Argh Kelly

kellyvanpostYesterday morning, as I left my flat for work, I noticed a Kelly Communications engineer in the hallway of my block of flats.

Outside on the road, the familiar van was parked. Since I do love to post an amusing photo on FaceBook, no matter how small the audience that will “get” the joke, I snapped a picture of it and posted it with a caption of “Well that’s telephony and internet in Westerham f*cked then…”

I posted  the photo to FaceBook at exactly 09:15. This time is important – there will be a test later.

I then drove to work, thinking no more about it. I have quite a long drive to do; around an hour usually. I work at an ISP called Andrews & Arnold. We are a small ISP with thousands of broadband customers around the UK. Declaring this interest will perhaps explain why I experience fear and dread whenever I see a Kelly van, or an OpenReach van, or any other contractor for BT.

Put simply – and it isn’t just me that thinks this – Kelly have a dreadful reputation in the industry. In our support department, scarcely a week goes by without several cases of lines mysteriously going down, only to later discover that an OpenReach engineer or a contractor to BT (such as Kelly) has “borrowed” our customer’s copper pair (the wires that link the customer’s master phone socket back to the exchange). This borrowing activity obviously kills our customer’s line – both for PSTN and ADSL/FTTC. It is then our problem to get a fault logged and an appointment booked. It is inconvenient and loss making for us to deal with. It is inconvenient for the customer.

Nobody wins. As an ISP, we are fairly well known for getting problems sorted. But these are problems that should never occur in the first place.

Let me run that situation by you again, because I guess to someone not in the industry, it probably sounds far fetched and crazy. But it is a very common (mal)practice :

  1. An engineer comes out to install a new phone line
  2. S/he needs to find a “spare pair” (of copper) to run the line back to the exchange
  3. S/he cannot easily identify which of many is a spare

SO either s/he :

  1. Doesn’t care, wants to get the job done and closed off, and just steals one
  2. Does improper tests, uses one that looks unused, but which in fact is still live

Why should we be picking up the support burden of this activity? It is a disgrace.

Regretably it is nearly always circumstancial; our customer vaguely recalls seeing a van and an engineer working near the cabinet, or we hear from the engineer that goes out to fix the broken service that it looks like the pair had been stolen… But by then it is too late to do anything about it; sometimes it is days later.

bb_smsAnyway. Back to my story. I had just arrived at work, and noticed I had a text message.

It was a text telling me my broadband line was down, and timed at 09:26 and 53 seconds. Uh oh. So my semi-joking (semi-serious) prediction on FaceBook was probably right. Just to remind, I posted my photo at 09:15 and just under 12 minutes later, my line went down.

Le sigh.

linefaultThinking that this was far too much of a co-incidence, I used our internal systems which interface directly with BT to do a copper line check from the exchange. Yep, sure enough, it was reporting a copper line fault; specifically a “Dis(connect) In Exchange”.  So we did a fault report with OpenReach. OpenReach is the division of BT that we buy our lines from. This isn’t actually a terrible process and mostly works quite well. But it isn’t always fast, as an engineer appointment is usually required.

So I wondered if there might be some recourse directly with Kelly. It is important to note that we have no contract directly with Kelly. We simply buy our line from OpenReach, and any faults with it contractually are for OpenReach to sort out (even if they farm some of their work out to contractors such as Kelly).

But here was a pretty cut-and-dry example for assigning blame.

So I re-examined my photo, and realised that luckily I had not just captured the Kelly telephone number, but also the registration number of the van in question. I called the number and reported the problem; that an engineer had been working in my block of flats, that my line had been broken, almost certainly as a result of the engineer mis-using a copper pair being used for my line, and I wanted the engineer to undo what he had done. I was told I’d be called back later in the day. I don’t think the call was treated particularly seriously. And sure enough an hour or more later, I’d heard nothing.

I then had a sneakier idea. I called them again, but this time said the van was causing a problem in the street, and gave the registration number and said I needed to speak to the driver.

This got me through to the fleet manager, who, (rightly enough) unwilling to give me the mobile number of the engineer, was willing to call the engineer whilst I stayed on the line. After confessing that actually it wasn’t a road traffic problem but a technical one, and explaining my ISP affiliation (and saying that this was a common occurrence for us) he rang the engineer.

I only heard one side of the conversation. It sounded like the engineer knew what he had done, and seemed to be conceding that he’d need to go back and fix it! Progress!

The fleet manager was interested in my comments about how Kelly were perceived and said that he’d be interested in an email outlining the problems for onward discussion with other high level managers. He seemed unaware of Kelly’s reputation.

He also mentioned his broadband wasn’t very reliable, so I sent the following :

Hi there *******, 

Many thanks for talking with me earlier. I hope the engineer 
(I think his name was **** *****) manages to go back and fix my 
broken line later today; thanks again for making the appropriate 

It sounds like this may be a handy connection to have made for 
other reasons though. We (Andrews & Arnold) frequently have issues 
with work Kelly have done and genuinely without wishing to insult 
I do feel that Kelly have a bad name in the industry for reasons 
similar to the ones outlined. 

We have many examples where Kelly engineers have used copper pairs 
belonging to our customers to install lines for other end users; 
totally breaking our service. This has been confirmed to us by 
either our End User (reporting what BTOR say when the fault is 
fixed) or by engineers directly. 

