My Telstra Moving Nightmare

My Telstra Moving Nightmare
Image: iStock

Moving house is a time of excitement. But it can also be a time of great stress. As someone who works from home much of the time, a smooth move is critical as every day that I spend messing around shifting boxes, furniture and services is a day when I’m not working and not earning any money. I thought I had everything planned perfectly. And then I wanted an Internet connection.

Before moving, I wrote a list of all the different services I needed disconnected and reconnected or simply transferred from my old place to the new one. Naturally, near the top of that list were my utilities; gas, water, power and Internet.

Gas and power were handled easily with a simple phone call. I’m happy wth my existing providers for those services so all I needed to do was provide a few details such as addresses and the move date and everything was sorted out.

Water was even easier. In Victoria, the local water authority is notified as part of the property settlement process and they figure it all out.

My ISP at my old place was Telstra. Because of where I lived, they were my only option. Local ADSL connectivity was rated as delivering less than 2MBps but I had access to cable.

Using Telstra’s online Moving House service, I was informed that for an $89 transfer fee, I could simply take my cable modem with me, plug it in at the new place and all would be well.

Then reality struck

Once I’d arrived at the new place, I unpacked my comms gear; the Telstra modem router (a Netgear device) configured to be in bridge mode, my preferred wireless router, NAS units and other bits and pieces.

I screwed the modem’s coaxial cable into the access point labelled as Telstra in the office area, plugged in the power and … no connection. The power light came on but there was no connectivity back to Telstra.

I called support, explained the situation and was referred to technical support (a process that took over 30 minutes). A very helpful tech support associate walked me through some basic trouble shooting processes including a factory reset of the modem.

By the time two hours had expired on the phone, I started to get a little testy and asked if this could be escalated to someone who could help resolve the issue.

Cutting to the chase… so I thought

After a bunch of being bounced through various Telstra departments I was told the reason the connection would work was a “system glitch”. That’s the technical term they used. Apparently, while a physical disconnection of my old service had occurred, their systems had not updated correctly, allowing my new home to be connected to the cable network.

Although that seemed a tad far-fetched to me, I accepted the explanation on face value and asked how long it would take to resolve.

At one point I was told it would take 10 days to get a technician to come to the house. Needless to say, I was not impressed. I think this was the point where I wish I had a recording of the phrase “If you can’t help me, please escalate this to someone who can”. Over the next couple of days I repeated this many, many times.

By this stage, my case had been assigned a case manager from the Telstra Moves Team and I was told Telstra would call me first thing on Saturday morning (the day after the move) when their office opened at 9:00AM.

The next day

I went to my local Parkrun, something I do most weeks, figuring I’d be clear by 8:30 and have plenty of time to receive the promised 9:00AM call.

Telstra called early. OK – at this point, I could cop some of the blame as I didn’t have my phone with me while running but calling early meant I missed the call.

Fortunately, or so I thought, Telstra’s system sends a text message if you miss a call with a number to call and a reference number. So, I called the number and discovered it was the number for Message Bank support (a heart WTF was uttered at this point). But the person who I spoke to told me the department I was looking for worked Monday to Friday from 8:00AM.

It’s fair to say my fuse was burning fast and shortening.

Eventually, I got on to someone who followed up and told me I’d be called on Monday.

Monday arrives with a promise

At this point, I have to say all of the associates I spoke to on the phone were polite and friendly to a fault. I know that’s part of their training but I was getting impatient and frustrated – this looked like a simple issue from my perspective as I’d been told it was a system glitch and there transaction had to pushed through manually to resolve the issue. After another hour on the phone (by this stage, I clocked over four hours of calls with various Telstra folks) I managed to get something I’d not yet managed from a support person during this process.

The support associate I spoke to on Monday morning (I’d love to tell you what department he was actually from but, by this stage, I’d spoken to so many people and been bounced around that I lost track) confirmed it was a system glitch and he promised it would be resolved by the next morning.

When he said that, I asked if the call was being recorded. When answered affirmatively, I asked him to say “I promise it will be fixed by tomorrow”. And he did. So, I took his promise on faith and waiting till the next day.

Tuesday comes.. you know what’s going to happen

Tuesday was a crunch day for me. Until this stage, I’d managed by tethering my phone to my computer and using cellular data for work. Fortunately, a few months ago I re-jigged all my phone plans and have a generous 40GB data allocation. And, as I’d not been travelling much during this billing period, I still had plenty of data allowance remaining.

