The Madness Of Internet Connectivity

Posted Monday, April 27, 2009, 6:14 PM

Though some parts of our day to day life are necessarily complex, some parts ought to be so much easier.

Here's the comedy of errors that has been my efforts to connect to the internet in April 2009.

Before I made the big move, I anticipated a few hiccups, but tried my best to be completely organised so that a minimum of things would go wrong, and if they did, I could cope with it within my limited means. So I organised my electricity, gas, phone, and internet to be switched over on the day I moved. Organising the internet ahead of time is a waste of effort, it seems, because they don't do anything about it until after the phone is fully connected anyway. I also arranged for the movers to arrive, and the steam cleaners to come in the next day for the final clean.

I was afraid it would all fall apart.

On the day of the move, the movers arrived on time, did their thing quickly and efficiently, and were all done in a few hours. Unfortunately it ended up costing more than I hoped due to traffic dragging out their hourly rate, so that sort of sucked, but never mind, they did their job.

The electricity and gas were on when I arrived and settled in, but the phone was dead.

The next day I went back to the old place for a final clean, and waited two hours for the steam cleaners. They never showed up. Damn them. Made my final clean look a bit shoddy, unfortunately. That's a count against me, I fear.

Back home, I familiarised myself with the new place. Apart from creaky floorboards, light switches in stupid places, and no knobs on the kitchen cupboard doors, it's a pretty decent place.

I then set my TV up, only to discover that the connector to the antenna was installed by some cowboy, as it dangles by a loose wire, and if you nudge the cable or switch the light or aircon on, it affects the TV reception, which, for a constant on-off thing like an aircon, is very irritating. I had to find a way to fix that up, somehow. After some experimentation, I swapped the coaxial cable to another, which, as far as I can tell, solved the issue. So it appears the old cable left here was worn and poorly shielded.

The phone, however, was still dead.

On the next day, after realising I had moved into the wrong bedroom, because that one was dark and cold, while the other one was sunny and bright, I spent the day shifting things from one to the other, but I also checked the phone line and, yes, it was still dead. Well, that's just going too far, and is completely unacceptable.

So the next day, after checking it one more time, I headed down to a public phone, a rare commodity these days, and asked the ISP what was up. They said it was, in fact, successfully connected the previous day (two days later than promised, but okay...) whereas I was sure the line was still dead. They asked me to return home and check all the connections with multiple cables and phones, just to make sure. I did go and do that, and came back to the public phone to tell them it was definitely all dead.

So they said they'd lodge a fault. Do I have an alternative phone number, in case I need to be contacted? Well, no I don't. I'm not working, so I can't use a work phone, I hate mobile phones and do not have one, and I had only just moved in and didn't know my neighbours yet. Well, they cannot lodge a fault without an alternative phone number.


So the next day I go into the nearby shopping centre (which is pretty decent, luckily) and bought a pre-paid mobile phone. I set it up, and lodged a fault with my phone.

By now, this was Friday, so I didn't expect a technician to come out on the weekend. However, surprisingly, he turned up on Sunday. Though, naturally, he did not use the alternative phone number, and instead he just knocked on my door. I just *knew* that would happen.

There are three sockets in the house, and it appears the problem was that they were all previously connected to a different phone company, Optus, and that's why my Telstra connectivity wasn't coming through. So the technician had to switch that over. Then he discovered a technical fault at the points, and so fixed that up too. However, he could only switch over one of the sockets, the "point of entry", which instead of being in a logical place like the living room, was in one of the bedrooms. So my phone is hooked up in the bedroom that I use as my DVD library, instead of in somehwere socially logical like the living room.

I called the ISP, from a proper phone, to get my ADSL connected. But they said the fault is still marked as being open, so I should call the next morning.


I call the next morning. It's now an entire week after moving in. The ISP closes the fault, and checks my line for ADSL suitability.

And it's not suitable for ADSL.


I live too far from the Exchange, and cannot get ADSL.


Do I have Telstra cable? Nope. My only option, then, is Wireless Internet. Which costs three times too much for an unreliable connection and a crappy and pathetic download limit. Well, bugger that for a game of soldiers.

So that was that. I can't get ADSL. I have to abandon my ISP, who had the coolest plans I could ever hope for, all because I moved to a home that was too far from the Exchange. But what does "too far from the Exchange" mean, exactly?