It seems to me that it is quicker and easier to "create a fault" 
that in all probability another engineer, possibly from another 
company will need to fix, than to actually install another cable.  

And this is the nub of the problem. Pressed engineers will take 
shortcuts, especially when there are no real consequences, and 
they can close off a job nice and quickly. 

I'm really not exaggerating when I say we have dozens and dozens 
of examples of this going on. It is a problem with OpenReach as 
well. But it's more noticeable and more pronounced with Kelly.  

I attach a "FaceBook chronology" of this happening at my address 
in ***** Court, ***** Road, where your engineer was installing a 
line at Flat *, and in doing so, I assume, broke my line in Flat *.  

I partly attach this for your amusement, but also to demonstrate 
that I foretold the problem occurring at 09:15 and, sure enough, 
at 09:26:53 (approx 11 mins later) my foretelling was proven 
correct. Of course by then I was driving to work, and only 
learned of the outage when I arrived in the office and checked 
my texts.  

But I hope this (silly) example demonstrates my strong faith that 
Kelly will break phone lines! 

I predicted it would happen.  And, of course, it did! 

Partly why we (Andrews & Arnold) are known for reliability is our 
dogged pursuit of things like this. Had the same information been 
provided us by a customer we'd have acted on it in the same way. 
If you are interested in an Internet connection where the people 
supporting it actually care enough to chase down those responsible 
for faults and get them fixed, please do have a look at our 
website As you can see from the text message, we 
monitor all our customer lines very pro-actively. Indeed, we send 
an echo down every single line, every second.  

... We are a little more expensive than some, but you get what 
you pay for.  

Finally, if there is anything that can be done - in terms of us 
working with Kellys (despite the fact we have no direct 
contractual relationship) to help things improve, we'd be 
pleased to do so. 

Best regards, and many thanks again. 


Not impolite, I hope you will agree. And the fact that he was interested in the problem was at least a bit impressive. I realise I called them Kellys (they are just “Kelly” singular) a few times. Oh well.

Later in the day I had a call letting me know that Kelly would come back and fix it later that day. This did seem a fairly clear admission of culpability to me. Still later in the day, I had a call from the (different) engineer who’d come and fix the first engineer’s mess. He said on the phone, which I have a call recording of, that the first engineer had indeed used my pair to install the new line for the upstairs flat.

So what I predicted would happen when I snapped the photo at 09:15 had, pretty much precisely, come true. The only difference between this and almost every other time was that this time I had enough evidence to force them to come back and put things right.

I was initially puzzled why access to my property would be needed to fix the fault. Of course, when the first engineer had disconnected my master socket, he hadn’t made it clear which wires in the box were mine. So the second engineer would need to plug a tone generator into my master socket to trace the pair in the box, and reconnect them. Once this was done, the line reconnected and all was well again.

At this point I should mention that I do not just have one ADSL line. I have two bonded, and only one was affected. I also have 3G backup available. Anybody who is serious and demands reliable Internet should have this type of redundancy in place. It is what we (at A&A) are specialists at providing.

So this might have been the end of the story. Not quite though. I asked the second engineer what had happened, and how my line had ended up being the sacrificial lamb. What he said had a worrying and surprising side to it.

The original engineer had apparently not quite followed procedure. Procedure being :

  1. croc clip the line
  2. listen for dialtone
  3. do the “123 test”
  4. do 17070 to establish the number
  5. check the number with “Numbering” to ensure it is a stopped line

So my understanding of step 3 of that process is to dial 123, which is a chargeable call, and chargeable calls are denied on stopped lines. But chargeable calls are also deliberately denied on our (A&A) PSTN lines, because our lines are primarily for broadband. So that is a stupid test. 17070 is an engineer’s test facility which *will* work on a stopped line, at least for a while. 17070 will read out the line’s number, and offer a couple of other tests like quiet line and ringback. The numbering section should be able to confirm the line is stopped. In this instance, apparently, the engineer hadn’t done the last step, so had wrongly assumed the line was stopped.

On my way to work today I realised that if the “123 test” really was just dialling 123 on an unknown line then that means making a chargeable call on an unsuspecting and innocent person’s line. Or, if going through a large junction box, the lines of *many* innocent people. That is to say, causing a 31 pence charge for the speaking clock on every single line tested. This is totally unacceptable and very probably illegal. The Communications Act 2003 certainly seems to think it might be : then there is possible fraud? I am not a lawyer, but this has to be really quite wrong. I know 31 pence is probably not going to kill anyone, but still…

Because I had to be sure that this was really what it sounded like I called the engineer who had fixed my line last night again this morning, and asked him to elaborate on what the “123 test” was. He confirmed it to be as I suspected. He made it sound very much as though this was common procedure; not something that he alone (and the first engineer) did. And I have no reason to doubt that.

Would you notice an incorrect 31p speaking clock charge on your phone bill?

Later in the day today, I spoke to the HR and Quality Manager at Kelly, who had emailed me yesterday to see if we might discuss the situation. He assured me that it definitely wasn’t in the procedures for installing lines to steal copper pairs and it also wasn’t in the procedures to use the “123 test”.

