Friday, 26 October 2012

Incompetence, a definition: Telstra

It is always good to see the drive for client service in Australia. Please do note the extreme sarcasm contained within this post as well as the frustration.

Mobility comes as a critical function of what I do and being tired to a desk severely restricts my ability to complete my tasks, but then a lack of connectivity does constrict this far worse.

So, why am I upset?

Well, I find without notice that I have been disconnected from all my services today. I called this morning and discovered that there is an amount owing. That in itself was strange, the prior bill I received was for $329.75 for the month and was due on the 19th of October. I could comprehend the issue if this was outstanding, but it was paid on the 18th, a day before the due date. This was confirmed by Telstra.

What I was not informed of was a new bill. This has not at this point been sent to me as there was an issue on the account from the prior month and a credit was applied.

So, following an excess of an hour on another phone (not one of the three on the plan) and one that is not included in my unlimited talk plan (and hence will be charged next month at a high rate) I receive the bill via email.

The amount is paid directly by credit card.

At this point, it is stated how I can obtain access in a few minutes. Well, this has occurred, for voice at the least. However, I care far less as to having voice enabled. I care for data.

They seem to have not enabled data however and again it remains disconnected.

What am I offered?

Well, to enable reconnection, I am offered a prepaid data stick for my phone. I will of course have to get over to a Telstra shop, make an appointment and listen to the ranting's of one of their sales people, but I will have Internet connectivity.

Again, oh for competence in this country.

We need to truly open this market for competition. There is little right now in this semi-government fiefdom and what we see again and again in the ITC arena here in Australia is a poor homunculus derived from what we have overseas.

Even those systems derived and designed to take us into the future are backwards facing.

If we take the NBN we see a roll-out of already obsolete technology. With new last mile wireless services, there are already superior options, but ones that have a commercial and not a government flavor.

Then, this genuflection of past ways has always been the failure of governments everywhere.

Back to the issue at hand.

The end result is that I have to await a reconnection sometime in the future. A new service can be reconnected (and I have managed to have this done many times) in under 5 minutes, but having a disconnection (even one that has been admitted as their fault by Telstra) unbarred will take days…

Commercial reality has to take a front seat in all aspects of life. This includes semi-government corporations (like Telstra) and security and risk.


Availability is a part of the CIA or AIC triad, the fundamental aspect of security that we base all decisions against. Yes, confidentiality and integrity have value, but there is a balance in all these scenarios where the integrity of data, the confidentiality of data and the availability all need to be weighted against the total cost.

Increases in one aspect always lead to either an increase in cost or a reduction of the other aspects of security.

It always seems strange how we overlook the need to incorporate availability. In this online world, without availability, there is often little need for a project or service and thus little need for security at all (no project = no need to secure data for that project).


Andrew said...


I've been having huge issues with Optus lately. Being on a RIM, I cannot simply switch to a new provider and so I am stuck on Optus cable as the only fixed line broadband available.

A large portion of what I do online is connecting to servers located in either the US, Singapore or occasionally Korea. Optus only use one overseas pipe for all their residential customers which I believe is the Southern Cross Cable over to California. So to get to Singapore, I get routed across the pacific to cali, then back across the pacific to Japan and then down through SEA to Singapore.

An Optus customer in Perth would be routed through their network across the Australian continent to Sydney before making the same journey as myself. So we're talking about a latency of 60ms for a Telstra customer in Perth to reach Singapore, as opposed to about 400-450ms for an Optus customer in Perth to reach Singapore.

Optus cable customers can pay a premium (which I do) for Optus to unlock some of the available connection speed now that they have upgraded to DOCSIS 3.0 technology. This goes from their normal shaping of 20Mbps/0.5Mbps to ~90Mbps/1.5Mbps (different people get different results) when testing connection to a local Optus server. Of course, the only difference for anyone connecting overseas is the upstream because you only get 5-6Mbps downstream data to the US. (Of course this drops when trying to access Singapore)

Now the main issue is that during peak (evening) times the overseas lines are congested. Some days are worse than others. Some days I've consistently got ~0.20Mbps downstream data available. The average seems to be about 0.5Mbps. Here, the premium speeds are entirely worthless, as is their connection.

The call centre staff insist the problem is at YOUR end, citing that they cannot see any issues with your connection from their end (they are only seeing information on the connectivity between your modem and their point of presence). The community forum staff cite that they are always undergoing maintenance from time to time and that drops in bandwidth are normal during peak times (so they aren't able to give any specific information on what is causing it and if/when it will cease).

Andrew said...

If/when the NBN is rolled out (it's scheduled> to be completed in my area in about 5 years, although government projects are never completed on time) I will be able to switch to whatever provider I like. I will be able to shop around for the ISP that offers the best service beyond their point of presence. I will be able to finally get away from Optus.

But, there are a few problems I worry about...
1) With loads of other people getting massive upgrades to their current available connectivity, will there be higher demand for overseas bandwidth as well? If the overseas lines are already congested, won't this exacerbate the issue and create more bottlenecking?
2) From what I understand, Telstra service regarding maintenance of copper lines stinks. It takes forever to fix faults and you can never get a straight answer from them on anything. Will this be improved with a government / quasi government company now in charge of the 'last mile'.
3) The fact that the NBN has been announced has halted any potential work private companies were willing to do. So I have to wait forever now for it to eventually be rolled out in my area. I do feel though that the fact that governments are always meddling, whether it is as large as threatening to break up larger companies, or just excessive regulation and red tape, this adds to the concerns of private companies that potentially want to move in on the market. Not to mention that Telstra also at one stage laid coax for their HFC network in my street but had it removed when the council wanted to tax it through the nose. The councils fought legal action for the rights to be able to charge such high tax rates for the use (I think it was of the telegraph poles or something). But they get left with nothing when the carrier pulls out because it isn't profitable.
4) I was worried about the technology being obsolete by the time it eventually gets rolled out. But now you are saying it is already obsolete?
5) $50b is a lot of money. Works out to be about $3333 per tax payer.