Intermittent - a dirty word in telecomms - part 1
When you are a techy of any kind you often troubleshoot problems. Sometimes they are easy to solve, sometimes they are not. Of course before you fix anything you usually want to reproduce it. Again, sometimes it’s easy, other times it’s not. I am sure all programmers have come across a case where the sequence of steps to reproduce a problem is just plain random. In those cases the initial reaction is denial of the kind “There is no way that doing X and Y and then Z twice very quickly could possibly cause a crash”.
Then there are problems that are plain difficult to even reproduce, no matter how many days you spend on it. I am in the middle of one such problem trying to print on a thermal printer using Bluetooth. So far it’s been one of those absolute royal pain in every extremity bugs that absolutely get under your skin. But this post is not even about that. What I want to vent about is much much much worse…
Even worse than being on the receiving end of having to fix an intermittent fault is having someone else fix it for you. Especially if the mob that fixes it is a “machine” with “processes” and “procedures” and other stuff that is certainly there for a reason, yet still infuriating for us normal common folk. Ever had to get your telco fix a fault for you? Then you know the pain involved in having the most trivial issue snowball into a massive problem.
Now imagine what a non-trivial problem would become if put through the “machine”. Yeah. It’s shit.
Intermittent loss of dial tone and frequent ADSL drop outs is absolutely the worst thing you can have wrong with your telephone line. Enter iiNet and Telstra. Everyone that knows anything about telecoms in Australia knows that Telstra is just plain evil. They are a monopoly, they play dirty and they are not ashamed to admit it. But we won’t get into that right now.
Because Telstra is also in control of the infrastructure, the government stepped in a while ago and introduced operational separation where the infrastructure arm of Telstra treats both Telstra consumer arm and other telcos that use its network equally and fairly. Which is kinda what’s been happening. As a result of that there are certain rules that all telcos have to play by when dealing with Telstra about resolving issues that are on Telstra’s network - things like dodgy phone lines.
And so this process kinda works. In most cases. Having been trying to resolve my issue for well over a year I can now see that it doesn’t work when the problem is not resolved in the first visit. And I gotta say that I 100% played by the rules, I did all the troubleshooting steps that iiNet requested, I tried different phone leads, filters, modems etc. I also got an electrician to check the wiring in the house. Only when I verified for the third time that the problem is not in my house that I called support and asked them to fix it. Two tech visits later the problem is still not fixed.
At that stage I was ready to give up and let it go. I’ve had dodgy internet that drops out twice a day on average, half of the time I couldn’t use the phone but I just about had it. A few months later I discovered that my bank account was overdrawn to the tune of $300. Thinking that I mistaken CR for DR (which I do all the time) I double checked it and discovered that I got direct debited for $700 for “incorrect” call-out fees.
At that stage I was furious. Not only I have a dodgy service, not only my provider can’t fix it, they charge me for their inability to do so. And not even a courtesy call to say, hey, you know how we told you that if the problem is at your place we’d charge you? Well, we are charging you. Nothing like that.
Here comes the interesting part. When the technician came over he changed over some line segments between my house and the exchange. The tech was really good and knew what he was doing, we had a great chat during both of his visits. Now there are three major line segments between the house and the exchange:
- House -> pit on the side of the road.
- Pit -> pillar on the end of the street.
- Pillar -> exchange.
Numbers 2 and 3 were swapped over with no improvement to the quality of my connection. When I rang up and enquired about it the response was: “Our wholesaler could not find a fault on their network hence it must be at your place, hence the charge”.
Two things wrong with that. One - not all of the line segments have been double checked, hence it cannot be conclusive that the fault isn’t there. Two - when asked if I could get a technician from Telstra to come and double check the house they said “Oh no, they don’t do that, they checked the network and that’s it”. I should also point out that at no point did the technician come into the house to check anything.
Also, the only way to appeal the $700 charge is for me to re-lodge the fault and risk another $100 charge. This is becoming a lot like extortion. I have been serenely patient throughout the whole process but I’ve had enough. I rang up and had the issue escalated. The result is there is a technician coming tomorrow and he might be coming into the house.
At this point I have absolutely no patience left to leave it up to iiNet to solve the issue. I understand that in this business chances are they know better than you about what to do. Well, not in this case. I am going to insist that they swap line segment 1 as I have a fair suspicion that it is the problem. The reason for that suspicion is a whole other story and deserves its own post.
It makes me kinda angry that if I wasn’t so dedicated to fixing this problem I would never get anywhere. I have gone above and beyond trying to find a solution, and most other people wouldn’t. Because the $700 is at stake here I am more than determined to see this to the end. And I’d rather it just worked…
The story continues, read on.
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