He claimed he had never heard of the test. Overall I wasn’t very impressed with the call. In one sense I am slightly impressed that he bothered to take the time, but on the other hand, I think he wants to tell himself that my situation is a “one off” and not common place. He seemed fairly unwilling to accept – and keen to minimise – my assertion that we see many repeats of these problems in our line of business.

He did commit to investigate fully, and report back to me, though I don’t hold out much hope of ever hearing truthfully if the “123 test” has become an informal norm of a Kelly engineer’s life. I say I don’t hold out much hope simply because to admit that it had become one would be to also admit the theft of 31 pence from potentially thousands of unsuspecting individuals and companies! So, no, I don’t expect that.

I would be delighted if any BTOR or Kelly engineers want to post their views in the comments below. I should say, aside from the first engineer (who was meant to be installing a line for someone else, and not breaking mine) I was impressed by the second engineer, and I was impressed by the Fleet Manager, who took my comments seriously.

My opinion of Kelly hasn’t really changed. I reiterate that we (A&A) are happy to host a meeting for Kelly/OR managers to give real world examples, and lots of them, of this happening. We really wish it didn’t happen, and anything that can be done to reduce incidents has got to be a good thing.

I will finish with my two loss and latency / usage graphs. One for my Kellybroken line, and the other for my untouched line. Yes that is over 10 hours of outage on one line, and happily, no loss outage the other.


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57 Responses to Argh Kelly

  1. This aligns completely with what I have heard about Kelly. From what I hear, BT Open Reach aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be.

    I think BT’s standard practice was to call 17070, get the number, then call it back from an engineer’s mobile. Worked as long as incoming calls weren’t blocked. This was 15 years ago though.

    The problem I find with situations like this is that they root cause is that the engineers are under too much pressure to get things done, so they cut corners. It’s endemic to the company. If you complain, the engineer will get the blame, potentially disciplinary action. But it will be management doing this. Maybe not right at the top, but someone has realised that nicking copper pairs saves time and money with, and makes sure that training covers this.

  2. Andre Newman says:

    A familiar story, my A&A Broadband and incoming calls only line was “nicked” last year. I was working away the day it happened so I didn’t get the harbinger of trouble Kelly van warning you did.

    It took most of a week to get the line re-instated and the only indication of pair theft I had was the account from the OR guy who “fixed” my line. His account of my FTTC circuit going to someone else’s line seemed pretty damning though, he also mentioned that a lot of contractors were being used around the time of the problem!

    I did make a complaint and Sean followed that through to Openreach for me, I didn’t expect any great results but felt it was important that it got reported somewhere.

    Is there any way A&A can re-direct 123 calls on their broadband lines to some “Hello you seem to be a Kelly Engineer, this line is in use for Broadband please choose another one” recorded message?

    Alternatively allow speaking clock calls, I for one would happily pay 31p to avoid losing my line for a week!

    I realise it’s better to fix the problem properly, fix Kelly Communications practices but in the mean time…

  3. BT engineer says:

    The BT policy documents go to great pains to set out the proper procedure for verifying pairs. Use of the Tele 300 to check for the presence of digital services is mandated. Use of 17070 and TAMs is suggested. Nowhere does it say a chargeable call should be made.

    There is an explicit warning (in red!) that pairs which appear to have no “working condition” at all (i.e. audio silence, no digital traffic) should not be considered spare until checked with Network Records as they may be alarm or private circuits.

    • Alex Bloor says:

      It is good to know that this is the procedure.
      It seems as though these procedures are not always followed though.

      The “123 test” didn’t sound like it was some unusual thing just being used by one engineer.

      I may post exerpts of the call recordings where it was outlined to me, as I guess the tone and intonation do play a part in perception. It really was presented as “this is how it is done”.

    • Vince says:

      I would imagine that the issue is that most (all?) of the Kelly engineers don’t seem to have any tools or equipment for testing.

      They also have limited access to systems at OR (not sure they have laptops half the time, certainly not in my experience), and I doubt they can be arsed to call anyone.

      • jeff smith says:

        Yep, youre right Vince. These poor guys are Butchers Bakers etc who have never been in any sort of engineering. In an Openreach van there is thousands of pound worth of diagnostic meters and probes which they know how to use efficiently. Kellys have nothing! not Evan an engineers butt phone! They buy a small phone from Argos and tuck it down their jacket to climb the pole. At the top of the stick/DP. they will take out log book, DP118, Pair3. Clamp on with Argos phone, adapted with a LJ unit, do a test and find that it is live and working. They have no test eqt. So what do you do clip on an oscillator after going eni meni miny mo, climb down ,secure or take down ladder, go to cabinet a mile away, erect barriers round cabinet. After parking safely with cones around van, Open cabinet and do a gas test. Check all the verts for a tone from your oscillator. and when you cant find one reverse the procedure and try another spare pair at the pole DP. After half a dozen times and after !hr or so, your on your third hour plus traveling. Its fuck it, a good line to the cabinet is one that is working. Cut it use it. Do the test from the cabinet to avoid all the battery and earth contacts. Voila, Headingley to Halifax £25.00,per job, 4hrs. And thats if you get it working, £10.00 if you dont. If you have to call for the hoist that costs £15.00 out of your £25. I have 30 years in telecoms, 4 years at openreach. I did 4 months at Kellys and told them to get fucked after i realized they are just IRISH MAFIA! spread the word. Discretely. P.S. 123 is verboten at openreich.

