call back after 12.
I phone back, and speak to Karen. Karen refuses to put me through to a supervisor.
I explain some of the situation and ask again to speak with a supervisor. She refuses, again.
She puts me on hold, for fifteen minutes. She returns, saying that she spoke to a colleague ‘on the floor’ who handles ‘this kind of order’. She tells me that the installation that was due to be carried out yesterday was at the exchange, not at my home. (I think this is complete bullshit, but keep this to myself.) Karen says that the work has been completed at the exchange. She says that she then went to speak with someone in ‘wholesale’ to find out the next step for my order. Wholesale will email her details about the next step — a step that is shrouded in mystery. I remain silent, afraid I might upset the delicate balance of things.
Karen says – twice, and with great conviction – that she will phone me once she receives the email with the details from wholesale.
I never hear from Karen again.
A phone call out of the blue from Noel, in KN Networks, wondering about line installation. Noel asks if there was ever a phone line in my house. I would have imagined that at this stage the dogs in the street knew that I once had a line, but KN Networks – who have been in my house twice – don’t know.
Noel and friend arrive. They want to know where one of the wires goes from the phone point in the hall, as it’s only reading a distance of six metres on their line-reading gadget. He says that this is an underground line and should go more than six metres. I get the feeling that I’m somehow at fault here; it is briefly implied that I dug up the driveway at some stage and cut the wire. I really don’t know why this wire is shorter than expected. This puzzles them, and there is silence and an air of sadness in my hallway. I’m just another fool who doesn’t know where the wires in his phone point go, and how long they are, and where they emerge.
They find another wire in my hallway that they say has a distance of seventy five metres. This pleases them. They leave, saying they will return.
Noel returns. They have found what they were looking for, outside covered in ivy. He connects the line inside and says that all further work can be done from outside. He says it’s a shame they didn’t get assigned the job for the morning, as then they could have finished it. As it is, it will have to be completed on another day, and it will take a few days for it to be reassigned, he says, and I should call eir to see when they’ll finish the job.
I phone eir, and speak with Theresa. She is under the impression that the installers were with me on the 19th, the day Karen said they were working on the exchange. She ‘pops me on hold for a quick second’ while she talks to wholesale. The line goes dead after two minutes.
I phone back, and speak to Saoirse, who says there’s a note on the account that the ‘customer hung up’ while on to Theresa. I ask her to please note that the customer didn’t hang up. Saoirse says that the situation is that Karen (remember her??) is waiting to hear from wholesale and will phone me when she hears anything. I explain that that was the situation last Tuesday, and things have changed since then with the installation work on Thursday.
Saoirse asks me what work is needed outside – is it ducting, perhaps? I tell her I don’t know. (Once again, my lack of detailed knowledge of the workings of our telephone system has gone against me.) She entertains a couple of potential scenarios involving ‘two man jobs’, one of which will need a hoist and takes three to four weeks. I explain what Noel said. She says that Karen spoke to ‘escalations’ and that something has been escalated. I suggest that this, perhaps, lead to last Thursday’s installation, and wonder if we could possibly escalate The Next Step. She says I’ll have to wait to hear from Karen, as the job has been assigned to Karen and if she, Saoirse, calls wholesale they’ll only tell her that.
I miss Joel.
I get a phone call from Kevin in KN Networks who tells me that my installation was scheduled for today, 27th October, and apologises that nobody came. (This is the first I’ve heard of it.) He says that we can reschedule for Friday morning.
I get an email from eir, wondering how their service was, with a link to a survey. Not alone are eir the most incompetent fuckwits in the whole wide world, they take pleasure in trolling you about it.
Pat from KN Networks arrives. I like Pat. The dog likes Pat. Pat likes the dog. Pat fiddles about a bit, and then tells me that I have a phone line. Says it’s probably best to wait until Monday to get the line tested for speed, as it ‘has to go back through our company first’. My utter ignorance of how modern telephony works is a real drag, let me tell you.
I phone eir. The line goes dead after two minutes.
I phone again. Audrey checks, four times, the number I’ve been given by KN. Finally she announces that she has a different number showing up on her system, says it will take a few days for the correct number to show up. Says she’s escalated it, and will probably know on Wednesday and will phone me back on Wednesday, although if she knows before Wednesday she’ll phone me before Wednesday but it will probably be Wednesday so she’ll phone me on Wednesday.
