Digbeth businesses in Birmingham have been left counting the cost after a week without telecommunications left them at a near standstill.
It is still unclear how many businesses lost their telephone, fax and internet lines last week but the problem appears to have centred around Fazeley Street where a cluster of firms was left incommunicado due to water eroding cables in a nearby BT box.
This was compounded when 50 or so extra faults were found, following the replacement of a cable, a BT spokesman said.
A BT engineer told one of the firms, Teamworks Karting, that 500 lines had been affected.
Teamworks lost the first of its lines on Saturday, March 12 and by the end of the week it had faced days without its key channels of communication.
"We have lost at least a quarter of the month's revenue," predicted Simone Schehtman, a Teamworks director.
With the first sunny days of the year, March is traditionally her busiest time, but the phones were silent.
"When asked about what was going on and when it would be repaired we were told a concoction of answers - the reasons changed every time."
She was also critical of what she felt had been a lack of urgency over the problem. A BT engineer called in on the premises on Friday, two days after she was told he would arrive.
At one point in the week, she was receiving faxes addressed to a neighbouring businessman after she believes his fax line was wrongly reconnected to her business.
By Friday afternoon, her internet line was back up, but the others were still down.
Another business owner, who did not wish to be named, at The Bond on Fazeley Street, said that he too had been without phones all week and feared that the end of the month would bring a " skyhigh" mobile phone bill.
"Using the mobile is going to cost one hell of a lot more," he said, adding that due to the nature of his business he had to call abroad regularly.
But perhaps nearby service and accident repair centre, Smith & Lloyd, was the hardest hit.
According to joint managing director, Peter McNaughton, it lost its first telephone line on March 7, and went on to lose two more telephone lines, a fax line, its internet line, its credit card machine line and "most frighteningly" its direct alarm line to the police. His business relies on being fed accident details through the internet; it then replies with a quote for repair of the damage.
Without the internet his level of business plummeted.
"We've been non-functional for the week," he said. "I just don't know how many jobs we've missed. And there is a risk that we could have had a black mark put against our name as we haven't been taking jobs."
After failing to get a response with which he was happy from BT's customer support lines - and, he says, being deliberately cut off by one BT employee - he eventually went to BT's office on Brindleyplace to plea for help. But it still took until last Thursday evening for service to be restored.
The BT spokesman said its engineers were working around the clock to sort out the problem. She added it was by no means a typical fault, and the companies might be able to claim for financial loss.