  4. Richy B says:

    If only a “freedom of information” request could be sent to OpenReach to find out how many speaking-clock (123) calls were made from lines connected to a distribution point (DP) around the time of a new line install/fix – and how this compares to a normal call volume (say the day before/after at the same time: allow 1 hour window for the install).

    BT must have access to this information and they should know which engineer was working at the box, so they should be able to find out if this is an actually wide-spread problem… But what initiative do they have? Well, perhaps they’ll save money on sending engineers out to ‘fix broken installs’ (which costs OpenReach money one way or another – I wonder if any BT shareholders would be interested in pushing this issue?)

    • Alex Bloor says:

      That would be an interesting exercise and you are probably right, in some cases it may even be possible to scratch the relevant data together. It won’t happen though!

    • Tim J says:

      The FOI Act doesn’t apply to BT / Openreach as it’s not a public body but a private entity.

      (It applies to records held by BT about pre-privatisation activities, i.e. before 1984, but that’s not much use here.)

  5. Michael West says:

    I have had this happen to me.
    Company I worked for had 3 ADSL lines bonded together. Similar to A&A with the lines provided, with calls barred so no dialtone.
    There was a shortage of pairs in the multicore from the DP downstairs, unless you knew about the other multicore installed that used to run a wall full of then defunct ISDN2 boxes on the other side of the room, that most of the BT bods refused to touch.
    Another tennant in the building ordered a BT broadbean line. Openreach took one of the bonder lines and re-used it. Just changed the plate and wrote on the new number. Despite there being three modems in to the bonder flashing away indicating that they were still carrying traffic.
    As it was on the premium care, it was fixed in 24 hours, but was a load a ball ache to the next day to then be around to get the engineer appointment in.
    Openrach also had the cheek to try and get us to pay for another multicore cable pull through the building when the 3 lines went in – at a cost of £900.
    Some of the engineers knew the building, and knew where the other now unused multicore was. The pairs were even marked as spare in the other DP, but no.
    The faceplates were then written on “OCB barred. No dialtone”.
    Actually worked out for the better as the 1600 yards of additional cable pair that had been in there as it went around the houses, meant all the lines synched at the same rate, and the line weightings in the bonder could be changed to be equal, and we got much better performance from it.

  6. Vince says:

    I’ve posted my views on the Rev’s blog already, but I have to say our experience of Kelly’s is just as bad – we specifically warn customers to check if the van mentions Kelly and to ask the engineer outright – if they do, we now automatically prepare a fault ticket ready to submit because it’s almost without exception something goes wrong when they turn up… they don’t test (I understand from a chat with one that this is a combination of a lack of kit and time since they’re paid “per job”) and they don’t care.

    I, like you literally fear seeing a van with Kelly written on it… I just know it’s not going to be a good installation… I’ve had the “rob a pair” experience before – they’ve even robbed another pair from our own lines before… or from a neighbouring business (that we supply BB to).

    Kelly has the poorest reputation imaginable around these parts.

    • Alex Bloor says:

      Thanks for this report. That’s interesting. Speaking to Kelly people, they really seem to be in a state of disbelief at how bad their reputation is.

      But if the nature of the faults their engineers create mean they are never reported or tied to Kelly, of course there won’t be many reported problems; they are all treated as separate faults. So the result is, the stats look good, whilst the reality is often terrible.

      Thanks very much for taking the time to post.

      • Vince says:

        Indeed – in our experience and from some anecdotal chats off the record, I got the impression Kelly engineers don’t care because they get paid “per job” – it doesn’t matter if it’s a fail that can be bounced at the customer, as long as they “turn up” (or claim to), and they don’t appear to be punished for failed installations.

        Obviously I do not know for sure how true that is, but if it is (and I can well believe it) then OR haven’t got a good enough contract in place or alternatively a good procedure to match faults against installs.

        I wouldn’t trust “Kelly Communications” aka Kellyreach aka Kellyfarce to boil a kettle.

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  8. Ian Mitchell says:

    Looking at the photo I’d have zero confidence in a “communications company” that can’t format a London telephone number correctly. i.e. 020 8xxx xxxx not 0208 xxx xxxx.

    There is no such thing as an 0208 number!

  9. Ross says:

    My experience of Kelly… you might enjoy it.. and don’t get me starting on pair stealing – that happened to me where I used to live too 🙁

    An engineer from Kelly Communication (working on behalf of BT Openreach) was at my property to install a second line with the circuit number XXXXX

    On arrival he didn’t seem to know why he was there, and seemed surprised to find a line already to the property. There seemed to be no knowledge that this was to be a second circuit at the same property. This was an appointment booked for between 1 and 6pm – he arrived at 11.30 and left around 2.30.

    The master socket had been connected two weeks previously to an extant 1950s junction box (fused) in the hall which in turn was connected by a two core cable to an EBT hidden behind render on the exterior wall. The engineer stated there were “enough pairs” and he would have to visit the pole to find it so then connected his oscillator to the spare pairs on the cable between the junction box and the master socket (e.g. to my internal wiring) subsequently spending 15 minutes up a pole where he, not surprisingly, could not locate a tone. It was only after I, the customer, pointed this out on his return that he then noticed there was only a single pair coming in.

