Internet Down & UP!

It’s a few days since my previous post here – and here’s the reason why:

Sunday Morning

Friday night my broadband connection went down. I dialled up the service number and reached a repeated message telling me “There is a fault”, which I knew already, but at least confirmed that my service provider knew as well.

A couple of hours later the red light on my hub changed back to blue and I breathed a sigh of relief, and sent off two of the five stories I had been working on from earlier in the day. By the time I’d finished the next the WAN light had changed to orange and the connection was dead again. It was half past one in the morning, so I went to bed, hoping to be able to send it and the other two almost ready stories off before I went out on Saturday morning.

But when I rolled out of bed the light was still orange. I had breakfast and tried the service line, which now had a much longer message about faults, but my exchange wasn’t among those listed. All other areas, according to the recorded message had no problems. I listened a second time to be sure I hadn’t missed my area, then leafed through my User Guide and dialled the service number, which was carefully hidden at the bottom of page 14.

After around half an hour in a queue (if they really thought my call was important they would have more staff) I was then connected to ‘Elizabeth’ who appeared to be in India, but did her best to help me, with further long periods on hold while she had tests run on my line and a call back when the line dropped.  Most of the things she asked me I’d already tried, but there was a rather odd few minutes when she had be running for a screwdriver to undo the two screws on the white box fixed on the wall, but then had to tell me just to screw them back in again. But after around another 45 minutes or so told she had gotto the end of her script, and told me she would have to ‘escalate’ my problem.  And that if I had to actually have an engineer come round to fix the problem it would cost me £129.99 if it turned out to be a problem of my equipment etc.

Unfortunately all escalation meant was that I could expect a telephone call from someone who actually had some technical knowledge thirty hours later, for which I’m now waiting. It didn’t improve my temper to be got out of bed at 8.02 am this morning (it is a Sunday and I wasn’t intending to do very much this morning) for a reminder call that I could expect a phone call between 13.30 and 15.30.

If the line – as the checks made by during my call with Elizabeth suggested – is OK, I suspect the problem will be with my VDSL modem, which I’ve had for a few years. But I hope it won’t be too long before I’m back on-line.

Even though I’m not completely cut off from the internet –  I can still access my e-mail and read Facebook, Twitter and view web sites on my smartphone – the loss of broadband has come as a great shock, and brought home the extent to which I rely on it now.  I could I suppose find a free Wi-Fi connection with my notebook computer and continue to work that way, but it just would not be the same.

None of the stories that I haven’t been able to upload yet – including another from Saturday – are actually particularly time-sensitive, though the agency I send them too likes to think otherwise. I’ve long told it that it would be better off forgetting the instant news market – the big agencies will always do it better – and concentrate on features, magazines and books.

There is perhaps a financial disincentive for me to file promptly. If I do so my work will almost always be sent out on a service to subscribers who benefit from free usage for the next 48 hours. Photographers get paid according to the number of pictures that are sent out, not related to usage, and the monthly amounts are pitiful. Sending in pictures more than 24 hours after an event means they will not go to subscribers.

What I’m not sure is how this might effect later sales. Back in the old days, newspapers used to have picture editors who would have looked at the work coming in and night have mentally or electronically saved images they thought might be useful later. Now I suspect this doesn’t happen, and pictures – except for the breaking news feed – will largely be found through Google images, and what matters are keywords.

But what I’m truly missing is not the thought of income, but not being able to share the pictures I’ve taken with friends and with the people who I’ve photographed. Of course eventually I will, and you will get to see the pictures I took, some here and more on My London Diary. A few days without broadband are not too important here, where I’m already a little over a month behind in posting. Though on >Re:PHOTO I do sometimes like to be a little more topical, and perhaps today might have been sharing with you my pictures and thoughts on the memorials to the First World War at the Tower of London and in Trafalgar Square.  I’m now hoping that my normal service can be resumed in time to do so on Armistice Day – Tuesday – though my gloomier side remembers those confident assertions from 1914 that it will all be over by Christmas.

Later on Sunday

Well, the call I should have had between 13.30 and 15.30 finally happened – with profuse excuses – at  17.30.  I told the guy all I could and suggested that there was probably a problem with my VDSL modem as all the line tests they could do remotely seemed OK. After he had exhausted all the tests he could do I finally got an appointment for an engineer to call – on Tuesday between 1pm and 6pm.


Although I’d not had broadband since the early hours of Saturday I hadn’t been entirely without internet connectivity. I’d been able to connect on my  phone and reply to a few urgent messages on e-mail and Facebook.  But I had still felt really cut off from things – on-line contact has really become such an important part of my working life – and to some extent of my social life too. Not being able to easily update my web sites or upload photographs from home was a real problem. And there were just so many little things that I would have looked up on the web, but it was mostly too much hassle to do on my phone.

I’d logged in a few times on my notebook – much easier to read e-mail etc than on a phone- but had not managed to find a good connection. I’d start sending an image and the line would drop halfway through. I’d copied the files I needed to upload onto a memory stick  and was thinking of going out to a coffee shop that offers free internet access when I had a better idea, and simply moved right to the front of my house.

There I was able to get a much better signal, and one that was stable, not dropping off after a couple of minutes. It was a pretty obvious thing to do and I kicked myself or not trying it sooner. it too perhaps two or thre times as long as usual to upload my stories, but eventually the work I’d wanted to put on-line on Friday and Saturday was now there.


Today the engineer came, surprisingly at the start of the five hour time period I’d been given. And he seemed to really know what he was doing. I now have a new – and upgraded – hub, with a built-in modem, and also some dodgy outside wiring replaced, and have also almost cleared the backlog of less urgent replies to the 649 e-mails waiting on my mail server since last Friday. Fortunately most of them don’t need an answer.

And I’m hoping my life is now going to get back to normal. The outage has made me miss a few things I would otherwise have done – today rather than waiting because the engineer was coming later I would probably have been photographing events concerned with the anniversary of the 1918 armistice, and on Saturday and Sunday for various reasons I missed events I would otherwise have covered. I’m able to write this now because  I had to cancel going to a meal with old friends because I didn’t know what time the work would finish.

It hasn’t been entirely negative either. I have got through quite a lot more image editing on the computer than I would have done with the distractions of the web available. And I should have a better connection with the improvements in the new hub, both for the internet and also on connecting between the different computers on my home network. The renewed cabling should also make the whole system less likely to fail in the future, though at the moment I’m still typing with fingers crossed.

Normal service should be resumed shortly!

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