Broadband News

When broadband fails: Business continuity

Last week, a firm of mortgage advisers took BT to court for breach of contract relating to an accidental line cut by BT engineers. The company started experiencing problems about ten days earlier when the Internet connection of its London-based office was cut, causing a loss of thousands of pounds which they claim left home owners across London unable to complete their mortgage arrangements.

The County Court granted an emergency injunction ordering BT to re-instate the company's Internet connectivity without delay, despite BT's apparent claim that this was physically impossible. The company is now re-connected to broadband and is pursuing a case for compensation. BT had expressed concerns that this might open the floodgates of similar cases. More information on the case can be found at ISPreview and TheRegister.

This raises an interesting issue about how critical broadband is to business these days. With the increasing use of VoIP platforms and online applications, the quality and availability of broadband is no longer simply a matter of convenience, but critical to the everyday operation of the business. It does however beg the question, what do companies expect for £30-50/month? (There is no indication as to how much the above company spends on connectivity, or whether they have a BT TotalCare service on their line).

If your business was without broadband for a week, how much would it cost you?

If your company uses broadband, you should be asking yourself the question "How much will it cost me if my broadband is down for a week?" If the answer is inconvenience, then most business broadband packages will suit you perfectly. If however your answer can be expressed as a four digit amount (be it in direct costs, lost orders or any other costs), you should be considering how you can mitigate this risk by using multiple technologies, backup sites or other ways to continue working without broadband connectivity.

More importantly, if your business is so reliant on broadband that it wouldn't continue to exist, or you are looking at five-figure losses, then simple business broadband packages are not for you. This is the market that leased lines, Metro Ethernet or combined solutions involving backup technologies such as ISDN are there to fill. Indeed there are different kinds of DSL based services, including the enhanced TotalCare service packages which may all help, but fundamentally you shouldn't rely on a typical business broadband service if it is critical to your business. It may be a cheap solution, but you may regret it.

Companies need to realise what a 'service level agreement' means, and what to expect from their service. If their business relies on fast permanent Internet connectivity to such an extent that they cannot afford to be down for an extended period, they need to take the matter seriously.

Recommendations for businesses:

  • Consider adopting multiple technologies (DSL, cable, wireless, etc.)
  • Add BT TotalCare to any phone lines where possible to shorten repair time
  • Make site-wide contingency arrangements (e.g. multiple/backup sites)
  • Select service providers based on your needs, not just on price alone


It's worth noting, that if your broadband goes down, and you know it's an issue with the phone line (by plugging in a phone to the line), then log a call with BT about the phone being down. They will respond to this far more quickly than if you log a fault with the broadband. Don't do both - one seems to cancel the other.

  • PaulGalbraith
  • over 13 years ago

To be honest, I hope this gets overturned by BT as it could set a very very bad precedent. If people want a super reliable service, with speedy fix times etc. then they do need to pay for it - If it doesn't get overturned then it could well result in rising costs as BT will have to build a contingency in to pricing to cope with incidents like this.

  • KarlAustin
  • over 13 years ago

Seb makes makes a good point in the recommendations at the end of this news story.

As a business ISP we would always suggest to our customers that if your business relies on that connectivity staying up then sensible precautions need to be considered like the use of a leased line, backup services, etc. otherwise you're in the hands of a no SLA product.

Even Enhanced care is no guarantee that service will necessarily be restored as quickly as you may need it.


  • zenops
  • over 13 years ago

Well at least we now know who to not get mortgage advice from.

  • stephen_f2s
  • over 13 years ago

"There was no judgement on whether BT was in breach of contract because the judge did not consider that. " - so the judge says "do this" without bothering to consider if there is any obligation to do so ?

  • herdwick
  • over 13 years ago

That's a good point and perhaps someone can give a little more information on that. I must say I am surprised that a business would rely on what I see as a marginal technology. Rather like relying on the telephone system decades ago.

  • Kaufhof
  • over 13 years ago

The precedent is a good thing if it happens as it will do whats needed.

1 - BT will be forced to provide with higher standards and respond to faults faster (at least for office users)
2 - Prices will increase to pay for this which is what I think has been needed for a long time.

To the news poster, I take your point about the SLA but this happened due to BT incompetance accidently cutting a line, if it happened due to say bad weather blowing a line down I would agree with you but in this case not.

  • chrysalis
  • over 13 years ago

In cases where BT admit to having disconnected in error, which have been reported, I think that it is reasonable that BT be forced to re-connect immediately rather than subject the victim to the normal connection delay.

  • grahammm
  • over 13 years ago

The company obviously does not understand the technology.

I wonder if they have proper backup procedures in place for their computers?

  • Sandgrounder
  • over 13 years ago

my company uses a leased line with multiple backups, some companies know the value of redundancy and some don't. If the company only has a standard business package, then they should really only expect the payment for that package and not all the things they forgot to tell BT :)

  • scragglymonk
  • over 13 years ago

This isn't a "the line was damaged, we want it fixed" case. This was "BT damaged the line and did not fix it promptly, we want it fixed" case. That's a critical difference.

  • Dawn_Falcon
  • over 13 years ago

More specifically:-

"A BT Engineer cut the line and BT refused to fix it claiming it was physically impossible."

A [i]very[/i] critical difference.

Having once been in a similar position myself many years ago I'll hazard a guess that the company refused to pay the bribe demanded by the BT 'Engineer'.

During the eighties and early Ninties, it used to be standard practice for BT 'engineers' operating in central London to 'accidentally' cut telephone circuits and then offer to 'repair' them for a 'small' consideration.

  • Silvereyes
  • over 13 years ago

It got so bad at one point that BT senior management sent a letter to thousands of companies operating in central London begging them not to bribe their engineering staff to bypass the scheduling system.

Naturally, we ignored this as we were in no position to risk losing the use of our phones for any length of time. No cheap, pocket sized mobile phones then :)

My guess is that with so many business' now reliant on cheap, high speed data comms, some of BT's 'engineers' have revived an old, but once [i]very[/i] profitable, scam.

  • Silvereyes
  • over 13 years ago

Ok, lates take a different approach to the problem... keep your cheap xDSL line... get another from a different supplier (only use one supplier thats uses BT Wholsale for LLU access)... plug it all together using multi-link technologies such as StoneGate Firewalls and for a marginal investment you suddenly have a resilient system!

  • elgeebar
  • over 13 years ago

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