    Before climbing the pole he pointed out he didn’t have / couldn’t find his hard hat as it has been “left on another job” – I loaned him one which was never returned to me.

    The pole is accessed via my neighbours property. their garden gate is pushed inwards to open it… the engineer assumed it was stiff and pulled, with some considerable force, ripping the gate from its hinges and splitting the timber. I explained this neighbour had a dog and that the gate needed to be secure. He agreed to fix it but later when my neighbour complained to the engineer his response was “how was I to know you had a dog” … The gate was later repaired by hammering in the screws that had been ripped out!

    He agreed to split the incoming cable where it meets the property and run a new cable from there to the new master socket. I requested this was ran in the basement which apparently they’re not allowed into for “health and safety” so I had to run my own cable through my property! (my basement is not full height but is floored and fully illuminated)

    Upon terminating the sockets he couldn’t get his butt-set to work correctly as, by his own admission, “he’s pressed something and doesn’t know what” and it had “done this before” – he ended up using my own DECT telephone to dial back to test and complete the job!

    In summary, the engineer was unprepared, didn’t seem to know what he was doing, damaged my neighbours property, had to be supplied with PPE by me, the customer who also had to run his own cable!

    I can only imagine what would have happened if he had visited a customer that doesn’t have things like hard hats, tools etc lying around. Also amazed that a simple NTE and new cable install took 3 hours (!)

  10. chrisl says:

    Hi Alex, I think this happened to me too. I was with a LLU provider for my phone and broadband and decided to move to A&A. I was unable to migrate the service so ended up with two options, either BT could do a “working line takover” or I could get a new line put in for 40 quid, a big saving since it is normally 130 quid. I went for the new line since the existing one was very old, no master socket, etc.

    It was Kelly who came to do the install. To their credit they were polite and worked efficiently to route the cable, drill the wall and fit the socket. On of them spent 30 minutes up the nearby pole and at one point his colleague asked him something and he shouted down “I’ve got 10 more pairs to check yet”.

    When it came to tidying up one of them produced a tube of silicone and asked me if I had a knife to cut the end off. I got one from my toolbox, he said they are not allowed to carry knives for health and safety reasons. He went to the van to get a wall plate for the cable and said they had to buy those themselves as the company didn’t provide them, but “luckily I’ve got one spare”. Not sure what would have happened if not, would the cable just have been poking out of the drilled bricks?

    They then said they were done and were off the exchange to finish off. At that point the line was working but still on the old LLU provider. A couple of hours later it was giving me a BT service so appeared to have been completed. I then got a call on the line to say the phone might go on and off as they were doing some tests. I left it alone and checked again the next day to find the line was dead.

    It took a week of pestering BT to get it fixed. They initially said the fault was in the premises, later on saying it was at the exchange. One morning as I was getting ready for work a proper Openreach van turned up and went up a ladder at the side of the house to fiddle with the line outside. He then drove off leaving the ladder behind. As I left for work he had returned and asked if I was the one having the problem with the line.

    He said the line was not connected up at the exchange and that he had now fixed it. I checked and it was indeed working. He asked who had installed it, BT or Kelly, and when I said Kelly he said they’re not allowed in the exchanges and they often leave lines disconnected. No idea how true that is.

    I’m wondering if my line was nicked to be used for something else, knowing that as a new line it would be easy to palm that off onto BT to resolve. The Kelly engineers said they had six more jobs in the area after mine so it seems plausible.

    I got the impression from the BT engineer that they wearily cleaned up after Kelly quite regularly.

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  12. Dominic says:

    Doesn’t this mean that not only are they making billable calls, but also risking listening in on someone else’s conversation? Shouldn’t that be an offence in itself? Surprised that no-one else has pointed this out yet.

  13. Phil Reynolds says:

    From past experience, pre-OpenReach, when BT stole a pair that was carrying a data-only circuit, the “repair” process often involved checking, from the customer premises, the capacitance of the now disconnected line, and potentially trying to treat it as “no fault found” if (which it would) that test passed. We actually got used to saying “Please check for an actual signal on the line, not just the capacitance.” – they took some convincing. I think I personally handled at least one pair theft per month at one time – and I was not the only person doing my job.

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    • Alex Bloor says:

      It would be very interesting to compile a dossier of this (admittedly circumstantial) evidence on mystery 123 charges.

  15. barry says:

    the process you refer to is checking for stops and should be used as a last resort, after checking for spares using a hawk/jdsu/exfo/9083, these will show voltage on the line, not dial tone and thus get around taking a data only or ocb line. When checking for stops the correct proceedure would be to dial 17070 then check with routing to ensure the line was stopped more than 12months ago before proceeding with it.
    As regards kelly/quinns, openreach have methods in place to recover costs of poor workmanship such as pair pinching, the contractor ‘engineer’ will then be coached on what they have done.

    • jeff smith says:

      Yes you are right , they should be coached back to Morrisons along with all their management. Openreach used to do this engineering job professionally untill they sacked all the fully trained contractors and employed road gangs at £25.00 per job. And then came all the fucking Infantry and Snipers!.

  16. One of them Kelly cowboys.. says:

    It’s not advised to call 123 formal or informal, If theres a dial tone on it, or you can hear if a line’s live, leave it the hell alone. unless routing gives confirmation that it is a stopped line, and even that’s a last resort on being no open spares.

