iiNet SNAFU: Twenty Two Days Without Internet

iiNet Toolbox - not happyWarning: this post may contain traces of politics, stupidity and truth.

I recently moved house from Burwood to Collingwood. My new house is about 4½ km from Melbourne’s CBD and has an existing telephone line.

ADSL 2 ExchangesAccording to the ADSL2 Exchanges website, I’m about 1.4km from Collingwood telephone exchange and my estimated line speed should be about 13 Mbps.

I’ve been a customer with iiNet for nearly 4 years, so I figured a relocation (to the new home) would be something they’d handle routinely and competently.

I used a company called connectnow to relocate gas, power and water. This was surprisingly painless and involved one 5-minute call. I could have asked connectnow to relocate telephone as well, but I figured I’d deal with iiNet directly and get them to move my existing service.

So what do gas, power, water and telephone/internet all have in common?

  1. They’re all physically available at the new address, and they’re already connected
  2. They’re all products which are metered in some way, for which I’m charged
  3. Each is available from a range of service providers, and I choose a service provider and become their customer
  4. Each service provider has a range of plans, and I choose a plan and enter into an agreement

Okay, so what’s different? Gas, power and water have been around for years. The internet industry, unfortunately, has only been around for the last 20 years, and sadly, the industry is yet to grasp the concept of a basic account change.

How long did it take for gas, power and water to be connected at my new address? Actually they were never disconnected. A simple account change meant that from the day I took occupancy, I started receiving bills in my name, and THE SERVICES JUST WORKED.

Naively I hoped that internet and telephone relocation would be just as painless. I was wrong.

So what happened with internet? Buckle yourself in, this is gonna get rough.

iiNet stupidity

  • 21/07 – I notified iiNet that I’d be moving in a week – could I have my Naked DSL relocated please? – I received an email from iiNet confirming the relocation request, saying I’d ”made a good choice (if we do say so ourselves)”.
  • 22/07 – The application bounced back from Telstra – there was no existing service at the new address. (Wrong.)  Nothing happens for 3 days.
  • 25/07 – I get an SMS from iiNet asking me to call them – they need more information. I reply back, “What do you need to know?” iiNet wants to know the lease start date,  which I provided with the original application.  iiNet says there is a phone line there – they even have an existing service number – and they’ll be able to action my request once the line is free, i.e. once the current occupant moves out. OK cool. Nothing happens for 6 days.

The Curious Case of Surry Hills Jim

Around this time my iiNet ‘Toolbox’ gives me access to another customer’s account. I can see their name, username, phone number, address… all that good personal information that we’re told to protect at all costs. I tweet my concerns to iiNet, like this…

iiNet fiasco - tweet 1

iiNet fiasco - tweet 2

…along with a partial screen-grab:

iiNet fiasco - Jim's details

And then this:

iiNet fiasco - tweet 4

I get a reply from iiNet social media:

iiNet fiasco - tweet 5

Great.

This is the last I hear from @iiJessMccallum.

After 24 hours with no explanation or further contact from iiNet, I tweet again:

iiNet fiasco - tweet 6

This time I receive a reply from iiNet’s Customer Service Manager, Geoff Searle. Mr Searle reassured me that the complaint had been taken seriously, and said:

“We had two Naked DSL applications for similar services that required intervention by our provisioning team. This involved entering the information within our systems for the application process manually. There was a data entry mistake (human error) by a staff member making this change, resulting in the second application being assigned to the wrong customer account.”

But let’s not get distracted

All this is very interesting, but back to progress on my application:

  • 31/07 – I move in to my new house. There’s no phone and no internet. (Gas, power, water are all good of course.)  I ring iiNet: “Where’s my internet?” They say there’s still a 10-day lead time for delivery. Huh? I ordered this 10 days ago. So it takes 20 days for telephone and internet to be relocated ? iiNet confirms this is the case. I am flabbergasted.
  • 01/08 – I ring for an update. iiNet says they need a copy of the new lease to verify I actually live there before the application can proceed. WHY WASN’T THIS ASKED FOR 11 DAYS AGO!?!? Scanned, PDF’d and emailed copy of lease to iiNet Voice Activations.
  • 02/08 – Telstra says there isn’t an existing line in place. (Wrong, they’ve got the service number in the application notes.) iiNet’s system changes the application status to “defer for TWS (Telstra Wholesale) updates”. Suddenly, nothing happens for another 3 days.
  • 05/08 – Having determined that there’s no existing line in place (wrong), Telstra concludes that someone will need to attend to connect a new line. It took Telstra 3 days to work this out. An appointment time is set for 15/08 between 8 am and 12 midday. I arrange to take the morning off work to provide access.  Nothing happens for another 3 days.
  • 08/08 – iiNet’s system changes to “Checking inplace to confirm it’s still active … It appears a handback’s being done”.  Nothing happens for another 6 days.
  • 14/08 – iiNet’s system changes to “Provisioning of the phone service is now complete”.  Great. No change on my phone line.
  • 15/08 – Rise and shine at 7am, expecting a Telstra technician to visit between 8am and midday as per the appointment time. I’m expecting the technician to either install a redundant telephone line, or verify in person that they can use the existing line.  No-one shows up.  I check the existing line and miraculously it has dialtone sometime around 11am.

