I hope that my tale of telecommunications ping pong and incompetence is a rarity. I fear it isn't.
With our family scattered all over the place, my parents, who are now in their 70s, to my surprise and delight decided to investigate the Internet. They took classes through Senior net, bought themselves a pretty good computer, and got on-line.
They wanted to keep it simple, so they just got Xtra dial-up so they could have the costs of being on-line added to the bill they were already receiving from Telecom.
Every so often, I'd suggest to them that they should investigate broad band. I pointed out the benefits of getting good quality pictures of their grandchildren, of Skyping me when I was overseas, of the world of streaming media that awaited them. They always said they might get around to it at some point.
That "some point" finally came when Xtra, during the Bubble fiasco, changed the SMTP settings on them. It was a bit beyond them to reconfigure their e-mail client, and they were annoyed that this had been done to them.
At the same time, Orcon was offering their "Free Homeline" deal. So I in turn made my parents a deal of my own. If they jumped on the Orcon bandwagon, I'd fly up to their place to set it all up. Plus, I'd buy them a wireless router. Since I telecommute and it really doesn't matter where in the world I am as long as I have an internet connection, I promised them that my partner and I would be able to visit them more often, accompanied by my laptop, if they had broad band for me to use for work.
They hadn't herd of Orcon before, and I carefully explained that they could get great tolls as well as good Internet. I personally vouched for them, said I'd used Orcon on and off for a few years and they were excellent. While they were a bit dubious about going with a brand they hadn't heard of, I told them they'd love it, and I'd set it all up for them.
I completed the sign-up process for them, bought a wireless router, and configured it here at home. To be sure I'd done that correctly, I logged on from my working Orcon installation here at home and verified that all was working correctly by checking the IP address Orcon had assigned and browsing to a couple of pages. A few days later, we then boarded the plane, ready for what should have been a plug and play installation. Yeah right.
On Wednesday 29 August, we plugged, it didn't play. The ADSL light on the modem was regularly changing colour. The status information on the router was indicating no ADSL signal at all. I called Orcon and after a long period on hold, got asked the usual first level kind of questions that you'd expect. I did an isolation test, tried another jackpoint, confirmed there was no monitored alarm and that Sky TV wasn't connected to the line, confirmed that there were ADSL filters etc. My brother has his own line in the house, so I even checked this in case ADSL had been enabled on the wrong line. After a second call, a "failed self-install" trouble report was lodged with Telecom.
On Thursday 30 August, when there was no immediate quick fix, I called Orcon to ask if my parents could have free dial-up while the broad band issue was being resolved. This was no trouble for them at all. The friendly tech support person put this in place for a week, which he felt would be ample time.
Bright and early on Friday morning 31 August, a Telecom technician called. He conducted some tests, agreed there was indeed no broad band coming through, swapped the lines onto another pair, temporarily swapped the two lines over, and did a few things at the road side. he said he wasn't sure what the trouble was. he said that the exchange had been checked and that things were OK at the exchange, and at the line, but that somewhere between the line and the exchange there was clearly some sort of fault. He said this would have to be passed on to another level of support and it might be the middle of next week before it was resolved.
With no Internet, and my job depending on it, I finally had to leave on the Monday afternoon 3 September, having been there for five days.
Later in the week, with Telecom not having contacted anyone, I called Orcon to ask if they'd heard how things were going. it seems they had. They'd been advised that the fault lay at the Exchange, and that it was going to be worked on. The Orcon technician expressed some surprise, firstly that the Telecom technician had left without the issue being resolved, and secondly that no one from Telecom had been in touch. He said there is a policy that the Telecom technician shouldn't leave the premises until there was a resolution to this kind of issue. I have no way of knowing if that's the case, but the only call we've ever received from Telecom is the one from the technician asking if it was OK to visit. The technician also extended the free dial-up. It seems the prediction that a week would be ample was somewhat ambitious.
Meanwhile, we'd discovered another serious issue. After the Telecom technician's visit, my brother's phone line spontaneously disconnects for short periods. He has a serious heart condition, and has a Lifelink medical alarm connected to this line in case of emergencies. The Lifelink people are required to call every time they notice something odd, so they are calling on quite a regular basis now.