Imagine, if you will, a circle representing the limits of the Heidelberg Exchange. The Exchange building itself is near the southern border of that circle, whereas my new place is on the northernmost tip of the circle. Quite literally on the borders, as one block north they're on a different Exchange. That puts me around 5km away, which is too far for ADSL to work. Instead of the building being central and within reach of all, it is completely lopsided and only within reach of a few lucky souls.

The next Exchange over, the Greensborough Exchange, is a lot closer to me, and well within reach, but it technically doesn't service my area. Can I connect with that one? They tested the line to check, but apparently I cannot - the ports are all full, and really I'd be buggering about with their system too much anyway.

Fuck their stupid system.

I need ADSL. It is my life. It is my work. It has already driven me a bit nuts to go this long without it. It's amazing to me how much I rely on it, and how many times a day I think "Oh, I'll just check this online" and frustratingly realise I can't do it.

So I considered all my options. And then realised that there may have been a good reason why the last tenant used Optus for their phoneline. There is a cable that stretches from the building to the street, not a Telstra cable (they go underground) but an overhead one. Perhaps Optus can help me out.

I check out a brochure, but there's no mention of Optus still using cable for internet so I'm not certain if it's even possible. So I call them up, and they say it's fine (hurrah!), they can do cable internet. The plan I'll be on will be considerably less than what I was used to, but it's still decent-ish, has ADSL speeds (theoretically), and is a permanent online presence, so I sign up. At last.

And then, not twenty minutes after hanging up the phone with Optus, a Telstra sales guy turns up at my door, who is surprised to learn that ADSL isn't possible where I live. After all, he was assigned this route to sign people up to ADSL, and if it's not possible why even bother with the job at all?

He tells me that he will get back to me on the truth of the matter. I have my doubts that this guy will have any better luck than me, because I talked to a pretty specific subsection of Telstra, the guys who truly know what's what, and they said it wasn't possible.

The next day he calls me back to say "Certainly it's possible." I express my doubts again, but his supervisor assures him, and he assures me, that it is possible.

He turns up with forms to sign, and during the "I agree to the terms and conditions" part I have to do over the phone, the support person on the other end tells me that my line is flagged as incapable of getting ADSL. I tell her that I know that, but their representative has constantly assured me that it's possible. She says he's wrong, but goes through with the rigmarole anyway. (Later it turns out to be confirmed as an impossibility, so I cancelled everything before they began work on it, I haven't lost anything but my time, and a little bit of hope).

After that was signed and sealed, I got a text message on my mobile (that I hate and will not be keeping beyond its pre-paidedness) informing me that my Optus cable tech will be here on the 27th of April. Three entire weeks from then, and a whole month after my moving date.

Three weeks?? But it's supposed to be ten working days!!!!

Oh, that doesn't count weekends, of course, that's an extra 6 days onto the 10 day promise. And then there's the Easter holiday break, an extra 5 days, which ends up as... the 27th.

In the meantime, I am going slightly mad, and am struggling with finding ways to occupy my time. Stupidly, I have become so reliant on the Internet to entertain me in various ways, I can't remember how to do other things anymore.

I have written a lot on my newest screenplay, and have rewatched a lot of DVDs and torrents, and of course have tried to set up everything at my new place, but that is a lot less fun than even it sounds, and it's making me go a little bit potty.

Why can't things be simple? What ever happened to the idea of plugging things in, and they work first time?

I want my internet.

Days pass...

It occurred to me that if it was possible to swap my phone to another exchange, then maybe iiNet can do that for me, and I can then remain with them and use their super-duper plans as I am accustomed.

So I call them up, and as luck would have it I stumble upon the best Tech Support guy in the entire universe, because not only is he helpful and friendly, but he has all the answers: He knows all the techy stuff; all the secrets; and has the raw facts of my situation. I grill him for details.

The sad truth of the matter is I cannot get ADSL on my line at all. Not only am I too far from the Exchange, but the cables within my new residence are lowest quality. If they were a couple of steps up, then the distance would be counteracted and I could have ADSL. Not top speed, but better than nothing at all.

I asked if I could swap to another Exchange, as I know that the Greensborough Exchange is considerably nearer. But apparently I am right in the exact zone where I am out of reach of every Exchange in my area. If I was three blocks west, then I'd have more chance. If I was two blocks north, I'd be in the Greensborough range.

Almost everything about my new place is wonderful, the community most of all, but damn it, the lack of internet just sucks.

Today, after a bit of cable madness, my internet came back online. It is much less than anything I have had with my previous ISP, but I have no choice. It's all I can have.

Roll on the Fibre To The Home project, that's all I can say.