A major outage yesterday deprived up to three million BT customers across the UK of their broadband services. The problems began yesterday afternoon at about 2.40pm. BT tweeted at 5.04pm that services had been restored to most customers.
A national network outage is highly unusual, but the company denied that it had been the victim of a cyber attack. BT blamed the downtime on a fault with a major router in London, causing problems to fan out across the country, affecting both business and consumer customers – along with rival providers that sell services on top of BT’s infrastructure.
However, at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month BT CEO Gavin Patterson said that the company is battling “hundreds of thousands” of cyber attacks every day, an increase of over 1,000 per cent year on year. Any successful disruption of BT’s services would damage public trust and potentially lose it customers – as TalkTalk discovered when it lost a reported 100,000 customers last year in the wake of a successful hack of unencrypted customer details.
The timing is unfortunate for BT. The telecoms giant is in the throes of a major reorganisation in anticipation of its £12.5 billion merger with EE being approved and completed. Worse, the outage occurred just days after the publication of a highly critical report from a cross-party MPs pressure group, the British Infrastructure Group (BIG), which slammed BT for providing a poor broadband service to the UK.
The report, ‘Broadbad’, was published last week with the endorsement of 121 MPs, and urges the breakup of the relationship between BT and its infrastructure subsidiary Openreach, and a further opening up of the UK broadband market. The BIG believes that this would allow faster progress towards creating a true national network of high-speed Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) connections.
BT has described the report as “biased” and “misguided”. UCInsight’s own detailed coverage of the BIG report and the state of the UK’s broadband connectivity, speed, and reliability is published here.
Grant Shapps, the Conservative MP who heads up the BIG, said after the outage that BT “should spend less time trying to lobby MPs to persuade them that their service is better than it is, and more time focused on delivering the fast broadband their customers are paying for.”