On Friday 7 September, a full week now after the technician visited, an e-mail came through from Orcon saying that there was great news and that the broad band was now enabled. I phoned my parents to tell them the great news, and to ask them if Telecom had called them to confirm that it was now fixed. They hadn't. I asked them to turn the modem off and back on again. They did this, and still no ADSL. So, back to Orcon I went.
It is worth noting that up until this point, I have had nothing but the helpful, courteous service that I have come to expect from Orcon. My parents were concerned by the long hold times, but I explained that the nice thing was that when you got through, you got someone who knew what they were doing and could actually give you sensible information.
So I called Orcon on Friday 7 September, and explained that my parents still had no broad band. Orcon came back with the same explanation as previously, that there was a fault at the exchange, and that Telecom would call when it was fixed. I explained to them that things seemed to have moved on since then, since I had received an e-mail from Orcon saying the issue was resolved. Was that e-mail sent erroneously, or did Telecom actually consider the matter fixed? The tech I spoke to said they'd get back to me with an answer to that.
I heard nothing from Orcon, and sat it out fuming until Monday afternoon, when I called again. Yet again, I explained that Orcon provisioning sent an e-mail saying the issue was resolved, but there was still no ADSL service. Again, I was told Orcon would call me back. I waited until Wednesday, we're now at 12 September, and called back yet again. This time, I was in complaint mode. I started the call by saying that this is now the third time I'd called with the same question, that I wanted an answer and I wanted this issue escalated.
To my absolute astonishment, the Orcon tech, who was actually very good, told me that one of the reasons why Orcon hadn't done anything about it was that they had seen activity on the connection. I explained to them that that activity was way back when I tested the log-in credentials at my place, and that what's more I had explained this point to every single person I'd spoken with about this matter, since I knew they would need an explanation as to why they were seeing that activity. There was no record of this anywhere in the written material.
So what Orcon had done, was reached an erroneous conclusion that because there was activity on the account, which, incidentally, they could surely have seen occurred on 24 and 25 August before the trouble report was even lodged, they wouldn't bother calling back to ask for further information. One has to conclude they really want my parents' business!
He assigned me a case number, told me exactly what he was writing down, and sent me an e-mail confirmation. He said it might take 48 ours before I heard anything. I found this pathetic, since Orcon were now the ones sitting on this, doing absolutely nothing to get a customer connected.
Today, Friday 14 September, I called again, quoting my case number. I was advised that the matter had been taken to telecom yesterday, that Telecom felt another technician had to go to the site, and that Orcon needed to request this. Orcon, it seems, hadn't gotten around to doing this yet. So we're now at a full week after Telecom saying the issue was fixed, and Orcon having made the contact with Telecom only yesterday!
I asked how I could lodge a complaint about Orcon's handling of this matter, and was told a team leader would call me. I told the tech that if I got a call from anyone at Orcon, I would now be very surprised, and that if I didn't hear from anyone by 5 PM today, I would take my business to another ISP.
To Orcon's credit, a team leader did call me back, heard my complaint, said a good will credit would probably be forthcoming, and advocated to Telecom for the speedy dispatch of a technician. He phoned a second time to confirm that he'd done this. And that's where the matter rests at present. No broad band, a phone line needed for serious medical emergencies cutting in an out, and the feeling that you have to fight to get anyone to give a damn.
This continues to be a really demoralising experience, where the customer is shunted from one company to another. We've almost become accustomed to things taking their sweet time at Telecom, and it seems that initially, Telecom is to blame for inadequate handling of the fault. But that's precisely why many of us support companies like Orcon. And try as I might, I can't get it out of my head that this company that was once started by a gifted young entrepreneur is now Government owned.
It sure seems like they are turning into an unresponsive, limbering State-owned bureaucracy. I would have been happy to talk to Telecom ADSL Faults myself, but apparently we mortals can't do that. That's fine, but in that case, your ISP, who presumably wants your business, needs to be a timely, responsive advocate to Telecom when things aren't working properly.
If they've been overwhelmed by demand for their recent promotion, then they need to trim the margins and give us responsive customer service and make us feel like our business is valuable, or we'll go elsewhere. I'm still tempted. I don't know who could give me equivalent service in terms of bandwidth, and the Digital Voice offering soon to be released keeps me wanting to hang in there, but I am totally appalled by how difficult it remains to get an elderly couple a broad band connection so they can see photos of their grandchildren. And now, they really wonder whether it's worth the bother. At least dial-up, slow though it is, works.