Why I didn’t have Wi-Fi in London For 8 Months

I am redacting the names of all companies involved as there are now legal things happening and I don’t want to get in trouble. Yeah, it’s that serious.

This is a love letter to my family, friends, and coworkers for putting up with an impossibly frustrating last eight months trying to communicate with me. Here’s how that happened.

On January 15, I left the first flat I officially rented upon arriving in London. This flat was incredibly well-located and I completely lucked out with it as I had no idea about areas until (I still don’t know areas very well truthfully) much later. Though I loved the location, it was a flatshare where I had three people to divide my space with, and no say on who those people were. My first three flatmates were a dream. And then came one who made life very unpleasant for me in many ways, and so I desperately looked for an out at my earliest possible option with the contract, which was mid-January.

Moving in London during winter means slim pickings (most movement in the city happens in summer), and there was only one studio available with the agency I was letting from (my stories with this agency can add up to a whole book, but this blog will be focused on Wi-Fi only). I signed the contract for the studio off of a video (level of desperation to get out: supreme), and never went to see it inside until move-in day.

My move-in experience on January 15th was an absolute horrible mess I wish to bury in the depths of my past and never remember again, but in very short summary: the agency told me it was on the first floor, but it was on the second. The agency didn’t have the right keys for the flat, and gave me fake keys that didn’t work. I had to wait over an hour for a locksmith to show up and drill down the door, and when he did, the studio was FILTHY with food that had been rotting there for WEEKS. The moving service I had hired had to leave, so I had to bring everything up two flights by myself. Absolute mess. By the time everything was clean and I could sit down after an incredibly hectic day, I remembered – how do I log onto the Wi-Fi?

I texted the agent that helped me find the flat, and she asked me to check outside my room. That building didn’t have an outside shared area other than the stairs to reach all the flats; all I found were two network extenders on the first floor, and neither of them had codes I could use. I went to sleep that night and just left it to be figured out the next day.

On Thursday January 16th, I went down to the cafe at the foot of my building and ordered a lunch so I could sit and use the Wi-Fi. The owner was super nice and his wife is an incredible cook. After my meal, I went back upstairs and realized the signal just barely reached my flat, so I logged all my devices onto the cafe Wi-Fi network, and was able to have some sort of connectivity while I found out the network information for my flat as promised to be covered by my letting contract.

I reached out to the property manager about three things: recovering my deposit from my first flat, the radiator not emitting any heat, and the Wi-Fi password. He forwarded me to finance, maintenance, and a billing service respectively. I reached out to the billing service requesting the Wi-Fi information and received this reply on January 20th:

Hi there Katherine,
Thank you for getting in touch with us, I hope you’re well.
We’re currently in discussions about the Broadband for your property with the Letting Agency – we’ll be in touch with them with more information shortly.
Kind regards

Cryptic and vapid. Zero information. In the meantime, I was e-mailing the property manager almost daily about all the issues. No heat in winter and no Wi-Fi while working from home were not going to fly. Zero movement. I was getting by with the cafe Wi-Fi, but the reach was unstable, there were pockets of time with almost zero signal, and it was definitely not good enough for calls. I reached back out to the billing service, and heard back the following in January 31st:

Hi there Kathy,
I hope you are well?
We have now been given the go-ahead to install broadband in this property. We have sent this to our provider now and should have an installation date back shortly.
The installation date will be provided to your letting agency and they will communicate this to you.
Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any further questions.
Kind regards

So the building didn’t have Wi-Fi prior to my move? In the contract it states that the Wi-Fi is a “free service” they provide to us, but are not responsible for periods without it and in the case of a new building, it could take up to six weeks to have signal. Although my building was by no means new, this gave them until the beginning of March to have a better answer. In the meantime, I looked into my options:

  • Buy a hot spot: the agency wouldn’t cover the expense and they’re quite pricey for very little data allowance packages (and I’m also trying very hard not to acquire things I won’t use long term).
  • Increase the data plan on my phone: since I had been in the country for less than a year, I hadn’t built up enough credit and was not eligible to increase my data plan (allowance was 20 GB of data per month).

I found something called a mobile hot spot. It was £40 for a month of service that supposedly covered my area, but at first it was not even working, and then I realized it only reached if I used it by the window. I understood why by the time I moved out. Stay tuned til the end. Just know that I basically lost that £ because it never truly worked.

