Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Telstra Ad Nauseam

Ah, the fun of it all.

Must have touched a nerve, though. Thank you for the notes and kind words, one and all.

In the short term. Things Have Happened. The local techie dropped by, checked the line, and threw his hands in the air. "Hit by lightning," he said. Apparently, hit by lightning so often he couldn't even begin to figure out how to repair it. So they called in a full crew.

The full crew were prompt. They came. They checked the line. They threw their hands in the air. "Hit by lightning," they said. "Hit so often that we absolutely cannot repair this cable. And so, we will place a Temporary Cable into the system so that the phone is Restored."

This they did. It took 'em a day and a half or so, and it must have been genuinely hard work. There were two vans, a small flatbed and a digger down the bottom of our property this afternoon, and when I drove to Scottsdale, I saw... well, I'm not sure how much, but it was a hell of a lot of cable strung along the cutaway clay banks by the highway, and through the trees parallelling the road. Does the "temporary cable" go all the way to the exchange? I don't know. I didn't see any signs of it down by the exchange itself, but there was a suspicious loop of black, snaky stuff on the fence down close to the Brid River... again.

The techs were cool. They always are. I've had more Telstra techs through my house in the last ten years than I can actually count, and they're always friendly, likable, competent people. I stopped by the bottom of the property after the shopping today to check whether they were right for tea, coffee, toilets, etc - because yeah, I  do appreciate the work, and there's no public amenities down there.

Anyway, once it was up, one of the techs dropped by to see if the phone was working. It was, so we had a bit of a laugh. He told me that the lines are so old that they're actually a lead/copper pair, wrapped in PAPER insulation, of all things. I didn't know lead was ever used in telecom lines, to tell the truth. And... paper? Really? This place gets more lightning strikes than anywhere I've ever lived, including tropical North Queensland, and we get rain. Oh, my, we do get rain. And paper doesn't work well with water. Nor does it like intense heat. I suppose the lead/copper/paper stuff was state-of-the-art when it went in, but you have to wonder when that actually was.

Once the phone was up again, I decided to brave it, and call BigPond. Turns out that our 12gb monthly plan has been superseded. You can't even sign on for that any more. Now it's a 15gb plan for the same fee. I figured maybe if I asked nicely, they could upgrade us.

Guess what? The first bloke I talked to (spoke clear Australian English! But that's BigPond Internet, I suppose. Not strictly Telstra/phone) said he couldn't find us in the new system. Not even with names, dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers and bill numbers. So he put me through to what he called "the old system". And there, I got a nice lady with a strong Indian accent. And in short order, she took my details... and then told me, yet again, that there's nothing on their system authorising me to handle this account.


Well, I was expecting it, so I handed the phone to Natalie. She was pretty pissed off, but when I explained it was Telstra, she sighed, and accepted the handset. After a few minutes, she took it upstairs.

Half an hour later, she came down and said: "Well, they can't find our records at all. But now their system has gone down. She'll call us back."

Three or four hours later, I called again. System was still down.

Makes you wonder how they manage to send bills to our address, doesn't it?

Well, at that point I took the advice I'd been given by a good many people. I opened my (now shaped to 64k) Internet connection, and lodged a complaint with the TIO.

I'm starting small. All I'm asking is that Telstra gets its fucking records straight. Nat and I have a landline, in her name, which I am supposed to be authorised to handle.  We have a NextG BigPond account which I created, bundled to her iPhone mobile account, which I am supposed to be authorised to handle. Then, obviously, there's her iPhone moblie account, to which apparently I have to have access in order to be able to access the bundled BigPond account. And then there's my piddly little prepaid mobile account.

And that's it. For now, I just want the right to contact Telstra and ask about those accounts, and NOT be told that I have no authority to deal with them. Nat and I have been together since 1992, married since... er... '95, I think. We've kept all the bills and accounts in joint names since the outset, because it makes sense, and it's easier. Telstra is the only goddam organisation for whom this has ever presented any kind of difficulty. Everybody else gets the instructions and the authorisations, puts 'em in their records, and after that it's all clear sailing.

So that's step one. Nat felt that was a small problem with which to bug the TIO, but I think otherwise. I think that if Telstra straightens out their records, it will do two things. First, it will stop the phantom bills arriving. (Did I mention we got a bill a couple weeks back? About $20. Our names, our address. No phone number cited. No account cited. When Nat rang Telstra, the lass on the other end insisted she couldn't find any record whatsoever of the bill in question. Natalie is now waiting to see if we get an overdue notice on that one.)

The second thing that straightening the records and the authorisations will do is to make future communications simpler. I do NOT want to have to hand Natalie the phone every time some change needs to be made. More: she really, really doesn't like sitting around, waiting for operators to become free. She WANTS me to be the one doing that, and much as I dislike it, better my time than hers. Therefore: if the TIO can prompt Telstra to get its bullshit recordkeeping in order, that alone will be a useful step forward.

I hope.

We'll see how it goes. Meanwhile, I'll call BigPond again tomorrow. Hopefully their system will be up again, and I can once more try to start the wearisome process of upgrading for those sweet, sweet 3gb extra per month. Of course, Natalie will be at the office tomorrow, not here - so when they tell me I'm not authorised to discuss the account, I'm probably going to lose my temper and say something sensible...