Another casualty of the recent high winds was my landline telephone connection.
I was working in Reading on Wednesday when I got an automated “LINE DOWN” text message from my ISP saying my broadband line was down. (Kudos to Andrews & Arnold for their status monitoring and alerting service.) On previous occasions the connection has come back of its own accord, and a temporary power outage would cause the same symptoms, but after a couple of hours I hadn’t received the expected “LINE UP” message so I decided to investigate further.
Another good thing about A&A is that they offer a range of ‘self service’ facilities, including the option to initiate a line test, so I did that. The result text that comes back is straight out of the BT / OpenReach systems, so it’s a bit cryptic, but it seemed to indicate there was a cable fault somewhere:
WLR3Test WLR3_CIDT_Test hws044a001:340604105: Premature Termination
Further Diagnostics Required - raise Trouble Report with OR
(A&A do provide a handy Glossary of BT Fault Terms to help interpret what these codes mean.)
As reported previously I’ve been aware the overhead phone line runs through some trees along Aston Lane and it has previously been brought down, presumably by trees breaking the cable after being damaged by high winds or snow. As a result it wasn’t a complete surprise that a problem had occurred, though I would have expected it to happen during the worst of the storms rather than a couple of days later.
I decided to contact the A&A Support folks for confirmation that there was indeed a line fault. They ran a further test (turns out I could have done that myself too) which confirmed there was indeed a problem with the phone cable, that it was affecting other phone lines as well as mine and that a repair was planned to be completed by midnight on Friday. So far so good.
On Friday morning I got a call from A&A Support saying BT / OpenReach had actually taken a look at the damage and concluded they couldn’t fix it there and then but had to refer it to the ‘complex’ repair team who would have to install one or more replacement telegraph poles and then reinstate the cables. They predicted it would take a further week, i.e. not repaired until the following Friday. In the evening I took a walk up the lane with my camera to see if I could spot the problem (and any signs of a repair having been started) and sure enough there was a cable that I’m sure should have been connected between two poles which instead was dangling loose from the top of each of them.
Storm damaged telephone cable
To my untrained eye it’s not obvious why the poles need replacing – there are others further along the lane which are in much worse condition and leaning at quite an angle – but there’s certainly a cable problem, and if the pole in the photo needs to be replaced then there’s quite a bit of re-cabling required since there are other cables branching off rather than a simple in-out connection.
To cater for just such an eventuality I’d bought a PAYG Mobile Broadband SIM card for the ‘Three’ 3G network. These come with 1, 3 or 12 GB of data, last for 1, 3 or 12 months and stop working when either the data quota is exhausted or the time limit is reached. The clock doesn’t start ticking until they’re actually used for the first time so they can be kept unused until required. Of course, I could actually survive without Broadband for a week (assuming the problem does get fixed within a week) but it’s proving surprisingly annoying that my smartphone refuses to connect to the mobile data network when it can see what it thinks is a perfectly good WiFi connection – even though the WiFi connection can’t actually see the Internet. So, the workaround is:
- Mobile Broadband SIM card inserted in Mobile Broadband USB ‘dongle’
- USB dongle connected to my network router / firewall (that usually connects to the Wired Broadband modem)
- Router / firewall reconfigured to connect to the Internet via a different network interface, and then everything else works as normal
In principle it would be possible to leave the Mobile Broadband dongle connected permanently and have the router / firewall switch over to use that automatically when it detects a fault with the Wired Broadband connection, but I can live with configuring it manually for now. (Some commercial-grade Broadband routers have USB sockets and auto-switching logic built in.)