Toughing it out with Telstra

Why doesn't Telstra tell us when they sell us an Internet connection that they may not be able to provide reasonable access to the Internet? And why doesn't Telstra tell us that when we buy a product that they can't provide us with reasonable service?

My woes began when I purchased a Telstra Internet connection to the Big Pond only to find out that my phone line would only allow it to run at a maximum connection speed of 14K baud - that's if it actually connected or stayed connected. I live in central Melbourne and have recently moved here from overseas, needing the Net to find a job using e-mail and recruitment home pages. Now most IT people realise that 56K baud is the speed of the top of the line domestic modem and that 14K is positively stone-age.

Ah ha I hear you say, he should have called a Telstra faultman. But I did, and was told that aside from a little noise (normal), there was a ‘splitter' black box on the line which effectively ‘split' the actual wire from the exchange to be shared (split) between a number of phones in my street. The splitter does this by separating the frequencies for each subscriber and while this works fine for voice, it compresses the bandwidth so that you can wave goodbye to real speed to the Net. Can this be fixed? Nope - at least not without replacing the actual wire to my house.

My problems was that it took so long for Telstra to get a technician to my house (two weeks), that once the problem was discovered, there was nothing they were prepared, or could suggest, to do.

I then discover independently that Telstra had a cable system that they shared with Foxtel and happily my house was wired (for Foxtel). Get in quick they said as the special connection and rate expires today. I rang the service line and waited at the many voice menues till finally the sales person informed me that ‘no you can't apply over the phone - but you can by fax or using the Telstra Web page'. Now that's dandy for me who can't get to the Net at any real speed that allows me to find and use this service and I don't have a fax at home to return the forms - which are on the Net! But hell this is a phone company isn't it?

Why can't I apply over the phone like most other businesses allow? Reply to date unknown.

So I battled with Telstra beaurocracy until they at least gave me a reference so that I could fax the application in a day or two - which I did.

I waited a couple of weeks with no word from Telstra so I phoned them and was struck at once by the blank wall of corporate voice menues. Once through (many times and days) I wasn't called back as promised so I rang the corpoarate office and asked for the Big Pond sales manager, to be told that they couldn't give that name to me (privacy policy) and that I couldn't be put through unless I had a name! Hitting frustration overload, I kept climbing the corporate ladder until finally a manager I did get to speak to, traced my application and had it processed. But not without further delays and more follow-up calls by me to find out the status.

To underline my conviction in [Telstra's] incompetence, the day they connected the cable connection, the cable server was down and I still couldn't get to the Net! The installation tech muttered darkly that he had already installed three that morning and the home pages had changed every time so that his job of downloading the final bit was much more difficult. Why were Telstra techs changing the home Web page during the day?

The major question remains then - how many people realise that when they buy an Internet connection there is a good chance that they won't get reasonable access to the Net at all. But then I guess Telstra is committed to looking after the bush telegraph!

Howard Thomas


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More about Big PondBlack Box Network ServicesFoxtelHoward ThomasIT PeopleTelstra Corporation

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