The call takes sixteen minutes.
She does not phone me back, ever.
I get an SMS from eir, giving me a different phone number than the one that Pat from KN gave me, but it’s the same one that Audrey had.
I get a missed call. I ring back and speak with Danielle, who tells me that I have an installation appointment scheduled for the following Monday. I explain that I already have a phone line installed, but there’s the small matter of the different numbers. She says she knows nothing about the actual work, she just confirms appointments, but she’ll send someone out to me on Monday anyway.
I phone eir, and speak to Rory. Once again, nobody knows anything about the phone number that KN have assigned me. I plug a phone into the socket in the hall and dial the number. The phone in my hallway rings. Nobody seems to know that this phone line has been installed. eir are denying its existence. KN are saying they’re due to install a phone line on Monday next. I explain that the phone is working. I have a phone line. In my house. With a phone attached to it that rings when I dial the number. Rory says he has to talk to technical support to see about that number.
Call is now going on for eighteen minutes.
Rory comes back from hold to tell me he’s having difficulty getting through to technical support and puts me back on hold.
Call is now going on for thirty minutes.
He returns, to tell me he’s still talking with another department and, yes, there is some confusion around the two accounts and two numbers. I already know this, in fact it’s the purpose of my call. But I am not to be believed, the system must prevail. What I know or don’t know is irrelevant unless the system confirms it and the system currently says that there is no phone line in my house.
He asks me to confirm again when the new kn install is due. I say Monday next. He asks me if that’s the 9th. I say I don’t have a calendar in front of me and ask him if Monday next is the 9th. He says it is. I say well then, it must be the 9th. Thirty seven minutes. Fifty five minutes. Rory returns, to say that Wayne should not have cancelled Leanne’s order – as he actually didn’t, as she had already moved it forward – and it looks like Leanne’s order has been completed and Wayne’s order is due for installation next Monday.
The phone line that is in my house at the moment is not assigned to me. I explain that it’s in my house, and working. Rory says he’ll have to speak to cancellations and get Wayne’s order cancelled and then try and get the line that’s in my house assigned to me. I ask if he can test the line that’s in my house for broadband. He says no, as it’s not a number that’s assigned to anyone in the system. This is all very strange. Rory returns. He has initiated cancellation on the pending account, which will take up to five working days. I will have to wait for that to cancel, then see if they can associate the phone line that is in my house, with my house.
If I had more confidence in Audrey when I rang on Monday I could probably have started the procedure then. As it is, I will have to wait a few days and phone again. I ask if I can speak directly to Rory next time I call, he says no. He does tell me that he is working on Saturday and I might get lucky and just get him. He puts a note on the active account saying that if I can’t get standalone broadband I am to be allowed to cancel without early cancellation fees. Imagine!
The call takes one hour and fourteen minutes.
I phone eir. It takes seven minutes to connect to Sorcha. The telephone line that is in my house is still not linked to my account. I phone it again, for confirmation, and it rings. I am ringing the phone in my house that nobody except me knows about. She goes to speak with a supervisor. Fifteen minutes. Sorcha referred to notes ‘left by another agent’, meaning Rory’s notes from Thursday last. I wonder if this is policy, not to name names, to de-personalise everything. Twenty minutes. While on hold I get a text from Eircom to say my number is now active. Twenty six minutes. There’s no hold music. I’m starting to wonder if the call is still connected. For a telephone company, eir do not use telephones very well. There have been frequent pre-recorded exhortations to handle my account online; I can only imagine what that process would be like. Thirty one minutes. The line goes dead.
I phone back. It takes seven minutes to connect to Jenny. Jenny says my account is on the ‘new system’ and she doesn’t have access to the new system so she can’t view my details. She says I should call a different number in future and transfers me to someone she says will be able to view my account. This is a new twist. Twelve minutes. I appear to be on hold somewhere else – the music has changed. Eighteen minutes. Phone makes a ‘call being connected’ sound, but I’m not connected to anyone. I’m now in some sort of limbo, no hold music, just static on the line. I hang up after a while.