But on Tuesday night, I needed a reliable and fast connection. I was hosting a webinar and, while tethering works pretty well, it did drop out from time to time during the day. That’s not a big deal when you’re working on day to day stuff but it’s a killer when you’re live streaming.

So, Tuesday morning rolls around and… no connection. So, I’m back on the phone, go through the basics of the situation, providing both my move reference number and my recently allocated complaint number.

The response I received from this operator – well, it’s fair to say I pretty much lost it. I was told the “system glitch” would take 48 to 72 hours to resolve.

I asked them if it would be quicker to disable my old account and create a new one rather than effect a transfer. That was also going to take the same 48 to 72 hours.

At this point I did something I cannot recall ever having done. I played my “journalist card”.

Playing the journo card

It’s unfortunate that solving this problem required my to queue jump the way I did but I was getting desperate and my frustration was starting to impact my concentration and, potentially, my livelihood.

I hit my little black book and called someone in Telstra’s media team. I emailed them a summary of the situation and within an hour, I had a call back from someone in Telstra’s premium support team.

The support person I spoke to cut straight to business and didn’t ask me to repeat any other story – they went straight to solution mode, bypassing all then usual call centre scripting I’d heard over the last few days.

After some discussion, the tech asked if the previous owners had a cable internet service. They did but it was through Optus. The tech asked me to look through every room and see if there were any other potential access points.

There was one in the lounge but that didn’t work either. However, we discovered a point in a bedroom. I plugged the modem in and… voila! I had connectivity.

Now, at this point, you’re probably going to say I’m an idiot for not trying this before. The trouble is, I was told this was a system problem. Telstra’s diagnostic process did not allow for a hardware fault.

Once the immediate need for my Tuesday eventing webinar was solved, I was told a technician would be onsite the next morning, between 8:00AM and 12:00PM to test everything and fix the access point in the office.

That’s a long way short of the ten days I was originally allocated.

The technician came and diagnosed the root cause. When the previous owners had installed their Optus cable service, that technician “borrowed” the Telstra cable in order to set up the Optus service without having to run more cables.

The wash-up

What really annoys me about this entire process is that Telstra’s call centre staff, while trying to be helpful (and they did a pretty good job I think) are constrained. Once they had identified a “system glitch” as the problem, they didn’t suggest any other solution.

From my part, although I could have tried another access point, I had no reason to think one access point would be any different to another one. And, as I’d only just moved in, I didn’t even know there was a point in the other room (which is the third bedroom – not even the master).

There’s also an interesting lesson for the deployment of the NBN. With technicians cutting corners at many premises (like the plus installer using the Telstra cable at my place), it’s no surprise there are some disgruntled NBN customers other there.


  • Oh wow, I feel your pain. I had some seriously bad dealings with Telstra service over the last 18 months. At one point I could be heard screaming down the phone, locked in an office at work. I’ve never done that! And once those initial connection issues were resolved months later, I’ve spent the remaining time dealing with unexplainable changes to my account details. My name changing, my DOB being set to my partner’s, and so on.

    It came to a head this week when I noticed on my last bill that my address had been changed. To a bike path!! I kid you not. So yesterday, yet another visit to a Telstra store, who through everything have always been excellent and helpful to deal with (In fact I had started to get a sense of amusement when I would take a new issue to them and see a “how does that even happen” expression). I got them to fix my billing details, thanked them for their help, walked out and over to the Vodafone store, opened an account, ported my mobile number over, and got a plan for 15% cheaper, but with 400% more data.
    I don’t know what clowns they have working behind the scenes at telstra, but as someone who works in retail, I really feel for those people that are essentially the face of the company. They’re basically there to shovel the company’s crap that gets dumped on them.

  • Lifehacker please hook me up with that premium support service! I am just a nobody but I’ve had a similar experience trying to switch to Telstra cable from Optus cable. Multiple technician no-shows. Hours and hours on support lines being bounced from department to department, retelling my story and details over and over, then being hit with multiple $240 technician visit fees after I was assured by sales team that I would not be. I finally told them to cancel the whole thing. How can they make it so hard to take our money? Worst customer support ive ever had to deal with.

  • I had a similar experience moving recently. In the end I gave up on Telstra and signed up with Aussie Broadband, who have an Australian call centre with staff who actually know a bit about their business.
    Telstra’s overseas based call centres are completely and utterly useless – a total waste of time and money.
    Eventually someone in Telstra (or a consultant) will figure out that using foreign call centres is a false economy that is bleeding red ink all over their financial statements.

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