Why is Australian internet tech support so terrible?

Claire gets ranty

Christiaan Colen, Flickr

Christiaan Colen, Flickr

How much should Australian telco customers have to pay before they can receive quality technical support?

That is the question my partner and I have been asking ourselves over the last nine years as Exetel has continued to refuse support and deny our claims that their service is inconsistent, patchy and drops out at random intervals.

Every midnight and 10pm, without fail our internet connection drops out. And every time - every single time - we call up Exetel, only to be told that the problem must be with our modem and not with the quality of its lines.

Blaming the modem is like blaming lupus. It’s never lupus. There are enough brand new modems in this place to poke a fibre-optic-cable at, they can’t all be faulty.

But low and behold, each and every night we are forced to run through the same, tired, rigmarole before promptly nothing is done about it.

One time we were told to contact Telstra for urgent night-time support - we pay it a monthly connection fee after all - which also refused to provide us technical support. The customer support representative even asked us to prove that we pay our line connection fee direct to Telstra before it would assist in any kind of help. After proving this was, in fact, the case, Telstra still refused support.

Another time the Exetel customer support agent refused to put in a request to have the line tested simply because we couldn’t hear any noise on the line when we held the landline up to our ears.

Hardly a technical diagnosis.

Now I know Exetel is a budget telco that rents second-rate lines off Telstra, but does that mean its customers should suffer when it fails to deliver standard ADSL2 speeds? What about when it fails to work entirely?

Eight years ago we were paying $79.95 a month for a capped plan that didn’t work properly. We now pay $49.95 a month for an unlimited plan that also doesn’t work properly. That’s $599.40 a year. Plus a monthly line connection fee of $40. So all up that’s $1079 a year. A not-inconsiderable sum.

Tell me, what price should we have to pay before we can receive quality of care?

“Why don’t you just change telcos?” I hear you ask. That is because Exetel offered competitively priced plans compared to what its competitors and Telstra offers in our area.

But as we are about to move house, we are indeed switching to a $99 a month Telstra plan for a phone a broadband bundle, capped at 1,000GB.

But though it has given us a timeframe, Telstra has been unable to guarantee it will have our internet connected by the date we need it, meaning that - as we both work from home - we will be facing commutes of more than two hours into the city if we cannot get a connection at home.

From where I’m sitting, whether it’s a budget telco or the mother of all premium networks customers have no choice but to accept a second-rate service and when it fails altogether they are expected to sit back and wait. A telco will be along to take care of the problem at a leisurely pace.

Just once I would like it if Exetel would admit fault. Just once I’d like to call technical support and actually receive technical support.

The supreme arrogance of the Australian telco network should go some way to explaining why the NBN has been held up this long too: Telstra has it over a barrel. This is what happens when you allow a monopoly to run riot in our telco system.

I’m starting to think NBN should have been setup as its own retailer: because it’s the only situation I can forsee that would a) result in - finally - the proper structural separation of Telstra and b) the delivery of the kind of service that would put other telcos to shame and would force all of them to up their game when providing customer support.

But given that pipedream has been ruined by Malcolm’s compromise which continues to allow Telstra to call the shots, tell me, what kind of money should I have to pay to ensure that I get the kind of coverage promised, and that hurries to remedy when it fails to meet this standard?

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Claire Connelly

PC World
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