Anger at Larne telecoms blackout

Owner of Watt's Butchers Dominic Watt. INLT-31-707-con
Owner of Watt's Butchers Dominic Watt. INLT-31-707-con

Firms are counting the cost of damage to a major cable at Larne telephone exchange, which affected land line, internet and payment services.

The cable was damaged just before lunchtime last Thursday and some people were not reconnected until more than four days later.

A BT spokesperson said that the company received around 400 fault reports, with a total of eight BT telecommunications cabinets impacted. She stated that the areas affected were in and around The Roddens, Main Street, Glynn Road, Curran Road, Ballymena Road, Upper Cairncastle Road, Fleet Street, Linn Road and Mill Road.

On Thursday, BT said engineers would remain on site until the work was fully completed.

Service was only fully restored on Monday night (July 27), and the cause of the damage remains under investigation.

Manager of Clark’s Tyres, Andrew Clark, estimates that his firm lost “hundreds of pounds” of business due to the incident.

He added that BT had refused to discuss the situation with him as he is with a different telephone provider.

“At first we thought it was just a problem with the computer, but then we realised that the phones weren’t ringing and the credit card terminals weren’t working either,” he explained.

“People were arriving to pay and we couldn’t take payment, and the Ulster Bank was affected as well, which meant that people couldn’t withdraw money.

“We rang up BT and they refused point-blank to give us any information at all as we have a contract with another provider,” said Andrew.

Owner of Watts Butchers, Dominic Watt, called the incident “an inconvenience” which resulted in his business losing around £1000 over the course of the weekend.

“Our internet, phones and Visa machines were down, but BT wouldn’t even tell us what was wrong as we are with another provider,” he stated.

“Customers were setting their stuff on the counter and we were telling them the machines were down.

“They couldn’t even go over the road to the cash machine, as it wasn’t working either.

“It took a long time to repair the fault. It was working again by Saturday afternoon but that was near the close of business.”

Sales advisor at Crafty Copy, Neill Murray, said the service interruption was bad for the town.

“We had a lot of visitors at the weekend and it meant we couldn’t take cards, which looked a bit backwards.

“We aren’t with BT, but our provider raised a repair request with Openzone. The only way we found out anything was wrong was through Facebook.

On Monday afternoon, BT released a further statement, which said: “BT engineers have worked around the clock to restore service to the majority of customers affected as a result of damage caused to a major BT cable located at the Larne telephone exchange building.

“The repair work, which was hampered by weather conditions over the weekend, is in the final stages.”

In response to complaints from non-BT customers about lack of information, the spokesperson explained: “BT’s network is provided to all communication providers on an equivalent basis and service providers utilise the network to build services that are sold to consumers and businesses across the UK.

“As BT is the network provider and also has a retail division that is a communication provider, strict rules govern the sharing of information between the network operator and the retail divisions to ensure there is no competitive advantage.

“Customers should contact the company they purchase their service from to get a full update.”