Bunhill: School fails to connect

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The Independent Online
JACKIE McVAY is secretary at Regent Law Tutors, a new law school in Clerkenwell, London. She has one of the easier jobs in town - answering queries from potential students.

She is unfulfilled in this role, however, because she doesn't have a telephone. As Regent's first term starts in two weeks, the situation is growing desperate. 'We may have to postpone the start of the term or even close down,' Rosemary Hong, Regent's director, says. 'Only 25 people have registered so far when we should have had 150.'

Regent moved into its new building in early August. It advertised and sent out brochures, both bearing the number 071-490 0305. BT had arranged to connect the line on 18 August. No one came then, and when engineers did turn up, the phone remained dead.

Several times Ms Hong was told the problem was to do with asbestos at the exchange. BT discovered traces in 25 of its London exchanges, and some business users have not been connected on time.

BT offered to divert the calls to another number, so Regent had to employ another secretary to sit at one of the directors' homes answering inquiries. Even this worked only intermittently: for up to a week at a time, the diversion didn't work. 'A lot of people thought we had closed down and went to other colleges,' Ms Hong says.

Repeated calls to BT brought assurances that the line would be connected 'tomorrow'. BT engineers kept on turning up, poking around, and then disappearing.

'It became a standing joke with the other workmen,' Ms Hong says. Regent bought itself a portable phone from Mercury (BT could not supply one) to talk to the world.

Most frustrating, Regent was unable to find out what the problem was. We contacted BT on Friday, and discovered the reason: it doesn't know either. 'We're aware of it - it's flagged all over the system,' a helpful spokesman said. It seems it is nothing to do with the asbestos, which has all been cleared.

Meanwhile, Ms Hong hopes that enough people will be sufficiently dedicated to the pursuit of learning that they will not let a little thing like a dead phone stand in their way.

(Photograph omitted)