Diary of an internet outage

Health warning: not to be read by people with high blood pressure! (Or other editors – there exists mixed tense throughout this post, but I am beyond caring this morning. I am sure you will understand why should you choose to read this monologue.)

Saturday 23 February 2013

My business internet, in a company name and connected to commercial premises, stops working at 12.23pm – just as I am trying to do my corporate tax return. Gee, thanks Telstra!

Monday 25 February 2103

On my first call to Telstra, around 7.45am, a young lady told me that yes, my connection had gone out at 12.23pm on the previous Saturday. She also told me that my internet connection would be fixed by 7pm the following evening. She gave me a guarantee – yes, she used that word – and a case number, with the words ‘our guarantee to you is that it will be fixed by 7pm tomorrow evening’. Yay! Only two business days without internet – challenging, but we can cope.

Wednesday 27 February

I arrived at the office to find that the internet still wasn’t working. My next two phone calls diverted to Telstra call centres in the Philippines.

The first fellow couldn’t tell me anything, except he talked about how he would have to reset my modem (didn’t know how he could do that from his end), and asked me to turn it off and back on again (ah, that’s how!). As if I hadn’t already tried that one – several times! Then he rabbitted on about going in the ‘back end’ and someone from the ‘back end’ would have to have a look. Then he gave me a 1300 number to talk to someone in the ‘back end’.

I rang the 1300 number and connected with a female in the Philippines. Yay. She at least seemed to take some details and said she would call back and let us know when the technician would be out to fix it. She rang back within half an hour to say that the next technician was due out on Monday 4 March. WHAT?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!

That evening I went home and looked at my business broadband usage for the month (luckily I still have a good connection at home!). It had flatlined on 23 February and there has been nothing since. While on the Telstra site I found their customer service charter and a form to lodge a complaint, so I did. Their complaints page states that someone will be in touch within 48 hours – not counting an auto responder to let me know my complaint had been received. It took five days before I as much as received an emailed response with a complaint number.

Monday 4 March 2013

On the morning of 4 March I started to panic. What if the technician came again and didn’t fix it? How would I know? What would I do? So around 7am I rang Telstra’s advertised 24/7 number for business faults, knowing that if I rang this early in the day, I would probably get through to their Townsville call centre. After pressing all the right buttons, I got a voice message saying that they didn’t open until 8am and please call back then. WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I rang again at 7.45am – just to make sure – and connected with a fellow who assured me that the technician was due out that day and yes, I was on the list to be fixed by 7pm that evening.

By 4pm it still hadn’t been fixed and I was getting close to panic stations again. If the technician was really coming out today, wouldn’t he have been here by now? Surely the 7pm is just an ‘at worst’ time. So I rang the business faults number again, got diverted to an overseas call centre again, and the girl on the end of the phone told me that ‘yes, there is a technician coming out and he will confirm for you that there is no fault on the Telstra line’. WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! So I repeated it back to her and she said ‘yes, that’s right, he’ll confirm that there is nothing wrong with the Telstra line’. I asked her what would happen if he did find a fault in the line, and she said ‘well, he’ll fix it then confirm that there is no fault in the Telstra line’. Nothing like a well-phrased script for your call centre staff to help them get the job done.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

I arrived at the office and – you guessed it – the internet was still out. Surprise, surprise, the technician hadn’t fixed it.

So I rang the business faults line again at 7.45am and spoke to another fellow in Townsville who spent a good 45-50 minutes on the phone with me. We tried various things – unplugging the phone, the EFTPOS machine etc, testing the line this way, that way, and still it was dead. Good for phone and EFTPOS, but not working for internet.

Eventually he said he would have to escalate it, but still didn’t know how long it would take to be fixed. But he would escalate it. I had told him at the outset and repeated again that if it wasn’t fixed, I would be contacting the Telecommunications Ombudsman as this was beyond ridiculous. He said he understood.

He also mentioned that the technicians were thin on the ground due to all the floods in northern NSW and Queensland. Funny, I wasn’t told that last week when I was guaranteed my service would be fixed in less than 48 hours.

At 10am, my nerves got the better of me and I rang a fellow I barely know who happens to live locally and be a senior manager at Telstra. He had added me as a social media connection some time ago, so I figured – more fool you, love. He was brilliant – took my complaint seriously, took my reference numbers and said he would make some calls.

