I've just got back from a friend's house. She's moved her home broadband to Sky.

Last week it stopped working. She called tech support, who asked her what lights were on on the front of the router (a good old NetGear DG834-series ADSL router). Because the router was clearly powered up (the power light was green) but the ADSL light wasn't on, they said it could be a line fault and escalated the problem. Fine so far.

Sky asked BT to check the line, and they did. According to them it was fine. My friend called Sky, and they told her this. They said they'd investigate further, and to call back today (Saturday).

She called me and asked if I'd mind having a look. So I went round this morning, and so I did. Sure enough, the ADSL light was off. "Ah", I thought; "I'll have a look in the diagnostics". So I tried ... but no connection. A quick check showed that the router had stopped talking to the PC, or even DHCPing it an address. And the router was making a weird whining noise, too. Just to check, I plugged my spare DG834 into the ADSL socket and it happily told me that yes, there was a 288Kbit/sec service there. Number one suspect, then, is the router.

So I phoned them up.

Person number one was one of those guys who's polite but clearly treats everyone like they know nothing. He insisted that because the call had now been escalated to third-line support, he couldn't do anything. I pointed out that Sky, BT and I all agreed that the line was OK, and that the obvious next step was to test the router. Seems that only the third-line support guys could go through that with me. And that I couldn't call them, they'd call me. Sometime before Friday next week.

I gave up trying with this guy and rang again. A very helpful woman acknowledged that it was a bit of a silly situation, and said she'd put me through to the right person who could go through the router check with me. Instead, she put me through to a recorded message which said: "Sorry, this number is no longer in use; please redial blah blah". Redialling blah blah put me in touch with ... the same people I'd just been talking to.

Attempt three put me in contact with a cheerful Irish-sounding chap, who explained that he couldn't do anything because it was in the third-line support people's pile now. I pointed out that the line was fine, that I couldn't even ping the router from the PC, and that the router wasn't even giving the PC its address. Apparently the latter was because it couldn't connect to the ADSL - it's the BT/Sky end of the ADSL connection that allocates the router its address. No shit, Sherlock, but we're not talking about the router's address. Finally he twigged what I meant, so he asked me to run up a CMD window and try pinging the router. Surprise, surprise, it didn't work (and if he'd asked me to do an IPCONFIG he'd have known that the DHCP request had failed anyway).

Finally I heard the phrase I was looking for: "Can you read out the serial number and MAC address of the router, and I'll send you a new one". And I'm sure his tongue was in his cheek when he added: "It'll probably get to you about the time the third-line support people phone you back".

A while ago I had lunch with Mick Hegarty, BT's head of broadband products. I was moaning about this concept of putting relatively unskilled people on first-line support, and he told me they were looking to do away with it, as most calls ended up at the second-line guys (i.e. the ones with some expertise) anyway. Sky could do with trying something similar.

I'm getting sick and tired of crap broadband. This is my first bad experience with Sky - which is unfortunate since so far it's my only experience with them. One of my clients has a couple of home users who were using another vendor's broadband (no names mentioned, but it starts with T and ends in "iscali"). Their IP phones were frequently losing contact with the phone system in the office. We've switched them to BT, and the problem has gone away in both cases.

In a recent survey, the BBC "Watchdog" programme looked at customer experiences with a range of broadband suppliers. BT came top on everything but price.

I have BT Business Broadband in my office. It costs me more than the competition, and my other half (who doubles as my finance director) moans about this from time to time. Importantly, though, it works.

When it started working erratically a couple of years back, the engineer believed me immediately, went and checked in the box in the street, and found a dodgy connection.

When a client's BT broadband stopped working, their call-centre techie believed me and put me through to someone else who went away, got a router, tried using it with the client's login details, had the same "password incorrect" problem as me, discovered that their authentication database had corrupted our record for some reason, fixed it, and called me back to say: "Try it now". Within 90 minutes.

You get what you pay for.