- By Julian Fowler
- BBC News NI south-west reporter
More than 3,000 Fibrus broadband customers have been left without internet following damage caused by this week’s storms Isha and Jocelyn.
Customers have been told it could take a week for the service to be restored.
Storm damage affected more than 5,200 customers – about 7% of the Fibrus customer base – with the company blaming strong winds and heavy rain for “significant issues”.
Many of those affected are in rural parts of Northern Ireland.
Fibrus said its was “working really hard to restore all services as quickly as possible”.
“This may take up to a week but we are aiming to get things back to normal within the next 2-3 days.”
Some customers have criticised the company for a lack of information and for failing to provide a clear timescale for repairs.
‘Shrugged off’ by customer services
The internet outage has made it impossible for John McCann from Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, to work from home.
“The broadband went out on Sunday night in the storm, which is entirely understandable,” he told BBC News NI.
The following morning, he found out a tree had fallen down about 21 yards (19m) from his house and his wife called Fibrus to find out when their service would be restored.
“The customer service representative was rather off-hand with her: ‘Yes, we know about that, there’s over 150 calls,’ and it was shrugged off in that manner,” Mr McCann said.
His wife then contacted Fibrus using their online chat service but she received no information about the repair timetable.
After a further phone call to customer services on Wednesday, the couple still do not know when they will have broadband service again.
“As I joked to a friend, it’s like I’ve been transported in a time warp back to 1990,” Mr McCann said.
“I compare this to the sort of service that we get from the electricity service who also are experiencing the same issues with the storm, with lines having come down.
“But you can go to their website, you can click on the map, you can see where the outages are, you can see when they are going to fix them.
“If the electricity service can do this, surely Fibrus can do the same thing?”
He said this week’s severe weather spell was not the first to damage infrastructure and would not be the last, and he questioned whether Fibrus had employed enough staff to deal with customer queries.
“I don’t have a problem with the fact that yes, this has been an exceptional storm,” Mr McCann said.
“Naturally there is a lot of damage there, that’s going to take some time to deal with that, but they need to communicate with us.”
In a statement Fibrus said it takes its service provision “very seriously”.
The firm said its “first and primary priority in responding to these outages has been to safeguard the public’s safety as well as the health and safety of its own employees, as they worked in difficult circumstances to assess the scale of the impact”.
“With the storms subsiding, Fibrus has deployed all available resource on the ground to restore services, in particular, focusing efforts on areas most affected.
“Some of the damage caused by the storms is complex and difficult to resolve.
“Given the issues that remain to be addressed, it may take a number of days to fully restore all customers to service.
“Repair work will continue as is necessarily, including into the weekend, if required.”
It is not clear whether Fibrus customers will be entitled to compensation.
The company is not signed up to the Ofcom automatic compensation scheme for delayed repairs, which offers a payment of £9.33 each day after two full working days following a loss of service.
In 2020 Fibrus won the contract to provide Project Stratum – a government-backed scheme to improve rural broadband across Northern Ireland.
The total funding for Project Stratum was £165m, with £150m coming from the confidence-and-supply agreement deal signed between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Conservative Party in 2017.
The remaining £15m came from Stormont’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.
That project is due to be completed by March of this year.
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