  17. Daniel says:

    this happened to me when I got FTTC. I use Claranet ISP and decided to upgrade and BT openreach sent Kelly Communications. They seemed to install everything really fast and left with it all working, I was happy! Then I realised two internal extensions were now disconnected in the master socket somehow. Then 24 hours later all hell broke loose! They had mixed up pairs in the cabinet I think based on reading this article. This was not a new line!

    The next day the phone had a dial tone but FTTC modem had no dsl signal. If anyone called our house it didn’t ring! if anyone dialed out on our phone it disconnected the call after about 60 seconds. My small ISP were amazing. It took 2 engineer call outs and tracking where our phone number had gone and what our phone number now was! The 2 later engineers were openreach and had a job of solving Kelly problems. One of the engineers told me that Kelly engineers are paid per job and if they do a bad job they report it and they wouldn’t be paid for that job. However they would try to squeeze as many in a day as they could! The reason it all happened the next day is because the poor person our number was switched with had made a complaint about problems with the line.

    They caused so many problems locally! 15 mins installing FTTC took 2 engineer visitors lasting hours to solve! I was so glad I was with a small business ISP, their support and fighting through the BT complaints system was amazing. They were withholding payment for the install until we got it working 😉 BT at one point kept blaming the isp, but got them on a mobile phone to prove from their systems we weren’t connected right! I think if I was with BT ISP, this would have been a far worse situation!

    is it possible to refuse Kelly Communications to come in and ask for a BT openreach engineer? all in all nightmare!

    • That cowboy...again says:

      Indeed paid per install, The problem with certain ISP’s is they don’t provide a number… just pair location, if the location given is wrong, it all goes to pot. getting the customers number is normally the best way to go in this situation. infact some customers think you’re barmy asking the for there number! as you have not been given it, if you where with a BT ISP that situation probably would not of occured.

      as for the existing extentions not connected… that’s just lazyness from the installer, We ain’t all like that…

    • jeff smith says:

      just pretend that you are out.

  18. cole says:

    They’re people trying to earn a living like you! They don’t get the bt hawk to test with.

    And you keep refereeing to Openreach as a contractor? ? They OWN the network and surely you should know that in your line of work? ? And yes, stealing pairs is very bad practise but MAYBE it wasn’t a stolen pair and maybe a leg broke off of your poor current wiring. Stop painting everyone in your colours and think about what that person is working for? Or would you prefer to take all 3000 contractors away and go back to Openreach only when they used to take 6 months+ to deal with faults? Think before you chat utter dribble

    • Alex Bloor says:

      Dear Cole,

      I don’t believe I referred to OpenReach as a contractor, I referred to Kelly as a contractor to OpenReach… Though strictly and technically OpenReach are a contractor to *us*. So in that sense they are obviously a contractor.

      In response to your comment “maybe a leg broke off your poor wiring”, I have to ask, did you even read my blog post? Or did you skim the title and not bother? I have game->set->match PROOF that the pair was stolen. They admitted it!

      In answer to your final “Or would you prefer” hypothetical question, I would say that I think in an ideal world I would prefer OR to use no contractors; and to have their own employees do all the jobs *AND* for OR to have an adequate number of employees to do the work. That would be my ideal outcome.

      Maybe you should think before you accuse others of chatting “utter dribble”?

      • Anthony says:

        I am currently going through the problem of having a BT engineer come to my house to rectify a fault where a BT open reach engineer “borrowed my pair” for a new installation to someone else. On the day my broadband went “missing” i had seen an Open reach van and engineer working in the green cabinet which is en route of my daily dog walk. My broadband was out of action for a week and i was sick and tired of trying to contact BT to rectify the problem (of which they said was a fault with my line and would have to pay £129 if the engineer found that the fault was due to me, i.e. trees breaking the line or the the fault within my property. After trying to explain that this was not the case i got so frustrated with BT not fixing the fault after a week i tried to cancel my broadband contract i was informed by BT that if i terminated the contract i would be liable for paying the remainder of the 18 month contract, a sum of £281. I felt cheated and robbed and was about to pay the cancellation fee when i came across this post. After doing some further research i then got BT to agree that if their engineer can confirm the “borrowed pair” then i would not be liable for the £129 engineer fee and also not liable to pay the £281 cancellation fee. Fingers crossed that the BT engineer confirms the fault is not mine. The reason for replying to this post was that Cole’s comment i feel is a reaction to him feeling that Open reach engineers are misrepresented somewhat. Personally i don’t feel that Cole understands what mayhem and costs are involved to the ISP providers and the customers when rouge engineers contracted by BT open reach do not install new lines correctly or deliberately “borrow paired lines” just to full fill their job quotas. His comment of “Think before you chat utter dribble”, i feel is crass and wholly uncalled for. Rant over.

        • Alex Bloor says:

          Hi Anthony. Like you I was a bit surprised at the accusation that I was “chatting dribble”. My account was fairly factual, and had supporting evidence. Any opinion I put upon it was, well, /opinion/. But the facts were there. They admitted the pair had been stolen, they came back and fixed it. They then mentioned their line testing procedures, which must have at least been true for the engineer who told me (if not necessarily provably any more than just him). Thanks for your post.

