BT Openzone - closed

30th Nov 2010



"The WiFi community built for you"


self portrait


Whenever I’m in an urban environment here in the UK, be it a large city like London, Manchester or my home town of Sheffield, or the smallest of quaint country villages like Cranbrook in Kent where I sit writing this. If I leave the “WiFi” on my phone switched on then somewhere during my average day I tend to discover I’m inadvertently sat in a “BTOpenzone Hotspot” I find this quite annoying because my phone wants to join that and not use my “3G” network to send and receive data.

However, all that changed about a week ago when, with a deadline for an international film festival looming I needed to log on and upload some files and thankfuly, or at least thats what i thought i had a "Hotspot" right where i'm.

I’ve been staying at an utterly charming little holiday cottage while I’ve been working away at the finished edits and by Monday evening I’d produced a small, manageable 300mb film and about 10 photos which needed uploading to the clients server. This would have been a pretty straight -forward, everyday occurrence at the office. In fact with modern communications it’s pretty straight -forward wherever you are, Office, studio, hotel, café, or at least I thought it was!

 Enter stage left “Btopenzone” for those of you that don’t know exactly what this is let me explain – British Telecom provide internet access for a variety of “WiFi hotspots” in public areas like cafes, hotels, museums etc and for a fee enable the public to get internet access pretty much wherever you are throughout the country. As well as these very public areas, there is now a secondary “blanket” of these hotspots in places like B&B’s and other types of holiday accommodation and short term lets.

 So by early evening on the Monday prior to the festival I’d finished and saved the film and was ready to upload it while I cooked a rather splendid evening meal. I’d let the “communication highway” deliver my masterpiece straight to the client. I hit the WiFi button on the task bar of my Mac and up came the “Public” option’s, BTOpenzone and BTFON. I chose the latter as it seemed to have the stronger signal, although both were running at almost the strongest signal and logged on. After filling in the usual login details and paying £5.00 for the 24hr option. After spending perhaps an hour dealing with emails and checking various websites I decided to upload the files. I hit send and wandered off to sort out the Broccoli, I hate soggy broccoli don’t you? About 10 minutes later I check the computer to see how its going and to my surprise I’ve got one of those annoying windows open telling me I’m not connected to the internet, please try again later! I looked at the WiFi indicator on my desktop and it was registering a big fat Zilch, Nada, nothing, hmmmm. Ok its not rocket science, I’ll just re-click on the Internet provider, BTFON and re-connect. Nah doesn’t want to do that – so to cut a very long and frustrating story that runs well into the next day down to a lot less than the 21hrs I had left to re-connect to the internet before my 24hr “Pass” ran out, I tried and tried and tried until I was bored and then tried some more. Went to bed, got up, had a shower, breakfast and even walked into the village to pick up a Latte before I opened up my little silver clamshell of a laptop and tried to connect to the internet once again. Well it obviously wasn’t meant to be and with my imminent deadline looming, my 24hr pass decreasing and the Internet signal, well there wasn’t one. In the end when the chips are down and the quaintness of a small village in the middle of nowhere doesn’t seem quite so quaint anymore and your options are decidedly restricted its time to burn a DVD and pop it in the post, job sorted, next day guaranteed delivery, god bless royal mail. Only the post office is closed due to a power cut – but that’s another story, which will run and run!

The point I’m trying to make in a lot less concise fashion than I had intended is that you pay your money “up-front” and when the system fails there doesn’t seem to be any comeback on BT. If they are offering a product then they should guarantee that product works. I have tried sending emails to all the relevant “help-lines” but as of yet haven’t heard anything back and of course I won’t be holding my breath.

Once bitten twice shy as my old mum used to say, you’d have thought I’d have learnt, but hey I like to live on the edge, I photograph extreme sports for Christ sake. I dice with death on a weekly, nay daily basis and that little indicator on my desktop was just winking away at me and asking, no daring me to try again. Yes the following day, the day after I posted my DVD that bloody little indicator was showing me full strength again. I tentatively launched my web browser and hey presto immediately the BT window launched asking me if I’d like to throw good money after bad. I’m not sure why I did it, but did it I did. Took the bull by the horns, logged on and in less than 48hrs found myself entering my credit card details again, 3 easy steps lead you to “connect” and connect I did, fast, flawless access to the internet, for about 15minutes and then a rather familiar scenario started to unfold. I’m not going to bore you all over again with the details but needless to say I’m now out of pocket another £5 quid and no sign of a signal!