A bit later that day I texted him, just to let him know we were still out of commission and he said he was trying to find out what was happening. He rang me back again around 5-ish to say that he had escalated it and to sit tight and he’d be back to me the next day.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

I brought an unused, six month old Telstra modem in from home and plugged it in, just to satisfy myself that my modem wasn’t the problem. Telstra modem couldn’t get a connection, either.

Sorry Telstra, it’s you, not me.

Later in the day, I texted my new best friend, the local Telstra manager, just to let him know we were still incommunicado. He rang back to say that he thought it should have been fixed by now. After all, he had a report that a case had been closed at our local exchange at 3pm that day. Was I sure it still wasn’t working? You bet I was sure! He asked me to leave it with him to investigate.

I realised afterwards that the case which had been closed was a possible outage case advertised on the Bigpond website that was scheduled to be closed at 3pm that day – I’d noticed it when I started checking the local area connection status reports when my connection first went down. However, that outage started after I lost my connection.

At 5.30pm I received a call from a lovely man in Telstra’s complaints department in Melbourne – as a result of my new best friend’s work. He told me to go out and buy a mobile/wireless dongle – any brand – to get us through until our connection was restored. And send Telstra the bill for reimbursement. Gee, thanks – but that’s not the only bill I’m planning on sending you, though!

This fellow also let me have his phone number and email address, and told me to feel free to call or email anytime. Sucker!! Gonna make use of that one if this isn’t fixed soon!

He also told me that it had been escalated and that there should be a technician out to fix it within the next 72 hours. Great! Only have to get through Thursday and Friday at the worst and it should be fixed by 7pm Saturday at the latest, if not before. He did say ‘within the next 72 hours’ after all, didn’t he? Even if he did say ‘possibly on Saturday’.

He also mentioned the fact that technicians were thin on the ground due to the floods up north. Funny how he know that but no one in the Philippines knew it and the first lady I spoke to, Monday last week, who happened to be located in Townsville, made no mention of it.

Thursday 7 March 2013

For the first time in a week my stomach isn’t hurting as much as it has been. Stress is an evil task master.

I took my laptop in with plans to get my dongle ASAP. If you were watching me, you might even have detected a slight spring in my step. Oh happy days!

On my way to the office, around 7.25am, I received a text from my new best friend (the local Telstra manager) to say that he’d left something for me at the local service station and he’d be in touch to tell me how to use it when he got into town. We’re like that up here – you can leave something at one business for another and we look after each other. The way businesses should.

This lovely man had left me a Telstra wireless modem with an aerial, just in case. I took it into the office and plugged it in and it seemed to work – except that I have a desktop server and networked PCs, none of which have wireless access. I rang my offsider and reminded her to bring in her laptop. Voila! With laptops we had internet access!! Except with laptops, we couldn’t access our client files directly on our server, so everything had to be done via USB between one computer and the other. But at least we could get some work done!

However, the password we have had to use for this wireless modem suggests to me that this Telstra manager has lent me his personal wireless modem. Surely not? Surely Telstra’s customer service plan doesn’t resort to Telstra employees having to lend their own personal equipment to disgruntled customers?

Friday 8 March 2013

Well, internet access helps, but work procedures are still really slow. We can’t access our work emails via the wireless modem since Thursday morning as our website/webmail host seems to detect it as a hack attack. So we’re back to after hours checking of business emails.

But as the day wears on and I realise that the ‘72 hours’ is ticking wildly away, my thoughts turn again to the terror of ‘what if we’re not fixed this time?’ So around 2pm I try to call my other new best friend in the complaints section in Melbourne, just to be reassured that yes, it’s going to happen, you can relax now. You can trust us. Funny, my call went through to his voicemail. I left a message asking him to call me back before 5pm. Around 4pm I couldn’t wait any longer and I rang him again. Voicemail again. I told him it was me again and I would email him.

