Warning: this story of waiting patiently contains very little patience and a lot of waiting and frustration
So recently, dear reader, your friendly What The Tech Editor finished building a new house. Funnily enough, the process of building a house was relatively smooth and enjoyable. Lots of parts had to come together right (within tolerance at least) for the place not to fall over in a heap. Concrete, bricks, woodwork, steel, plaster, paint…you get the idea. But I wanted internet at my new house. Big mistake. It was an exercise in frustration, incredulity and a lot of wasted time.
At least I learned a few things along the way. The most important lesson is that giving customers the internet in Australia just doesn’t appear to be a priority to the big corporations that own the infrastructure.
I’m telling you that there’s no cable
It all started one fine July afternoon. The days were getting longer and the house was nearly done. Things were looking up. So many things to look forward to. I called my Internet Service Provider (ISP) to arrange a relocation of my existing service. That was fine. My ISP has a good reputation for getting things done well and quickly. I told them that I had built a new house and they assured me things would be fine and good to go soon.
In fact they did things so well that the connection was “activated” in less than a week. Except I asked the question how I was supposed to connect when there was no cable from the street to the house. It was brand new after all, and the builders didn’t actually do telecommunications connections.
Cue the ISP actually sending someone out to determine why the activation was not working. I kid you not. I stood there on the footpath while their technician said: “I see the problem. There’s no cable”. I said as much over the phone, though in fairness, it’s probably right for my ISP to document issues for themselves. At this point, I’d moved in to the house for three weeks. Just waiting patiently…
Melbourne is in…Queensland?
One of the most surprising things about this experience is learning how many layers of technicians and contractors operate in Telstra’s orbit. Because my area wasn’t scheduled for NBN until
July October December 2018 January-March 2019, I had to go back to ADSL. Which is fine; it’s a perfectly cromulant technology for 2018.
The infrastructure is owned by Telstra. So a Telstra technician came out and terminated a cable to my house inside a little box. That was done pretty quickly. But then I was told that Telstra’s guy couldn’t run that cable the rest of the way to the communications put outside my house. Why they couldn’t schedule the whole job in one go is beyond the understanding of this mere mortal. This was a ten metre cable. In the words of Clarkson et al, how hard can it be?
I received a call from Telstra telling me that my job had been assigned to a contractor and that I would get a quote to determine how much it would cost to run the cable. About a week later Contractor One called me and was told that it had been given my work, and that they would be looking after me. Some days later, a quote arrived in my email from them. Except it wasn’t for my address. And the company’s own email signature said that it was located along St Kilda Rd in Melbourne, Queensland, 3004.
I called Contractor One to find out where my quote was, only to be told that I had to wait for another few days for the correct quote to be provided to me (a piddly PDF, mind you). Even though they told me over the phone how much it was supposed to be. I informed them of their little spatial challenge, which had apparently been going on for six months. See, you can’t say we’re not helpful here at What The Tech.
My confidence in getting internet in a timely fashion was getting pretty low by this point.
It’s in, but it’s not working
The correct quote did arrive, eventually, and I paid up. By this point, it had been six weeks of waiting patiently. I was then told that Contractor One had assigned my job to, I kid you not, the much smaller Contractor Two. I then spent another couple of weeks waiting for the work to actually be done.
I celebrated when the footpath outside my house developed a new cut line, evidence that the line had gone in. I called my ISP, who said they had to wait to get confirmation from the contractors. Paperwork’s annoying isn’t it? It took another week to have the paperwork float up the various levels on contractors. A week!
My ISP confirmed the completion of my cabling. This was good! They assured me that it should now work and asked me to test the connection. No signal. You can imagine my frustration at this point. It was meant to be smooth sailing.
It turns out that when everything was being connected, they forgot to finish the job on the other side of the communications pit. I mean, this is pretty much Homer Simpson D’oh! territory right there.
Finally, after waiting patiently for three and a half months, I had working internet. And this isn’t even the longest time I’ve heard about. When shopping for a new router, a customer service rep at one of our biggest retailers told me of his friend’s eleven month wait for Telstra to complete their connection. Eleven months! One could have had a baby and be well on the way to normal sleep patterns in that time. Sounds like I got off lightly.
Meanwhile, Telstra continues to own the (ADSL) infrastructure and not care how long it takes to do things. Three months of frustration, phone calls and delays because of the bureaucratic layers of contractors – some of whom don’t even know where Australia’s second largest (but best) city is.
With the NBN and the life extension upgrades on Australia’s aging telecommunications infrastructure happening at once, it’s no wonder that things take time to happen. However, I can’t help but wonder whether this could have easily been foreseen, with appropriate upgrades and repairs done to not just make sure that the system worked, but improved over time. Meanwhile, Canada has gigabit (1000Mbps) internet for CN$80 a month. Think about that.
Meanwhile, this isn’t even the end of the sorry saga. There’s a part two, which is still going on. More on that later.