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Keep in touch: telephone and internet in France

PUBLISHED: 12:15 01 January 2016

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What should you do if your French services let you down? Bob Elliott has the answers

I’m sure you’ll agree with me that there is never a good time for your telephone or broadband to stop working. We have come a long way in recent years in how we use telephones and broadband services. Many phone calls are replaced with Skype calls, mobile apps and emails. Broadband has long ceased to be a simple tool to find information, with buying and selling a major activity.

High speeds and new software allow many of us to work from home or be based in two locations, and wifi allows mobiles to be used to make low-cost calls to most destinations. No wonder we feel cut off from the world when there is a fault with our service.

Get it fixed quickly

Our first instinct is to call our provider’s support line to get it fixed but we often forget that there could be problems within our homes causing the loss of service. If these are not investigated and an engineer is called out they may charge for their wasted time. Quite apart from that, several days without a service could be avoided – so let’s look at what we can do to get calls live quickly.

Firstly, check your handset, internal wiring and ADSL filter. Your handset could be the problem due to a power surge or age for example, so try another phone, and if you do not have a second one see if you can borrow one. If you have more than one telephone socket in your house, connect the phone to the first socket into your property as this will eliminate a possible problem with your internal wiring. This should be done with the handset plugged directly into the phone socket, not plugged into the ADSL if you have a broadband service. Then connect your ADSL filter, and if calls fail you may need to replace it.

You should also unplug your modem from the ADSL filter and try making a call as this will show if the modem is faulty. If calls can be made, try making them from the remaining sockets to see if you have a problem with your internal wiring.

If you still cannot make or receive a call, contact your provider. They will take you through a small number of questions and then test your line remotely using web-based tools that will enable them to quickly identify if a fault exists.

Ask for support

However frustrating it may be that your service is down, do remember that your telecom company makes no money from a service that is not working, and co-operating with the various tests they ask you to do in a methodical way will help identify what needs to be done.

All providers use remote diagnostic tools to run tests on your line using web gateways. They can identify if there is a fault with the line between the local exchange and your home or if there is a problem with your modem, for example.

Rejecting the advice you are given and demanding a new modem, for example, can incur charges, but more relevant is the fact that when it arrives it will not actually fix the fault, and you will have had a loss of service for a week longer than necessary.

One of the most frequent calls for assistance is made when a broadband speed slows down when used with a wifi connection. In these cases there is nothing wrong with the service at all. It is simply that the wifi channel being used is so busy that the speed drops. All services use modems that have a number of wifi channels, and a few minutes on the phone with the customer support team will enable them to talk you through changing to one that is less congested. The previous high speed will then be restored.

You also may not be aware that a wifi connection will always be slower than a direct connection between your device and the modem using the provided ethernet cable.

Your broadband service requires a good quality line, so there can be a problem with it while you can still make calls. Conversely, if you cannot make calls it is most likely that your broadband service will have failed also. If you take the total dégroupage service, where all your calls go over your broadband service, you will not be able to make calls should the broadband fail.

You will be asked about the lights showing on your modem as these can identify a modem failure or other fault. You will also be asked to power down your modem, and if that does not resolve the problem, you may be required to use the reset button.

Once the possibility of a modem fault has been eliminated, various line tests will be completed. These will then show if the problem needs to be referred to local engineers to repair either the line or equipment at your local exchange.

Repair the fault

As in the UK, where BT owns the national network and uses the sub-contractor Openreach to maintain it, Orange uses sub-contractors in France – not direct employees. This ensures that there is no favouritism shown to their direct customers as this would be anti-competitive.

Your fault will be reported to the local engineers who deal with them in the order that they are reported. They have three days to respond to the fault and, in many cases, call problems are resolved within two or three days while broadband faults usually take between three and four.

More difficult faults may take longer, while busy times, such as following a bad storm which always results in an overload of work, will require you to be patient. Resist giving in to any frustration by changing companies before the fault is fixed. The systems will remove your fault from the queue and when the service is transferred to your new company they will report it and it will go back to the bottom of the list.

You are likely to be asked to provide three days when you can be available to the engineers as they may need access to your property to check the service up to the first socket – any others are your responsibility. Shortly afterwards, your company will confirm which of the dates will be allocated to an engineer. Remember that if you are not there to meet them as agreed you may be charged for a missed appointment.

If you notice that the cable outside your home is down on the ground or in some other way in need of repair, report it to your provider, even if your services are still working. This will minimise the risk of corrosion and damage to the cable, saving it from having to be replaced (which can take some time) and avoiding the associated loss of all services, by simply reattaching it to the poles.

Bob Elliott is commercial director at UK Telecom

Tel: 01483 477 100

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