Trials and Tribulations with Telstra

A couple of months ago I wrote of my Trials with Telstra. That was how Telstra gave me a genuinely better deal, money-wise, for my fixed line Broadband and mobile phone. And how so much went wrong with the implementation.

And stuff continues to go wrong. For example:

  • despite several promises, Telstra has been unable to merge my broadband and mobile phone accounts into one, so that I can return to a single monthly bill
  • my Broadband stopped working. It turned out that the change involved a new account with a new logon ID and a new password … and Telstra hadn’t told be about either of those.
  • I was unable to register to use the Telstra24x7app, or online billing. I still don’t know why but it took an hour or more on the phone to at least two different billing support people to fix that.
  • The Telstra24x7 app on my phone keeps telling me that I have a $79.99 Broadband bill due on 24 October 2018 – that’s almost a month ago – even though I’m entirely up to date.
  • That wouldn’t matter, except that Telstra online billing is a dog’s breakfast. You have to click through to log on to a web page, and then click down a few levels to get reasonable detail.
  • I couldn’t call local numbers on my mobile until I discovered that something in the changed plan now required me to enter the local area code, something I’d never had to do in 22 years on the same Telstra mobile number.
  • And so on.

Oh, and now my Broadband has been out for over 48 hours!

That recurring out of date bill


My Telstra ADSL Broadband stopped working on Tuesday afternoon. The ADSL line is connected, but user authentication fails. Three support calls, 2 hours and 42 minutes on the phone, repeated repeats of doing the same ineffectual things, contradictory messages about whether or not there is an issue at the exchange, two promised tech support visits, the first one cancelled by them. Latest promise is local tech support on Monday.

The details

Tuesday afternoon my Internet just stopped working. My phone and various computers indicated no internet connection. I logged onto the homepage of my modem/router, and it said that there was no internet.

Being well-versed in such things, I restarted the modem/router – a D-Link Cobra. That did not fix it. So, I called Telstra tech support. I spent 90 minutes on the phone with a pleasant man who was confident he could fix things. He told me that there was an authentication failure. I needed to re-enter my username/password in the modem/router settings. That made no sense because the thing had actually been connected when it failed. The authentication problem arose only when I restarted the modem because the connection had failed.

Still, I re-entered the relevant details with great care and checked them with him. Of course, it changed nothing. The DSL light connected,but not the Internet light. The support guy “refreshed” the line at his end (whatever that means). I repeated the process at my end. The result was the same.

Time for the Telstra modem

He wondered, did I have a Telstra modem? Maybe there was something wrong with the Cobra. Well, that can happen. I had a new Telstra Business Smart Modem in shrink-wrap. Telstra had sent that to me with the various contract changes a couple of months earlier. (They keep doing that. I’ve got several I never use and never asked for.) So, I installed it, with tech support still on the phone. It has a wizard, of course. I entered the correct logon details. And of course, it did the exact same thing: authentication failure. I repeated it all a couple of times at his behest. He “refreshed” the line a couple of times. No go.

Telstra provides this modem with a 4G dongle. The idea is that if your Broadband connection fails, the modem will automatically switch over to a 4G backup connection.

This is a nice feature since having some Internet is better than having none. In practice, it’s of variable use. I’ve checked line speed several times over the last couple of days, and download rates have been as high as 6Mbps (a similar speed to my ADSL connection),and as low as 1Mbps.

But some with a more cynical take on things than me do note that Telstra has to report connection downtime to the regulators and that there are consequences to certain levels of downtime. A poor 4G connection, so long as it gives the user some Internet, does not count as downtime.

We added the 4G dongle, and I got connected that way (after a few false steps).

The second call

The support fellow texted me a link to call back if … I’m not quite sure what he thought was going to happen next, but I had to get back to work. The next day I followed the link and requested a call-back. It came quickly, but somehow the call got dropped. The link was a one-time-only link. However, when I called back the number that had tried to call, a message said that Telstra “may” try again. They didn’t. After several hours I restarted the process of asking for help.

When I got through to someone different, a lady this time with a similarly confident and pleasant manner. I explained the problem and the actions so far. So, we went through the same process of re-entering logon details and refreshing the line at their end. It didn’t work, of course. She said she’d elevate it to local technical support. That might even mean a visit from a tech person to sort things out. It would probably take forever to get a tech person, she said … but she had managed to get one for Thursday (today) or Friday. But if the problem was with my stuff on my premises, I’d have to pay.

I soon received a text from Telstra saying the tech would have the problem resolved by midnight on Friday. That call only took half an hour.

But a couple of hours later she called back, saying that they’d found a problem at the exchange and that a team was working on it. She said a line had been cut. So, she’d cancelled the tech visit, because when it was fixed that would resolve the problem.

Your internet service is now working … not!

This morning (Thursday) I received a text from Telstra saying “your internet service should now be working”. So, I tested it. I pulled the 4G dongle. Restarted the modem. Re-entered the credentials. Same non-result.

I used the call-back link on the text the woman had sent the previous day. A different woman called up within a few minutes. I went through the story. Again. I explained I’d already redone the credentials lots of times, and one more time just before I called her. But she did what I wanted, which was to re-enter them again anyway.

Surprise, surprise, it didn’t work. She said, confidently, that she could fix it at her end. “Refresh the line?” I asked. She went away for quite a while, refreshing goodness knows how many things. Eventually, she came back and said she’d elevate it. Probably take a week to get a tech, but she’d managed to secure one for Monday. I got a text saying that it’d be fixed by midnight on Monday.

That call lasted 42 minutes.

But while I was on the phone with her, I got a text from the support person from the previous day, saying that the “outage is still ongoing.Will update you once there are any changes.” Which is contrary to the earlier Telstra message saying that all was well.

In Telstra’s hands

Doing the same thing that doesn’t work over and over is reputed to be the definition of insanity. Re-entering credentials and refreshing lines repeatedly didn’t work, yet I kept being asked to do them over and over.

And it’s all too easy to understand why. There are people who don’t refresh things, restart things, perhaps don’t even plug them in, before calling tech support. The Telstra people to whom I spoke were all polite and kind and clear, but of course, they couldn’t know for sure that I might know a little about what I’m talking about. They did seem surprised that I actually knew how to call up the web interface for a modem/router.

We’re all in the hands of our ISPs. They do know more than us, although the first line of tech support is most likely heavily scripted. I suppose I shall have to continue to rely for a few days on the 4G network that chokes right down in speed when all my neighbours get home from work. No streaming video for me until Monday.

And I shall have to hope that the problem isn’t something silly that I’ve done because then I’ll get a bill. And it’s always possible that I’ve done something silly.