I email iiNet and ask for an update. A ‘Senior Customer Service Representative’ from the ‘iiNet Virtual Community’ says, “The phone appears to have successfully been connected.” When I ask for an expected timeframe, the response is, “Normally 5-7 working days from when the phone is completed”.

  •  16/08 – I receive an automated system message from iiNet which says, “Your Naked DSL should be ready to use within 48 hours after 2013-08-20.” I take this to mean I will probably be waiting another 6 days.  Later in the morning, iiNet’s system status changes to, “The cutover date for the Naked DSL service … has been updated to 2013-08-20 14:00:00.”

iiNet ADSL application entry

  • No ADSL sync20/08 – 7pm – Dial tone is gone (good) but there’s no ADSL sync. I ring the service from my mobile and I get a “not connected” RVA from Telstra. I ring iiNet Tech Support on 132258, but calls just get no progress. Calls to iiNet Provisioning on 1300634515 just get no progress. Finally I get through to a queue, and after holding for 10 minutes, the customer service rep hangs up on me. On the fifth attempt I get through to Carl. He checks the status of my application with Provisioning and does a port rebuild (the first of many). Despite the cutover date and time above, Carl says that Provisioning says I do indeed have to wait another 48 hours for ADSL sync.
  • 20/08 – 8pm – all the obligatory ‘welcome’ spam arrives: “Your service is now connected!” “Your Naked DSL service is active!” “Hooray! Your iiNet Naked DSL service is now active.” “Great news, your new Netphone account is now ready to use.” Wrong, no, wrong, wrong, no, no, WRONG.
  • 21/08 – 12:30am – I give up staring at the ADSL sync light and go to bed.
  • 22/08 – 6.30pm – I get home from work to find… nothing’s changed. I tweet angrily at iiNet. The social media person asks if I’d like to call them to discuss? I explain I can’t without a telephone, but thanks for the offer. I go out for the evening in IRL to drown my sorrows.
  • iiNet speedtest22/08 – 10.30pm or thereabouts – WE HAVE SYNC – I SAY AGAIN – WE HAVE SYNC. I tweet, Facebook and post an excited Vine of the blue sync and authentication lights.  ADSL2+ speeds are appalling and look like this (right). VoIP service almost works but speech path is flaky, probably due to the slow speed. This service is gonna need a port rebuild.
  • 22/08 – 11.30pm or thereabouts – iiNet’s social media operator for the evening Luke tells me he’s monitoring and will put in a port rebuild (the second that I’m aware of).  I get kicked offline, my modem re-syncs and re-authenticates, but there’s no improvement in speed.
  • 23/08 – 11:45am – I ring Tech Support and speak to Donald. He rebuilds the port (third rebuild), then asks me to switch my modem off and on again. Then he rebuilds the port again (fourth rebuild), and asks me to switch my modem off and on again. This achieves nothing. He suggests leaving it for “another 48 hours, just to see what happens. Maybe it will be okay in a couple of days.”
  • iiNet Speed Test 223/08 – 1:40pm – Bonnie from Tech Support rings me, and asks me for my full name and date of birth. Huh? YOU RANG ME. Anyway. Bonnie agrees that I’m not experiencing “real” ADSL2+ speeds, and does another port rebuild (number five). Lo and behold the line speed jumps from 1.2 Mbps to 11 Mbps down, and from 200 kbps to 1 Mbps up, according to Bonnie.  (I think I needed Bonnie managing my account relocation all along.)  The speed test at my end shows an improvement, but still nothing to get excited about (right).  Ping times are also appallingly bad (below):

iINet ping times

  •  Weekend 24/08 – 25/08 – Line speed slowly decreases until it eventually settles at about 4 Mbps down. The speedtest above (3.7 Mbps) is about as good as I’m getting.  Lots of Sync Loss, dropouts, and I need to reset the modem about four or five times. The internet is generally unusable for more than 15 minutes at a time.
  • (Monday) 26/08 – I ring iiNet and now I’m wearing my Dr Ron Crankypants™.  I speak to Lackie.  He says he will try a port rebuild (number 6). Immediately the line speed improves from 3.5 Mbps to 8.5 Mbps down.  Lackie agrees there must be a fault with the port (and confirms I am in fact on an iiNet port, not a Telstra wholesale port).  He says there are two ways to change ports: remotely in software, or by a technician attending the exchange.  After 30 minutes on the phone Lackie says he can’t tell me when the port move will happen, and agrees to call me back.

