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Defunct comms link connected to nothing at a fire station – for 15 years

Realization they'd burned money for ages led to smoldering solution rather than angry conflagration

Who, Me? Welcome once again, dear reader, to Who, Me? – The Reg's weekly attempt to soften your re-entry into the harsh reality of the working week with tales of workplace mirth.

This week, we once again meet "Bernard", who in times past found himself working for "a rural local authority in Middle England" – which sounds like he was either working with Chaucer or Hobbits. Since he was doing network support, we think some other explanation more likely.

At some point, Bernard's bailiwick was extended to include telephony support, which had previously been the responsibility of the building support team.

That go-getting group had taken a firm "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude – unless something was on fire, they left it alone.

Now, we've all been in places like that. Everything seems to be working fine, so we don't necessarily wonder what it all does. People come and go, and gradually the institutional knowledge of each box's function fades into legend.

Bernard, however, was a go-getter who wanted to get a handle on what everything was and did. He discovered, unsurprisingly, that there were a number of "left-over remnants of outdated and abandoned systems" as well as PWs – "private wires" for sometimes obscure purposes.

He also learned that all of these services were being billed on the regular, and that had to change.

Tracking most of the services was fairly straightforward, and led to numerous iterations of "Oh that phone number was for XXX service years ago. We don't do that now" from various managers. There were also tense meetings with the account manager from the provider, who wasn't keen to stop the rivers of free money – and certainly not to provide refunds.

When Bernard got to the very last of the unaccounted PWs, he discovered from its prefix that it was related to a fire service. He tracked the other end to the Town Hall, where it was "jumpered to something, somewhere unidentifiable."

But did that stop Bernard? Clearly you don't know him. He eventually tracked down an unconnected end at the local fire station that seemed a likely candidate. But the firefighters denied any knowledge of it – except one. The longest-serving fireman at the station, a veteran we'll call "Greg," remembered: they used to have such dedicated private lines, but "we stopped doing that and the lines were taken out 15 years ago!"

Fifteen years. Bernard and the telco provider agreed between them that this was a bit much. There had clearly been negligence on both sides, so a refund for seven and a half years worth of the service was forthcoming. Which just goes to show that sometimes it's worth fixing something that ain't broke.

Has that mysterious PC labelled "NEVER SWITCH OFF" in your office ever proved to be less important than everyone thought? Tell us all about it in an email to Who, Me? and we'll share your story with the world. ®

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