I've been relatively lucky with contractors. I only use people who are recommended by friends or colleagues. (My house is about 90 years old, and is one of the newest in the street.) I try and have all the work done in the university vacation, so that I'm at home and can make the craftsmen lots of tea, listen to their life stories etc. I'm in hopes that this makes them feel reasonably friendly about the job. It also means that they know that I know when they've been absent.
Steve: why don't you charge rent to those naughty people who have installed unexpected thingies on your property, without your permission? A free connection seems like the least they could do. I'd hold out for more.
My daughter, who works for British Telecom, tells me that they pay rent to people who have telephone poles on their land, provided that the people actually ask for it.