The Washup

I now have Naked DSL internet, having been without service for twenty two days and THIRTY TWO DAYS after the initial application.

The service, in my opinion, is not usable.

All that had to happen was this:

  • iiNet makes an account change, updates my address details
  • iiNet creates a work request to put its ADSL codes “on the line
  • iiNet creates a work request for a technician to attend Collingwood exchange
  • a technician jumpers the existing phone line to a vacant port on an iiNet DSLAM

This process took 32 days.

The Cost

Apart from the mental anguish, frustration and confusion inflicted on me and Surry Hills Jim, I’ve inherited a very tangible debt for iiNet’s inability to deliver a basic internet service:

iiNet fiasco - mobile data costs

Telstra NextG mobile broadbandI purchased a NextG mobile data dongle (right) to cover me for the three week outage.  This cost $119 and included 3GB of data. I also purchased an Aldi mobile SIM for data which uses Telstra’s 3G HSDPA network, and I think represents good value-for-money.

I guess with the dongle purchase and data recharges I’ve spent nearly $300 on internet access in about 3 weeks which I otherwise wouldn’t have needed.

How much bandwidth did I get for $300? About 15½ GB. This screen-grab is from my modem’s Statistics page:

iiNet fiasco - mobile data usage

Remember this next time you hear a politician saying we don’t need an NBN because “everything’s going mobile anyway”. Mobile data, as a standalone technology, is NOT the answer.

Where to from here?

The saga’s not over and I don’t envisage a happy ending for anyone.

For the same monthly price as I’m paying iiNet I’d get the same download quotas from Telstra Bigpond cable. I’m sure Bigpond cable would be faster than 3 Mbps and have better ping times.

I’m reminded of Adam Turner’s experience in 2008 which he chronicled as the Battle of the Incompetents. Adam tried transferring from Optus to Telstra before moving house, which he falsely believed would make things easier to move his phone number from one house to the next. Adam says the farce that followed drove him to the point of tears more than once.

So what’s changed in 5 years? Not much it seems.

Adam’s experience and my experience aren’t isolated examples. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has recently reported a significant rise in customers complaining about dodgy fixed line services and mobile services, but lacks the resources to address these complaints, according to ZDNet’s Josh Taylor. Overall Melbourne registered the highest number of new complaints per population.

I keep asking myself, Would I have expected better service from a different ISP? No, probably not. The convoluted to’ing-and-fro’ing between ISPs and Telstra makes for a messy, unrefined process which the other utilities appear to have resolved many years ago.

iiNet needs to accept responsibility for its part in this fiasco.  It wasn’t Telstra’s fault they sat on the request for so long; that they didn’t ask for the required information up front; that they’ve got faulty exchange equipment; or that they unlawfully gave me access to another customer’s personal information.

Telstra technician with pillar (Source: Telstra)

ADSL uses outdated copper infrastructure on its last legs (Source: Telstra)

Australians need a fast, ubiquitous NBN that functions just like any other utility. ADSL is a backwards-who’s-responsible-for-which-bit-I-don’t know circus that’s trying to squeeze the absolute last drop of blood from an outdated 20th century technology.

Internet is now the “fourth utility”, and has been for some years. I need it hard-wired to my home. I can’t live off mobile data. Despite what one side of Federal politics would have you believe, mobile broadband is exactly that: internet access designed for mobile devices; no more, no less. Mobile broadband is not designed for the rigours of video streaming, always-on home access or the high-bandwidth demands of business, and it’s not a substitute for wired technologies like fibre or HFC. Homes and businesses need hard-wired internet for cost-effective and efficient service delivery.

I just live in hope that one day we’ll be able to notify Telstra, iiNet, NBNCo or whoever that we’re moving house, and when we move in the phone and internet, along with all the other utilities, will just work.

Sadly, in the second decade of the 21st century, that day has yet to arrive.

9 thoughts on “iiNet SNAFU: Twenty Two Days Without Internet

  1. Update 26/08 – about 5 minutes after posting this, iiNet sent me a bill for the relocation. This included:

    * a monthly charge of $69.95 for a service through to October, where I’m no longer living
    * a $79.95 setup fee for a service that doesn’t work
    * a $44.09 “invoice alignment” charge
    * a monthly charge of $69.95 for the new home service that doesn’t work
    * Naked iiTalk charge of $3.63 for phone calls.