I checked with the billing service once more. Got this on February 7th:

Hi Kathrine,
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
Of course, we can let you know as soon as we have an installation date booked. As of yet, we don’t have a confirmed date back from [INTERNET PROVIDER].
Please let me know if we can help with anything in the meantime.
Kind regards

On February 11th, I got this update:

Hi Katherine,
I hope you’re well?
Just to let you know we have had an update on an install date for your flat.
This will be on 04/03/2020 between 13:00 -18:00.
Please note this a Phone Line install only as the engineer will need to visit the property to determine whether the property can support a Fibre install.
After this, [INTERNET PROVIDER] will confirm which type of broadband installation will need to take place at the property and confirm a new install date for this.
Have a lovely day!
Kind regards

This was a problem because by this point I had scheduled to go back to Miami for a few days, and would not be here for the install on March 4th. I replied RIGHT away letting them know I would not be back until March 10th, asking for an alternative date that would hopefully not be much later (do you like my use of foreshadowing?). On March 2nd, I received this:

Hi Katherine,
I hope you’re well?
Just to let you know we have had an update on an install date for your flat.
This will be on 14/04/2020 between 08:00 -13:00.
Please note this is a Fibre install and may take 5-10 working days for the increased speeds to be activated.
Have a lovely day!
Kind regards

April 14th. An entire month and 10 days after the original appointment. At this point, I was already BEYOND over the situation, and I was thankful I had only signed a three-month contract because that meant I could get out in April, as there were plenty of other reasons for me to move out aside from the Wi-Fi (both from the agency and the building tenants).

But we all know what happened at this point. I returned to London on March 10th, and on the 11th the world changed. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had tested positive for COVID-19, the NBA season had been cancelled, and flights from Europe were not welcome in the US. This was the turning point when the Coronavirus pandemic became the very real global crisis we are still dealing with.

With this news, moving was no longer an option. I kept pressing the agency for action as at this point the six-week grace period they were hiding behind had passed, but nothing. These people bathed in butter every day and every single complaint just ricocheted off of them and resulted in zero action. The contract was iron-clad, and they really didn’t care to do right by their tenants. But now I really needed to figure out the Wi-Fi situation because I could no longer run to cafes around the area or even go downstairs to work, as the cafe was closed due to COVID. I HAD to figure this out. I pressed both the agency and the billing service asking for any earlier service availability, and received this on March 31st:

Hi Katherine, 
Thanks for your query, I’m sorry to hear you have not received a response from [AGENCY] regarding this. 
Your broadband install is due to take place on the 14/04/2020 between 08:00 and 13:00. The engineer will do as much external work as possible as they are not entering premises at the moment due to COVID-19. 
After this, we will know whether the installation was completed, as we will need to wait and see if the engineer is able to complete this externally. If the engineer is not able to complete this externally, it will be placed on delay until lockdown restrictions have lifted. 
I know this is really not ideal given the current circumstances and I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you. 
Please let me know if you have any other queries regarding this matter and have a lovely day! 
Kind regards

No chance of moving it earlier and now there was no guarantee the work could be completed since the engineer couldn’t work inside my flat (and I’m at high risk of hospitalization if I get the virus due to severe respiratory issues I’ve had since I was little, so I couldn’t push it either). Fantastic. I asked if someone had actually come to the building in general and if my flat indeed needed to have any work done inside:

Hi Katherine, 
Thank you, we are keeping well. I hope you and your family are too? 
I believe the engineer did attend but it may be that they were unable to complete the work to get the wi-fi on without going inside the property. 
I am really sorry, I know this isn’t the most helpful but to get any further information from the supplier we will need the request to come from [AGENCY]. Are you able to contact them for this? 
Kind regards

The 14th came and went, and no one showed up. I e-mailed the service and got nothing other than automated responses. All the agency had to offer were automated replies about them not being at the office due to COVID.

On April 20th, the intercom for Flat 6 rings (I was in Flat 4, same floor) and someone comes upstairs, but Flat 6 was always getting deliveries so I didn’t think much of it. Also note, everyone could hear EVERYTHING in our building. Walls thin as paper. The person that came knocked on his door asking for Flat 7, but our building only went up to Flat 6. Flat 6 guy tells him there’s no such number, and the guy walks away. Flat 6 closes his door, but then decides to open back up and ask what he’s looking for, and the guy says “I’m here for an internet install.” I swear I have never moved so fast in my life. I didn’t care about COVID or the fact I was still in my PJs. I got up and swung the door open. I told the guy I was expecting a service visit since the previous week but no one came. I showed him the e-mails. He said he didn’t have a work order for my flat so he couldn’t help. I begged. I BEGGED him to please help me in any way he could. He said he was going to check the main board downstairs and if the service was active, he would help. He checked the line and it was live. He was going to help. Oh. My. God.

After about an hour and a half of work both outside and inside my flat, I had Wi-Fi. I was so thankful for the wrong flat order and the thin walls that enabled me to hear the questions that got me to get this service. As of April 20th, I had Wi-Fi and I could work and talk to family and participate in the famous Rona Zoom calls with less interruptions and with my friends actually hearing me. I was so, so happy

Until May 1st.

I didn’t realize it at first, but at some point that morning I saw my phone was on 4G. What happened? I reset the router, and I realized the “Internet” light was off. I texted the guy that did the install on the 20th and he said he had no idea what the issue was, and I had to reach out to the provider directly. At this point, I’m dealing with:

  • The agency
  • The billing service
  • The actual internet provider
  • An engineer

And no answers. Agency? MIA “due” to COVID. Billing service? Unsure. Actual internet provider? Replied:

Hi Katherine,
I have looked over your Broadband, and unfortunately the connection appears to have been cancelled, I’m unable to say whom or why the connection was cancelled, this would be something you will need to take up with [BILLING SERVICE] / [AGENCY], as we’re only the service provider.
I apologise this will not be the answer your looking, but I hope you can get the matter resolved

CANCELLED? AFTER ALL THIS TIME?! I FINALLY HAD WI-FI AND IT’S CANCELLED AFTER 10 DAYS? And then people wonder why I love to say my life is a joke. I know why now, four months later. Keep reading.