I phone the ‘new’ number that Jenny gave me. This appears to be eir fibre related only, but I select option 3 ‘enquire about your eir fibre order’ and get through to Robert. Their system is not working, and can I call back later. eir’s phone lines must only be able to receive incoming calls.
I phone the ‘old’ number, and speak with Noreen. She has no access to my account, and will transfer me over ‘to them’. Nine minutes. The hold music changes again. I hang up, defeated, and will phone later.
I phone back. Aisling says that my line went live on the 30th, but it just ‘swapped over’ today. We may have to wait for testing. She attempts to test. Up to 1MB broadband speed. That’s it, finally. One shitty MB. She says it’s an amber line, which is internal speak for lousy broadband. I invoke the cooling off period and request to cancel. I have to be put through to cancellations. I speak with Kingsley in ‘loyalty’. The system is really slow, says she. The account should cancel within twenty four hours. I must stay on the line for the termination, like it can’t happen without me or something. I find this bewildering. “You must stay on the line for the termination”. WTF? The system is still loading. Thirteen minutes.
I immediately receive an email from ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ telling me that I have been advised that cancellation will take up to 30 days – I haven’t been advised of any such thing – and in order to proceed with cancellation I must either email or write to eir. I phone back to confirm that which has already been confirmed, but has now been cast into doubt. I get through to Neil. He says he can’t hear me. Could I move outside? He says he’ll give me up to a minute to get a better signal then he’ll have to end the call. I’ve been fucked about by these people for almost three months, and now I’ve been given one minute in which to make everything better in the world. I hang up and phone again. I try the 1901 number this time. It says my number is not currently an eir account. Eight minutes. Noreen, again. I have to be put through to cancellations. Twelve minutes. I get through to Kathleen. She says there’s a forty minute wait at present so she’ll take my number and get someone to call me back.
Nobody calls me back. Ever.
I get a bill – a fucking bill! – from eir, for €7.93. I phone 1901, and speak to Marian. She can’t ‘access my account’. Transferred to Lisa. She says she has withdrawn the charge, and I can ‘just disregard it’.
My bank shows that eir have taken €7.93 out of my account. I phone and speak with Louisa. She tells me that she can issue a cheque, or I can dispute the charge and then get an indemnity form from my bank and all will be well. I opt for the cheque, as the indemnity form route seems a little fraught and, frankly, too easy. I delete the eir direct debit from my account, and ask her to do the same at her end. She says that she has. She says that a cheque will issue within thirty working days. We shall see what occurs.
I phone eir, looking for my €7.93 which – of course – never turned up. I speak to Deirdre, who tells me that Credit Management say they have sent a cheque. I am transferred to Frank in Credit Control. The line goes dead. Eleven minutes. I phone back, and speak to Saoirse. She tells me that it has been declared ‘non relevant’. I can’t even. She says it’s doubtful that they will issue a cheque for that amount, so I should go to the bank and get the indemnity form.
The bank can’t process a refund as too much time has passed. I phone eir, and speak to Kieran, who can’t help me and transfers me to Lauren, who ‘pops me on hold’. Sixteen minutes later Lauren returns with tidings that a cheque is ‘on its way to me’. I enquire what ‘on its way’ means. She mumbles something about the back office. I press her on this, and she says that someone in the back office is printing off the cheque.
Another email from eir, wondering how their service was. Yeah, right.
An SMS from eir, saying that my refund has been processed and I will receive a cheque in ten working days.
A reminder email about eir’s customer service questionnaire. lol.
I received my refund cheque from eir.
Less than ten minutes away from me, by car, Apple have been invited to build a data farm, yet my situation is referred to as ‘rural broadband’. (I live less than thirty minutes drive from Galway City, a glowing beacon of all that is right about European urbanism, or something.) My situation is also referred to as ‘not commercially viable’, yet it is – somehow – commercially viable to have over forty people take six months to construct such a steaming pile of shit as this, and send me a bill at the end of it.
That we have allowed such hideously broken systems to rule our interactions with companies is worthy of a treatise by Foucault, on the nature of surrender.
A couple of weeks ago there were two fellows standing outside the Post Office in Athenry, hawking broadband on behalf of another company. The Irish state, and the wisdom of the market, expects me to entrust my email, banking and my entire online existence to people who I have – literally – bumped into on the street. (I never heard back from them, either.)