          • cole says:

            Alex, you talk rubbish, pair pinching DOES happen I agree. But you are bringing down and labelling an entire workforce with the same brush. I work for Kelly and work with the idiots that do this practice. It is HIGHLY frowned upon by all decent employees.

            BUT on the same note, mistakes happens. What about the 1000+ daily connections that happen without issue?

            You are also singling out Kelly Coms? Why?
            Is it because they are MUCH bigger than the others and you just haven’t noticed the other names? (MJ Quinns, FNS, Talent etc) because without these other companies involvement you wouldn’t have a service full stop. FNS and Talent laying UK infrastructure, Kelly/Quinns doing 4 + installs per day and open reach? Yes, they’re amazing in house staff, well, they’re lucky to com off 2 jobs per day, and yes, they pick up faults but even Kelly has been approached by Mr Openreach and asked to setup a fault volume reduction team to start reducing faults on the network as Openreach just can not cope with the staffing levels they have.

            Not to mention their new recruits that are coming to field with less capabilities than the old Kelly recruits. I had to physically show an Openreach guy how to run a data extension last week and he’s had 5 weeks training!

            So to sum up, yes, some installers are useless and a waste of time BUT that’s across many employers.

            How would you feel if I said “all small isp are useless and expensive”?

            Think before you spout rubbish.

            And yes, unless you’ve edited it, you referred to Openreach as a sub contractor. They are NOT your subs either. They are your seller. You are their buyer (if you are an isp)

            Have a good day guys and happy surfing.

          • Alex Bloor says:


            If we buy from BT then BT are our subcontractor. As a matter of fact. How hard is it for you to grasp this?

            OpenReach is not a separate company. It is a part of BT, company number 1800000. In this sense OpenReach are a subcontractor to us.

            If you could refrain from telling me I am spouting rubbish, that’d be lovely. The report contained on this blog doesn’t go out of its way to suggest all OpenReach/Kelly/other contractors are bad. Merely that some are, and in our experience as an ISP, we see a greater number of problems from Kelly than from others. Simple as that. You say I’m talking rubbish, then agree with most of what I’ve said. Nobody is forcing you to read this blog. If you don’t like what you read, and what you read makes you upset or cross, can I suggest not returning?

            All the best!

  19. Tom K says:

    I remember reading this some time ago when you published it and thought wow!

    I today have had a similar experience whereby a business line at one of our sites went down on Saturday and today we found out why – The residential flat above had a new line installed for sky and the engineer (a Kelly Communications engineer!) stole the pair from the live line complete with dialtone!

    I’m now battling to try and raise a complaint against BT Openreach for their contractor’s incompetence.

  20. Gerald Talbot says:

    I would like to point out a couple of discrepancies in your tale, the first being that Openreach are not a contractor for BT but own BT’s cable networks (copper and fibre) and are a wholly owned subsidiary of BT, being part of BT Group. Also it is not BT policy to do dial 123 on any line, the correct test is to dial 170170 which is the fast test number or use either a JDSU or Exfo tester. I appen to work for Europe’s largest independent network and hosting integrator and we use Openreach as one of our suppliers for ADSL, FTTC, MPF and EAD. All but the EAD (which are purely fibre) have a copper element and this often means Kelly’s engineers are used to install these services. Having previously worked for BTOR for 25 years on both their copper and fibre networks I can say that for the most part their engineers are first rate but unfortunately the processes that Openreach employ do not allow their engineers the flexibility they once had to resolve problems when they arise. Also the company recently restructured it’s workforce and identified “surplus” personnel who were retrained to provide both broadband and PSTN services. The retraining consisted of 6 weeks spent at a training centre followed by 2 weeks buddying before being let loose on their own. Given that some of the surplus people identified had never worked on the external network having spent their lives in an office somewhere you can imagine why some of BTOR’s engineers seem a little clueless. Still at least the worst of Openreach’s engineers are still better than the majority of Kelly’s

  21. liamlibby says:

    Have read a few of these post but did notice that your line test result said Diss in exchange.Unless kelly engineer had obass card he would not be aloud in exchange and if he had taken your line from property to pcp it would test diss in network.Kelly comms do have some bad engineers as does all comms firms. I will suggest that next time you see a bt openreach van check to see if some one in it as most of time there is and they are generally asleap

  22. vinne sezz says:

    I agree with most of the comments that is posted here. Being a BTOR contractor is a hard game. Non compliant tools, training and pressure to complete provides to earn a workable wage is just some of the issues on a daily basis. Speaking on behalf of myself, 100% is what i aim for. Management should be to blame, not only contractors but BTOR it self. BTOR have underestimated the demand for new builds/moving home/service provider cheap deals etc. As for the pair pinching, never done it!!

    • Alex Bloor says:

      I *wholly* agree that this needs to be tackled from a management perspective. The guys doing the actual work have a job to do. If the conditions that surround them basically make pair pinching the only way to complete enough work to live, then management should be entirely responsible for building a system that makes that the case. Disgraceful. They should be ashamed. I have to also comment that I don’t think

      Thanks very much indeed for commenting. It’s really good to hear from someone on the coalface, so to speak. Thanks for taking the time.

  23. richard says:

    Half the issue I suspect is that a Kelly engineer installing a new line gets a flat fee of £35 – if it’s a 10 minute job, or a day marathon.

    So no surprise if the Engineer grabs an easy option, and doesn’t give a fig about running up phantom calls.

