Hello, how can we not help you?

I’d like to relate my experience trying to upgrade from a Bigpond Turbo modem to one of the new 4G ones. I have to vent my frustration, it really was so bad.

I call 13 7663 and say to the robot woman, “new modem” and confirm I’m calling from the phone connected to the account. I spend a lot of time on hold (oh well. Speaker phones are awesome…) and the rep answers. “Welcome to Telstra, this is John.” “Hi, I’d like to upgrade my modem…” He says, “Hello? Welcome to Telstra, this is John.” More silence. Then he hangs up.

Grr. Must be a bad line. I ring back, spend more time on hold. Rep answers, same thing. Can’t hear me. Odd. Because I was bored and had time to kill, I rang again. SAME thing. Wha?!?!

I ring once more and this time I say “Sales” and say “No” to the “is this the phone you’re calling about” question. Rep answers, and hey, he can hear me this time. (I guess they don’t like taking calls about new modems from existing customers) “I’d like to upgrade to 4G.” “Ok”. Confirms my DOB etc… “Yes, the 4G wireless modem.” “No, not the wireless hub” “Yes, I know it’s wireless. I have a wireless account already.” (Under my breath – you have that information on your screen. #%@!! Sigh.)

Everything goes smoothly until he confirms the delivery address. “I’d like it delivered to my work, here’s the address”. “Oh… umm.”, he says. “That address isn’t linked to any of your accounts” “I know that, I just want the new modem delivered there.” “Sorry, I can’t do that”. AND HE HANGS UP ON ME. I know he hung up and the call didn’t drop out because the robot woman came back on and asks me to rate the call. Sure I rated the call. The score wasn’t high. :-/

Exasperated, I call again. I get to the stage, “I want to upgrade to 4G.” “You’ll have to pay a $17 cancellation fee”. “Why? It’s out of contract”. “That’s what the computer says. I can’t help you.”. At this stage I gave up. I said “ok, thanks” and hung up.

I’ve been a Telstra customer for years. Heck, I’ve worked for Telstra. Never in my life have I suffered such appallingly horrid customer service. How hard should it be for an existing customer to call and say, “hey, your stuff is so good I want to give you my money for another 24 months?!”.

With Bigpond, very.

Nokia: Let’s do the time warp again

One of these three is not like the others

All three of these phones are in Perth, Western Australia, are on the Telstra network and are set to automatically update their time from the network. The brand-new Nokia E52 in the middle is an hour ahead. How do you fix it?
Continue reading “Nokia: Let’s do the time warp again”

Why can’t I get ADSL2…?

Over the last week, I’ve been investigating ADSL2 ISPs. The lure of a 1Mbit upload rate is just too good to ignore.

Upgrading would mean changing my static IP address from my ADSL provider (who don’t offer ADSL2 at my exchange, and likely won’t for a long time), which I can handle. The one thing I have a problem is the excessive amount of time I’ll be without ADSL of any sort while Telstra change my ADSL from their equipment to my new ADSL2 provider’s.

While on Telstra’s ADSL hardware, I can change ISPs with a phone call and a few hours’ wait while my account is swapped over – I just put in the new password and away I go. Apparently, if I want to change from Telstra’s ADSL hardware (which most ISPs wholesale) to another ISP’s hardware, this isn’t so simple. I’m forced to disconnect my ADSL completely, and wait two weeks while Telstra change my line over. I’m told there is no way around this!

Why this inconvenience? I think Telstra worried this delay is the only thing stopping customers from jumping ship from their ADSL through them and their resellers on to competing infrastructure.

Until Telstra, the ISP industry, or both get their act together, a lot of us are going to be stuck on ADSL1 for a very long time.

The great Telstra ADSL conspiracy?

The social and economic benefits of faster Internet access in this country is being hampered by one company – the one and only – Telstra.

Telstra would have us believe that they would love to offer their customers ADSL2 but there’s no way they’re going to have the ACCC tell them how to sell it. It seems, if they release ADSL2, it’s going to be at their leisure and on strictly their terms. Their terms are simple – allow us to build a FTTN (Fibre to the Node) network, and allow us complete, unrestricted, exclusive access to it.

The slight fly in the ointment with this plan is that it would disconnect current copper lines from customer premises that terminate in telephone exchange buildings (where Telstra and 3rd party equipment sits), to a FTTN node cabinet on the side of the road that is 100% Telstra only. Unsurprisingly, The ACCC saw Telstra’s attempt at re-monopolising the CAN (Customer Access Network), as exactly that and denied Telstra exclusive access to FTTN.

The way I see it, having failed at the government approach, Telstra is trying trying politics.
Step 1) Limit ADSL availability and/or artificially limit the maximum transfer speed

Telstra is worried about ADSL2+ (running up to 20Mbit) eroding into their expensive and highly profitable ISDN and Frame relay business data services. Telstra don’t want businesses to drop their thousand-dollar a month FR connections for a $59.95 ADSL connection that is similar in speed. Protecting profit I suppose is fair enough, the problem is that they’re holding their residential and wholesale customers to ransom over it.
On the residential side, users are becoming sick to death of 1.5Mbit/256k – the highest residential plan Telstra offers. Some people can’t get ADSL at all, forcing them to stay with antiquated dial-up or adopt hideously expensive ISDN or Satellite connections.
Step 2) Customers get grumpy and start lobbying their local federal MP about broadband in their area

Having failed in the “direct approach” with the government, Telstra actually employs the unwitting assistance from their customers. Broadband becomes a political issue.

Step 3) Telstra reminds government that they have a grand plan to fix the problem, if only the government will relax the law and allow them exclusive access to the new network

We can fix this, says Telstra, just allow us to build that exclusive access FTTN that you denied us.

Step 4) Government agrees, Telstra builds their FTTN network

Bowing to political pressure to win votes, Government relents and lets Telstra build their FTTN, no strings attached.

Step 5) Starved of customers, other ISPs and Telcos start to die off

A glaring problem with FTTN starts to rear its ugly head. With all residential customers disconnected from exchanges and connected to FTTN nodes, 3rd party exchange equipment (such as ADSL2 DSLAMs) sit idly by in exchanges with nothing connected to them. No customers means no revenue.

Step 6) Telstra completely controls residential communications and the 15 year experiment in telecommunications competition ends.

Telstra once again has a monopoly stranglehold on the residential telecommunications market. (Optional extra – Telstra renames its residential division Telecom Australia)

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Telstra are actually pretty good at building networks, theirs is far and away the largest in the country. Telstra could leverage that experience could remain a profitable company by making the best of it – i.e. wholesaling everything it retails – and implementing true operational separation by making their retail division buy access from the wholesale division at market rates. Let the market completely decide pricing and the ACCC won’t have to get involved.

Telstra should not be holding back country areas from true competition “just in case” those areas actually become profitable some day. Sell local councils or business consortiums the existing infrastructure and let them maintain it in country areas where Telstra clearly has no interest.
Telstra bemoans the “excessive regulation” they suffer, but they don’t realise they have an active part in it. If Telstra refuses to play fairly in the market (with due consideration to their huge size and high entry and capital cost in the industry) then they are asking for everything the government and ACCC dishes out.