I reached out to everyone again, and then I got hit with my favorite line so far: due to GDPR, since I wasn’t the account owner I couldn’t get any information about what happened.

I was boiling. Frustration, anger, ire. No words. I had reached my limit a few times over. I’m not proud of this, but I even started punching walls. I always wondered what kind of anger management issues people had to have in order to attack an inanimate object. I found out.

I reached out to the agency for the umpteenth time guns blazing (not that I had been understanding before, trust me, I had unleashed my inner Karen a few times by now) demanding a solution. They finally replied offering me a £30 monthly credit to my rent so I could secure my own service.

I looked online and long story short, there are services I could get but the problem is that in the UK you need to have a phone line in the building in order to get broadband coverage, and our line had been cancelled. So I had to either pay out of pocket £120 for a phone install, or get on a long-term contract with a provider so that it would be covered. At this point, I knew I was leaving so there was no chance in hell I would get into a contract.

I found a hot spot that came with 15 GB of data for £50, so I told them they could credit it back to me over two months of £25 each. I was looking for flats already and I knew I would be out of there in July/August. They agreed.

Do you know how long 15 GB of data lasts you if you’re connected to it for a few hours a day? Not very long.

I survived from May until August alternating between the hot spot, my phone data, and unreliable pockets of signal from the cafe, usually after midnight when less people were connected, and my coworkers would e-mail me back telling me to go to sleep.

If you’re wondering how I kept myself busy during the weekends in the middle of a pandemic when I couldn’t really do much, well, honestly me too. While people would Netflix and Chill to their heart’s content, I had to very strategically place my phone in one of three “hot” spots I discovered around my studio that had a bit better reach of the cafe Wi-Fi, because of course I couldn’t waste data on non-work related things. I got cricks in my neck and back from having to position myself in weird spots to be able to try and zone out for a while with mind numbing entertainment. I had to build my patience as videos paused constantly and whatever I could semi-watch on YouTube was all stop and go. I honestly think I went emotionally numb so I wouldn’t punch more walls (I punched an external wall once and that one was straight cement. That was the last time I punched a wall).

While Zumba virtual classes took off, I could barely enjoy any of them as it was the patchiest signal and I just ended up in a bad mood not being able to follow along without a delay – so streaming for my own students here wasn’t even an option.

I also want to note, bad internet in London is not an anomaly. Known to affect even affect a BBC journalist.

I found a flat to move to on August 10, and I set up my internet two weeks before moving so that I wouldn’t have any issues. The activation was set for the 12th, it didn’t work initially, but the provider sent over an engineer on the 14th, and now I happily, finally, justly, incredibly have Wi-Fi, after a whopping eight months without it – and in the middle of a global pandemic no less.

After just a few days in my new flat, I realized while talking to my family that I had much better signal quality here even in 4G, so I realized that the reason why the mobile hot spot didn’t work back in February (and why all my calls in general were so horrible at my old place) was because that area/building was an actual black hole and there was a block on the signal.

As you can imagine after reading this, I wasn’t the only one living horribly at the mercy of this agency. As I mentioned earlier, my qualms with them could be entire books. Unsurprisingly, just three weeks before I had to move, a representative from a financial institution showed up and let us all know that the building owner had defaulted on mortgage payments and that they weren’t even allowed to have this letting agreement, so all contracts were invalid. The letting agency went into liquidation and they have completely disappeared off the map. With my deposit, and allegedly about £600,000 of stolen money. Hence, the legal issues I mentioned at first, which I’m now involved in as a victim. Big Yikes. This is also why the service was cancelled at the end of April – they didn’t pay the billing service.

Anyway, I have Wi-Fi now and I seriously feel like a completely different human. I genuinely am eternally grateful to my family and friends who learned somehow to understand what I was saying (or just said “aha” for eight months because they too were over it); to my coworkers for being the absolute most understanding, flexible, attentive, and caring through all of this; and most of all: to the cafe downstairs which kept me (and the rest of the building) connected right up until August 5th, when they got tired of the signal being so slow since too many people were constantly on it, and they cut the service (literally five days before I left). Thank you Manuel. I’ll never be able to repay you for your kindness.

January 14th was the last 24 hour day I had a fully functioning Wi-Fi connection (other than the 10 days in April which I look back at in anger and sadness so I don’t count them), and August 14th was a gift of the day I rejoined 2020. I recorded the moment where that light went on and symbolically things took a turn for the positive. Celebrate with me!

It’s about 45 seconds too long. I just couldn’t stop staring at that light!

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