So, at 4.30pm I sent him an email (from my personal Gmail account which I CAN access via this borrowed wireless modem – thankfully) telling him that I wasn’t convinced that we would be fixed by Saturday evening. And that while I appreciated that my other new best friend had worked hard to solve this issue for me, I couldn’t go on like this. That if I arrived at the office on Monday afternoon (we have a site visit in the morning) and it still wasn’t fixed, I would be reporting it to the Telecommunications Ombudsman. Sorry, thanks for your help, but …

Saturday 8 March 2013

I logged onto my personal email this morning and there is a message from my now ex-new best friend in the Melbourne complaints department, saying, ‘I apologise I was not able to speak to you when you called. I have not got any update about a technician getting assigned to the fault.’ WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Am in tears and the pain in my stomach is back – with a vengeance. I ring iiNET and speak with a lovely girl there who tells me that while they’d love to help, their service would have to go through the Telstra exchange as they don’t have their own cabling where we are and if she did connect us wirelessly (I think) we’d be too far away to get a decent signal. And that she could sell us a plan, but that wouldn’t be honest because they couldn’t live up to their guarantee to provide what I purchased.

Gee, a company being honest – at the expense of income. HOW ABOUT THAT, TELSTRA?!

I don’t know what to do next. There is no point in changing providers because they all have to run through our local Telstra exchange. I have a friend with a different provider and a similar problem to me, and her ISP has told her they’ve done all they can and she has to take it up with Telstra herself. If they’re not helping me – a Tesltra customer for more than 30 years – then why the hell should they help her when she’s not even their customer? So no, I am not going to put a third party between me and Telstra – that’s daft as far as business sense goes.

We are due back in the office on Monday afternoon, 11 March, and if my internet is not up, then the Telecommunications Ombudsman is going to get a call. After that, who knows?

I have often said that if the apocalypse comes, it will not be a natural disaster, but the collapse of the internet. After this last fortnight, I have enough material to understand how that could bring the world to its knees. It truly doesn’t warrant thinking about.

Monday 11 March 2013

This morning we were out at Liverpool Girls’ High School giving a presentation to their Year 7 girls on topics from our book The High School Survival Guide, which was a welcome respite from being in the office and dealing with the whole no-internet thing.

We came back to the office this afternoon, via Vodafone, where we signed up for a Pocket Wi-Fi modem on a 30 day trial. All high spirited – we will switch to wireless and run the office that way! Alas, it’s going to take a lot more work than just plugging it in. A call to our tech guy suggests that, due to the type of work we do, wireless will not do it for us – the speeds will be too slow. Also, because we have a cable office with a networked printer etc, our whole configuration will need to be re-done to integrate the wireless wi-fi into our system, and knowing what he does of how we work here, we will regret it. His advice is to to hang on and keep pushing to get our ADSL repaired. Sadly, I know that deep down he is right. Nice to have an honest supplier – one who could easily have charged us a small fortune to reconfigure our system even though he knew it wouldn’t be in our best interests.

At 3.29pm I get a text from Telstra ‘rescheduling’ my ‘job’ to 25 March by 7pm – another two weeks away. WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I went home and used the F-word on Facebook – a first for me. AND I used capital letters!

Tuesday 12 March 2013

So over this I am almost calm. I start the day by lodging a complaint with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. I also send a copy to the fellow in the Complaints department down in Melbourne. No response is received. Funny that.

Later in the morning, my associate/colleague/fellow businessman Wayne Maber who runs an accounting and taxation service in the other half of our office, starts ringing Telstra and working his way up through the food chain to the CEO’s office. He starts extracting promises from senior staff to look into it, telling them that it has gone on for long enough. As the day wears on, the first call he expects to be returned in five minutes takes two hours. There seems to be an agreement to fix it by close of business, and so Wayne says he will call back at 4pm to see what’s happening. At 3.50pm he receives a call! No technicians can be assigned to the job – the Service Delivery Manager for NSW (the person in charge of scheduling technicians) doesn’t have anyone available.

‘Funny that,’ says Wayne, ‘then how do you explain the two Telstra workers digging up at the bottom of our street this morning?’

Around 5.45pm, a Complaints Liaison Officer from the CEO’s office rang Wayne and explained that he ‘did not have any good news’ and then offered a wi-fi connection as a solution. Wayne politely explained a $50 wi-fi solution would not help as we’ve already explored that option, and the cost to to our businesses was many times this amount EACH DAY.

Wayne told him he would call him back at midday today in the expectation of ‘good news’.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Started the morning by sending story suggestions to A Current Affair, Today Tonight and 7.30 Report. Let’s hope one of them is about due for a telco-bashing story!!

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