    I replied back and told them where they could slam their bill, and if they tried debiting my credit card, I’d do a charge-back and lodge a formal complaint with the ACCC.

    The phone rang about 3 minutes later.

    Samir was helpful. She removed a majority of the charges, and listened to my concerns over the way the application had been handled. She also logged a fault so someone would attend the telephone exchange and swap ports for me. Apparently this hadn’t been done up until now.

  2. Update 27/08 – day 37 since original application – I receive a telephone call from David, who said iiNet will make an appointment on Friday afternoon for:

    (1) someone to attend Collingwood exchange for a port swap; and
    (2) someone to attend our house to check the line.

    Hooray. Now we’re getting somewhere.

  3. Pingback: Why we need an NBN - SHACK WEST

  4. 27/08 1420 – Just spoke to Kaye from iiNet, ringing to make an appointment at my old address. Where no-one has lived for 27 days. She’s going to talk to her supervisor and call back. #ohmygodidonthaveanyspeechanymore

  5. 29/08 0115 – Got home, no sync. Rang iiNet. Spoke to Romeo in Cape Town who was very helpful. He said, “Yeah, looks like the port is down.” Did a port rebuild – number 7 – cycled the modem as well but no joy. Unplugged the modem and Romeo did a line test. The current line length tested at 0.00km (it should be about 1.5km). Romeo agreed the port is definitely screwed and updated the notes in the job. I said I’d wait patiently for Friday’s appointment.

  6. 30/08 – Artur from VisionStream is on the case. He attends Collingwood exchange and physically moves my service to a different port on iiNet’s DSLAM. He rings me to say that the original port was screwed, and asked if it was okay for him to come around to test the line. Artur arrives at my house and performs a TDR test. This shows a big reflection not far from the network boundary, which is indicative of a fault; probably a bad connection somewhere. Artur passes the results of the TDR test back to iiNet, and iiNet creates a task for Telstra to investigate.

    Artur was friendly and very helpful.

  7. 01/09 – day 32 after moving in – George from Telstra arrives, unannounced, on a Sunday morning at some ungodly hour. Nevertheless George is friendly and helpful. He agrees there’s a line fault somewhere. He connects an F-set (cable tracer) to the line and can’t find my cable pair at the nearby pillar. Then he finds a corroded connection in a pit about 3 or 4 doors up the street. He fixes this and we re-connect the modem. WE HAVE SYNC! AUTHENTICATION! And importantly, 11 Mbps DOWN!

    iiNet rings me about 15 minutes after George leaves. They’re going to monitor the service, but for now it appears stable. Fingers crossed.

  8. Can i just query why you would get Naked DSL?

    It’s one of the most difficult services to provision and to fault.
    It takes anywhere between 10 to 20 business days to relocate a Naked DSL service and then once the provisioning side of things are complete, there are usually a few faults to follow.

    For people on ADSL2+ and Naked DSL services, Telstra Wholesale requires all service providers to send out third party techs to test that there is a fault on their network, before they’ll even action anything.

    You got a Visonstream tech that knew how to use a TDR which is good and definitely not cheap. That would have cost iiNet an easy $970 and that TDR equipment is not cheap; costing in the range of $10k which would have been hired from an external company. Just a FYI though, techs employed by Telstra Wholesale or their contracted techs from ISGM are the only ones allowed to relocate the port from any DSLAM. ACMA has guidelines which stipulate that the tech can be fined for this as well as the representing ISP.

    Port swaps can only be done by Telstra Wholesale/ISGM Communication Technicians (CT). The swap involves the ISP locating a free port and the Telstra/ISGM CT terminating the service to said port. It’s not an easy process and you were lucky enough to get a CT out the next day; especially one who actually turned up at your premises instead of a CT that lets the ISP know that… “Customer wasn’t home. Tried knocking but no answer. All good to the socket. No fault found on Telstras network. Fee for service of $225.00 to apply”…only for the customer to call the ISP to say they were home and that nobody turned up.

    So in essence, you better hope you don’t get another fault somewhere down the track as you’ll be part of iiNet/Telstra Wholesales fault-merry-go-round based purely on the type of service you have. Also fingers crossed that the Liberal’s NBN plan doesn’t come to fruition as it means you’ll still have problems with some parts of the copper to the NBN node.

  9. Hi 6863, thanks for the comment.

    It is indeed a merry-go-round. You’re spot-on.

    I got DSL because my options are fairly limited. I’m renting at this address, and while there is HFC cable running past the front door, the landlord wouldn’t allow a new cable connection. Bummer.

    In hindsight, maybe I should have got cable hooked-up first, then asked for forgiveness rather than permission(?)

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