    How would you feel if you grovelled for half a day in Cabinets full of unidentified pairs and came out with £35 notes?


  24. Speedy says:

    Thank you Alex for alerting the general public of this background information, particularly when Joe Public complains about 123 calls that have been charged and BT wont refund and we get accused of having Dementia or ‘the cat must have dialed it’ when they know that Engineers have been hibernating in the local green boxes.

    It is now time that this fiasco was taken out of BT’s hands to a higher authority to appeal to, perhaps a Communications Ombudsman so that BT are made to properly investigate 123 events instead of harassing the Elderly when BT know it is a problem. It is no use dealing with Ofcom that lost its ‘Teeth and Inclination’ to sort things years ago and it wont deal with individual instances only huge multiple events.

    To this end I shall be archiving this Thread from Alex’s brilliant post and explanation to date with a view to trying to get something brought out into the open about this underhand professional Engineers’ activity

    It may take a while as I am currently working on getting about 80 Borough Councils to change 0845 Payment Lines at up to 42p p.min from Mobiles to 0345 at Geographic Rate on all telephony.

    I may not be very ‘speedy’ at my age but I hate it when the ‘Big Boys’ think they can flatten the Elderly every time.

    Happy New Year to All , and thanks for giving me my next Campaign.

  25. Dru says:

    Hi guys, bit late for this really but soneone one day may read yhis. I am currently a kellys engineer. Have been for nearly 2 years. Kellys ad a company do have alot of issues, mostly caused by the constraints ee have to work to, being BTs contractors.

    All this pair pinching id due to BT not installing a proper network, if there were enough pairs in the dp for each home near thst dp, no pairs would need to be pinched.

    BT know their network is a disgrace, cabbinets that still have GPO on them, customrrs being charged top dollar for a network thats more than 60 years old, its a disgrace.

    Kellys engineers do the exact same job as bt engineers, but we are expected to do 4 times the amount in a day, for a quarter of the wage. We recieve very poor training, poor tools and crap wages. We loose payment on jobs that go wrong like pair pinching, no krllys engineer wants to quickly finish a job when he/she knows they will loose payment for it. BT quite often give us incorrect routing details so that in a months time when a fault is raised, OR attend, ckass our fault as diss in pcp, we loose the pay, BT get free install. Convenient.

    I do not provide copper lines, i do pcp only fibre upgrades, i do not pair pinch, fail jobs, or leave issues, some of us are damm good at our jobs, its such a shame BT have allowed kellys to have such a bad rep, when 90 percent of our issues are caused by BT.

    • jeff smith says:

      we are not really talking about your fiber job. There is a bit more involved than jumpering.

    • Martin says:

      As a customer who’s dealt with openreach and kelly’s (neither of which I should have to deal with routinely, I’m a fricken customer!) I’ve found both groups quite polite, but the kelly’s guys did seem very rushed.

      As to the cabinets having ‘gpo’ written on them, so what? The cabinet keeps the weather out. Most of the connections inside have been redone many times.

      The entire trouble seems to come from MUCH higher up, I actually suspect ofcom of being half the damn problem, demanding that nobody be able to talk to the actual folks doing the work, thus ensuring any information the engineer gets from the customer has been through 15 call centres…

  26. jeff smith says:

    If there is not enough for my family to eat, I will steal!.

  27. Pingback: BT OpenReach Accidental Disconnection? | FrequencyCast UK Tech Podcast News

  28. One of our listeners pointed us to this thread, and we’ve very grateful! We’re on Day 7 with no Broadband. Two Openreach vans outside working on a neighbours when ours went down. Here’s our story so far:

    We raised this in BT’s Community forum, where one of their representatives says that there’s “a better chance of winning the lottery twice in a row” than having your pair pinched.

    I’ve pointed him to this page to get his comments. I’m guessing there’s an awful lot of Lottery double-winners out there!

    Pete (FrequencyCast Radio Show)

  29. You might be interested in this link. A customer without a handset has started seeing phantom calls to 123 on their bill. The “123 test” in action?

    See the discussion on the BT Forum:

    • Chris Hills says:

      It make me mad that they rather bury their head in the sand rather than admit it and do something about it. I am fortunate that I have cable so I do not need to worry about anyone stealing my line.

  30. Mr Anon says:

    I have previously worked for Kelly’s and can confirm that pair stealing is common practice and in some cases is actively encouraged by Managers to get jobs completed so that targets are met.

    I took care in my work and always did a good job, ensured my customer was always happy and NEVER stole a pair to complete a job quickly. It sounds like I was in a minority within the company.

    I no longer work for them…. thankfully.

  31. Paul M says:

    In late 2015 we had a second phone line installed for backup ADSL, with simultaneous provide for TalkTalk ADSL.
    It was installed by Kelly, and he did a quick and efficient job, arrived on time and didn’t make a mess, installed the phone socket exactly where I wanted. When I connected the ADSL worked immediately.

    Unfortunately my pleasure was short lived, within 24 hours the phone line went entirely dead. It took a week to get it sorted, and it was a BT guy who fixed it, and confirmed that our copper pair had been stolen and he had to re-patch it all.

    My theory was that Kelly stole someone else’s line, who quickly complained to BT and BT put it back, hence cutting off our line. It then took a week before BT came along and did the work properly.

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