Thursday, November 16, 2006

More anti-corporation ranting. Bring down the machine!

I've just spent the last few hours on and off the phone to Telstra Bigpond, another company I'd recommend never doing business with if it's at all possible.

Bigpond usually supplies its customers with Alcatel "SpeedTouch" ADSL modems. I've no idea why they do this, as the SpeedTouch series are anything but speedy; they're crappy even for ADSL modems (ie. not ADSL2 or 2+). Alcatel also managed to write their web management system software (where you log into the modem over Ethernet via http://10.1.1.1 or similar) so inefficient that you frequently have to wait more than a few seconds for it to load over a 100 Mbps connection.

However, recently, a SpeedTouch modem died inexplicably; no matter what was done, we couldn't get the red light to go green (which meant it wouldn't even allocate addresses via DHCP, let alone connect to the Internet). Bigpond's advice was to re-sign with them on another 6-month contract. However, after I left (this occurred at a place of work), they called back saying they offer no such contract, and instead advised us to "just go out and buy a new ADSL modem".

Which we did. However, the modem recommended to us was an ADSL2/2+ modem. It wasn't able to connect to Bigpond despite the fact that the hardware's meant to be backwards-compatible. Bigpond is the only ISP in Australia, to my knowledge, using PPPoA instead of PPPoE. I have no idea what the advantages of PPPoA are, but it sure is a hassle when configuring modems.

Anyway, so we returned the Belkin one, and went out and got a new modem supporting PPPoE. Unfortunately, connection failed yet again, despite the fact that we had all the settings correctly set. The reason? The password given to us earlier that day was incorrect. (We had to get the password reset, as we weren't sure that we had the correct one.) This, of course, was discovered after I suggested it multiple times. The 'technician' on the phone at Bigpond seemed convinced that we needed to get a wireless router so that we could plug the modem in right at the wall socket. Apparently, ADSL has "no chance of working if the telephone cable is longer than 3 metres". I appreciate that this is a potential problem, but the service was working fine for over 2 years before the SpeedTouch modem died.

I won't even mention the other peculiarities of the Bigpond system, like the fact that you need to be an "authorized representative" on the account in order to do anything with their tech support team. I've been listed down as an authorized representative on this particular account probably five or six times, but each time, they say they have no record of me and require to speak to the account holder. I suppose that's fine. But the real pain is that they won't even check the password for me unless I'm the account holder. ("Hi, I suspect that I have an incorrect password and I have no internet access, could you please check to see whether this is the correct password for me?") The only possible reason I can imagine for doing this is that they want to prevent someone from "brute-forcing" a password by repeatedly asking the technician to check it. Surely if you wanted to do so, you'd check it by using your own internet account (since you're trying to steal someone's details), and logging into the "toolbox"?

Also, usernames have random suffices depending on the type of account you have. Dial-up accounts are username@bigpond.com.au (I think). "Broadband" accounts are username@bigpond.net.au, or sometimes, username@bigpond.com.au. But.. "Broadband BYO modem" accounts are username@bigpond. (But when you sign into their online toolbox, you have to use username@bigpond.net.au.) Can't they just stick with 'username', like every other ISP? This also presents a problem: "So, if this originally was a Broadband package, but now I'm using my own non-Telstra modem, do I use @bigpond or @bigpond.net.au?" "I don't know." (Turns out I have to use @bigpond, even though we didn't change our account details after the SpeedTouch broke.)

Argh. If you need an ISP in Australia (particularly in Western Australia), my recommendation is that you go with iiNet. My experience with them has been great, and they have the widest ADSL2+ coverage available. I've also heard even better things about Internode, although they don't have nearly as much ADSL2+ coverage, so I'm stuck with iiNet until Internode expands their coverage.

1 comment:

miscreant said...

PPPoA generally has less overheads (headers etc) than PPPoE. These days both work pretty well. Internote offer their customers the use of both, i personally use PPPoA and have had no issues with it, higher mtu etc. I grab 1950KB/sec from my 2+ line.

Either way, I agree, Telstra suck, they've been robbing the average punter of better speeds for a long long time.

I only skim read your post (its 3am and i'm pretty hosed), if i missed the point, oops.

--misc