Thursday, September 03, 2009

One More Reason The Internet Sucks

I’m not a huge fan of the internet, websites and web applications. They certainly have their"When all you’ve got is a hammer everything looks like a nail. It seems these days the internet is everyone’s hammer." place, and some great attributes. I’m not suggesting we should pretend they never existed and return to the pre-internet days, but I’m a firm believer in the right tool for the right job, and that when all you’ve got is a hammer everything looks like a nail. It seems these days the internet is everyone’s hammer.

My problem is that after 4 months of almost unusable internet connectivity at home, I now have NO internet connectivity at all. Lack of connectivity and the speed of any connection is one of the reasons I dislike the internet so much. It might be great in North America or perhaps Australia, maybe there you can get all you can eat, high speed, mobile connections for 1cent a month, but in New Zealand you just can’t. We suffer from lack of availability, poor quality of service and even when you get some kind of connection you usually end up paying far more than you would in most other developed countries.

"My service can be totally destroyed by a company I am not a customer of and have no direct dealings with."That aside, I want to talk about my specific problem… not so much because I have a problem and because I’m a whiner, but because it is totally incomprehensible to me how my service can be totally destroyed by a company I am not a customer of and have no direct dealings with… and that after four or five months I still cannot get my problem resolved. I have written to the prime minister (who has forwarded my complaint to the communications minister), my local MP and Fair Go, but have heard almost nothing in response. Here’s what happened to me;

About four or five months ago a bunch of Chorus vans turned up in the local streets around my home and started performing work on the road side telecommunications equipment.

Before I go any further let me explain how things are down here in lil’ ol’ NZ. Chorus is the company that performs servicing and upgrades to the physical telecommunications equipment owned by the corporate Telecom. Not too many years ago Telecom pretty much had a monopoly on telecoms within New Zealand. Gradually, we got Bell South (now Vodafone) and Telstra (Telstra clear) and then more and more telco’s. Telecom, however, remains a huge player because it owns almost all the fixed land line hardware throughout the country. Telecom used to a state-owned-enterprise, but was sold decades back, and while there is a legal agreement that provides for things like free local area calls for all NZ residents, Telecom continue to post multi-million dollar profits, and are generally seen in the same light as Microsoft are by those in the open source community. Pretty much all the other players are forced to rent or purchase whole sale any services that require the existing hardware, and New Zealand isn’t really a big enough market for people to start tearing up the place to lay their own equipment and lines.

So, Chorus have performed an upgrade that’s reduced the speed of my connection to the point"Chorus have performed an upgrade that’s reduced the speed of my connection to the point where it’s barely useable." where it’s barely useable. I waited a week or so to see if the problem resolved itself, it didn’t so I contact my ISP, Orcon. They asked me to run some online speed reports, most of which didn’t report any speed because the tests timed out. One of the few that succeeded showed I was getting 3kbps to a server in Christchurch. The incredulous tech support operator I was dealing with noted that was fifteen times worse than dial-up. It was eventually decided that Telecom/Chorus had upgraded the equipment from an exchange based system to a cabinet. I don’t pretend to understand the details at this point, just that this is what I was told.

In order to fix my problem they had to connect me to the cabinet, and would arrange to have that done urgently. Weeks go by and nothing changes, so I call again. I get a different person and a different story. It must be my modem, it must be too many devices in my house connected to the phone line, I need an ADSL splitter installed etc. Eventually after about 3 months I got the splitter installed, and it still didn’t solve my problem. Orcon agree to credit the cost of the splitter install (about $200) since it didn’t help, which was good, but I had to ring and ask them to do so.

At this point they finally work out, again, that I need to be connected to the cabinet and promise to have it done soon. Time goes by and nothing happens… I phone up to find out there “aren’t any ports available” and that I’m on a waiting list to be connected. New versions of the list are published approximately every three weeks and I should call Orcon back on the 17th to find out where I’m at. No, they can’t call me… they have too many customers in this situation to provide that service.

I call back on the 17th… no, there is no list out today. Call back in two weeks.

I’m pretty angry at this point ! The next day I get home and there is an expensive looking, full colour, plastic wrapped card from the Orcon marketing team, in my letter box, inviting me to sign up my friends to their service in exchange for a free night in a hotel. I must be getting old because I’d usually just throw this away but it so incensed me that I stuffed it back in an envelope with an accompanying letter that made a few salient points;

    They should integrate their direct mail system with their support system so they don’t send this kind of garbage to customers with outstanding support tickets 3 months old.
    I couldn’t sign up any of my friends, since they all knew about my connection problems as I wasn’t participating in online activities with them.
    I may also have said something about not being able to live with myself if I had signed up a friend or family member to their cruddy service….


I felt that having been fairly patient for three or four months now, and having not had "I may also have said something about not being able to live with myself if I had signed up a friend or family member to their cruddy service."my problems solved, I was entitled to rant a little.

I quickly got a call back from the head of the Quality Assurance team on behalf of the Customer Experience team manager who was unavailable. They were very apologetic and not sure why I’d had such problems but they were desperately trying to sort them out for me. I returned to being polite and civil… after all, no point in upsetting people who are trying to help.

I’m told at this point that *maybe* there aren’t any ports available, or maybe Telecom’s computer just didn’t show any available and no one actually went on site to check… Orcon will contact Telecom and try to get them to check the actual hardware.

New problem… All the Chorus engineers are on strike ! They don’t know when they can get someone out, but they’re trying really hard to get Telecom/Chorus to do it as soon as possible.

Well after several more weeks I got an automated email saying my connection would be cabinetised on the 31st of August. The 31st comes and my internet connection dies about 3pm. I’ve been warned this process will kill my connection and my phone line for about 4 hours, so I figure that’s not a problem and I’ll just check the connection tomorrow.

I wake up on the 1st of September to find that I have NO internet connectivity at all. It’s like DSL isn’t even enabled on the line, my router makes NO attempt to connect, the DSL light is just off – it doesn’t even flash.

I phone Orcon who, after getting me to reset the modem, unplug all my phone equipment and do a series of other silly checks decide the Chorus engineer must have got something wrong and log a fault with Telecom.

I called Orcon yesterday to find out what was going on… they’re still waiting on Telecom. I still have no internet connection at home at all.

I found this morning that I had an email in my Orcon email account (accessed via web mail at work) congratulating me on joining their fantastic service and that I would now be able to experience their terrific broadband.

I guess I should be thankful my phone still works !

At least I can still blog, because I use an offline tool (Windows Live Writer) to write the entries and my bosses don’t mind me spending the 2 seconds it take to publish an entry, at work, that I’ve written previously outside of work hours.

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