Phone protest picket rings the changes

JUST one hour after a managing director and his staff protested with placards in the street – after nearly a month of on-again-off-again telephone lines – the phones were fixed. On Monday, Alan Tong, managing director of Pico Technology, in St Neots, and

JUST one hour after a managing director and his staff protested with placards in the street - after nearly a month of on-again-off-again telephone lines - the phones were fixed.

On Monday, Alan Tong, managing director of Pico Technology, in St Neots, and his exasperated team demonstrated outside the premises of KTALK - the BT call centre for this region.

When they returned to their offices, the phone rang and they were back in business.

Over the past month, the company, which moved business premises in December, had suffered a mixture of temporary numbers, wrong numbers, no incoming calls, only one working phone and, finally for nearly a week, absolutely nothing at all.

Pico moved at the end of December from Cambridge Road, in St Neots, to Colmworth Business Park in the town and tried to change its supplier from what was ntl to BT.

The problems began and were diagnosed as a fault, but no one could work out what the fault was.

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Mr Tong said: "One engineer came to install new phone lines, and another came to fix the right problem but then explained he did not have the correct training so could not do the job.

"Yet another engineer - this time with the right training - arrived and explained that his company only fixed faults with the lines and that, as the problem lay with the exchange, he could not do anything but would be charging us a call-out fee."

He added: "The problem is that BT no longer really exists as a single company. The companies can't talk to each other and any work has to be authorised by a centre in India.

"Our main point of contact has been with 'BT local business' KTALK, who have really helpful and friendly staff. But they seem to be powerless to get the different divisions to get the job done.

"We phoned BT daily to try to get the problem fixed, but all that happened was that different engineers from different BT companies arrived at our offices to fix different problems, usually unrelated to ours."

Mr Tong said the sixth engineer, an experienced man who was about to retire, worked out that the fault was because the lines had been transferred as analogue rather than digital ISDN lines.

"He had to make a call to Scotland. He said he wasn't allowed to but he did. That was last Tuesday or Wednesday, but still the problem was not rectified.

"The situation in the office was comical. One person was answering the phone and taking the caller's name and number, while another person was running around the building delivering the messages.

"We took turns on the phone or offering to bring drinks and food to whoever was answering the phone."

Mr Tong decided to protest outside the BT offices in St Neots.

He said: "It cannot be a coincidence that, when we returned to our offices after the protest, the phone rang and it was another engineer who got the problem fixed.

"For once it seems as if direct action worked. Within one hour of our protest starting and The Hunts Post getting involved, our phones were working again."

A spokesman for BT said: "We will look into this, clearly something has gone wrong."

"We wish to apologise for the delays and problems associated with this order.

"This does appear to have been a complex problem and the customer was regularly kept informed on progress.

"We will, of course, fully investigate what happened before the service was correctly installed.

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