Sunday, 3 May 2009

Getting Advice From The BT Forums

If you are unfortunate enough to be suffering from problems with your BT broadband, one of the best resources are the BT Forums. Now you would think that BT would flag these up in letters a mile high, but it can be surprisingly difficult to find them. There are other forums for BT Business Broadband users, but these do not seem particularly active and many business users just use the main forums for a quick response.

The most important thing to understand about the BT Forums is, that although they are hosted and moderated by BT staff, the people who give advice there are ordinary BT broadband customers like you and me. They have a wide range of IT experience and understanding, varying from broadband newcomers, to a few who have worked in IT and some who have worked for BT. The thing they have in common is that they have all suffered from broadband problems themselves, they have often found solutions to those problems, and they are willing to share these with others who might benefit. It is very much a self-help group.

Now an important tip before you start posting on the forum. Security on the BT forum site is, let's say, questionable, and there have been incidents over recent months where one users personal details have been visible to other users. Before signing up to the site, get yourself a disposable email address (eg Hotmail, Gmail, GMX, etc) that you don't mind getting rid of. Whatever you do, don't use your own name or main BT address.

Before you raise your specific problem, use the search facility on the site (top right of the main screen) to search for posts that might be relevant to the problem you are facing. If it's a common one, you will probably find several threads that deal with it and reading through them carefully might take you to the solution you need. Doing this might take you a little longer than posting straight away, but it stops the folks who might answer your question wasting their time answering the same question they may have answered only a few minutes, hours, or days before!

Lurk on the site for a few days. See who answers questions and whose answers seem to solve problems - and whose don't! That way, when you raise your own question you will be better placed to judge the value of the answers and suggestions.

Finally, before posting, collect some basic information that will help others help you. Questions such as: "Help, my broadband doesn't work and the BT Helpline won't listen to me"! are all too common and, not surprisingly, rarely get answered. The sort of information you will need to collect and post will depend on the exact nature of the problem, but the key to getting good quality advice is to provide the best description of the problem, and the circumstances under which it occurs, you can. Examples of the sort of information you might need to offer include:

- the make of your computer and operating system
- the make and model of the router or HomeHub you use
- whether you connect to your router by ethernet (cable) or wifi
- What type of BT socket you connect to - and whether it is an extension socket
- whether you have removed the bell-wire from your BT Master socket, or fitted an iPlate
- the speed of your connection collected using the BT Speedtester - not one of the quick speedtesters. Cut and paste the results into your question.
- what you have tried already
- whether you are using the BT broadband browser and wifi connection software
- what wifi channel you are using
- what firewall and antivirus you are using
- etc, etc.

The list could go on and on, but don't worry, those who answer will usually suggest other information that you might be able to provide, and how to collect it.

Don't, under any circumstances, put personal information like your name, address, phone number, main email address in your posts - it's just aking for trouble.

Be patient. Your question may get answered in a matter of seconds, or it might take a few days. It all depends who is online at the time.

Try not to offend against the forum rules. Most of the rules are sensible and designed to protect you and BT staff alike. Some rules are pretty inane in the circumstances and it is easy to offend against them. The most frequent "offence" is providing BT CEO Ian Livingston's email address ( The forum moderators will either edit your post, delete it, warn you or ban you from the forum in extreme cases. The other things that get the forum moderators exercised are if you have the temerity to mention another ISP or telephony provider by name, or if you dare to even mention Phorm - BT's plan, regarded as odious and intrusive by some, for targeted advertising.

The final caveat, before you head off and raise a question on the BT Forums, is that people will try to give you the best advice they can, borne out of bitter experiences in most cases, but if it all goes wrong and things get worse, you have to remember that accepting the advice is at your own risk!

OK, off you go, ask the question!

No comments:

Having had some major problems with my own broadband service, I understand how others struggle to get help from BT.

There is a lot of good information out there, but it can be hard to find. So this blog is an attempt to pull some of it together, in one place.

It's a blog that really shouldn't be needed - if only BT and possibly other ISP's in the UK, provided useful customer support.