Friday, March 18, 2011

Communications Breakdown

We all know how I feel about Cell C...and that I think Telkom, as bad as it is, is a better alternative for internet access.

I am beginning to rethink that...

After months of sturm und drang regarding that stupid stick and weeks of angst waiting for the Telkom ADSL line to be restored, last week it all finally came together and I had my ADSL line back! But my joy was to be short-lived.

For some reason, my ADSL line crashed and on Friday the technicians showed up...and they were clueless. Three of the four lights on the front of my wireless router were on, and the wireless was working because we were able to print wirelessly, proving that it could both receive (from the computer) a wireless signal and send (to the printer) one. And despite this, the technician declared that my wireless router was "broken" and I needed to install a Telkom router which he conveniently had in his truck...

About this time Hubby, the engineer, came home and upon his arrival the technicians stopped trying to blow smoke up my arse. They had their router in hand and plugged it in and it worked...but when Hubby demanded they plug the data line back into our router voila! magically, our router suddenly showed all four lights and in a matter of seconds, my laptop connected to the internet.

I suspect I know what was going on...if Telkom can convince the customer that the problem is caused by the customer's equipment, not the Telkom line, they get to charge you an extra fee for an "unnecessary call out." By convincing me the router was bad, not only could they sell me the router they brought with them, the could charge me an "unnecessary call out" fee. If the problem was in their line...which it was because once their router worked, my router worked too...then Telkom makes no money on the visit.

Anyway, they left on Friday and for the next three days I enjoyed reasonable speeds and uninterrupted data was such a relief after months of drop outs, painfully show data speeds, and continual rebooting of that accursed stick! But, as I said, my joy was short lived...

Tuesday morning I stepped into the study and saw only two lights glowing on the router. I picked up the phone to call Telkom and the line was dead. I went all around the house, checking to make sure all the phones were properly seated, then called Hubby to make sure he had not forgotten to pay the bill. He had not, but the phone was dead anyway. Monday it was working fine, because I spoke with my contractor on the landline, but sometime during the night it died.

I'll give Telkom credit...reaching someone to report the problem was way easier than trying to reach Cell C to make a report! But like Cell C, unless you were calling from their own phone system, you couldn't make the call without charge. How stupid is that?? Oh, both systems provide toll-free calling to report faults, but in both cases you must be calling from their system...and if your phone that it on their system is the one that is dead, just how are you supposed to call them using their system??

What I found to be even more moronic was Telkom's suggestion that we report faults using their website. Sorry, guys, but that is just plain illogical. If my line is dead it means my ADSL is dead too...just how do you expect me to access your website when I can't get onto the internet because your system has crashed and left me without access??

I managed to get through to a person to report the fault and she said she would SMS me a reference number. She didn't. All day Tuesday I was without a phone or ADSL. The line was not dead as in "open air" sound but no dial tone, it was dead as in "did somebody cut the phone lines or unplug this handset?" Between us, Hubby and I called several times, trying to either get a reference number or some information as to the nature of the fault and estimated duration.

Although it wasn't difficult to get to a technician, getting one who had even a clue was very difficult. In one case, I got a woman who actually asked me if my phone was plugged into the wall...this is after the fault had been logged and I was calling the number you are supposed to use to check on the progress of your report! When I said "of course it is plugged into the wall...where else would I plug it?" she transferred me to someone who told me I needed to call 10212 (fault reporting line). I told her I had called 10212 and that was how I ended up speaking with her...and she repeated herself! I'm sorry, it is not my fault that the last dimbulb I spoke with transferred me to the wrong extension, but did she really think, knowing my phone was dead and I was probably talking to her on a cell phone, that I needed to start the expensive cell-phone minute chewing process all over again? Apparently she did, as she transferred me to 10212 and I had to start the process all over again! On Tuesday, the best we could eventually get was "your report is in the queue and it will be handled."

So, I asked Hubby how long to wait before we called again...he said "Give 'em two days." And so, yesterday morning at about 11, I girded my loins and called again. This time I actually managed to get someone who not only had a brain, she was quite apparently familiar with its operation! She checked my phone line, did a little research on her computer, then came back to tell me that I was not alone, that quite a few people in my area were reporting the same thing. "When will it be fixed?" I asked. She didn't have an answer.

"Well," I said, "since more than one person in my area has the same problem, shouldn't this be a higher priority for you?" She pondered this for a long, silent moment, then said "I will escalate this for you." And escalate it she 3 yesterday aftenoon, phones and ADSL was back on and working perfectly. And when I got up this morning, it was working perfectly still!

I wish I could close this tale with a triumphant, upbeat ending, but this is South Africa and, despite our position as the richest, most technologically advanced nation on the continent, our communications industry is shameful. And, sure enough, by 9 this morning my email refused to send a mail and when I looked to the router, saw only two lights glowing. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I picked up the phone, only to find it just as dead as it was yesterday at this time. Back to square one...and because today is Friday and Monday is a public holiday, I don't expect to see my phone or ADSL active for at least a week.

The locals call the company "Helkom" for a reason...


  1. Oh my goodness, this rings so true! So sorry you've been having such hassles with Helcom... having lived in London for ten years now I SO appreciate the phone service we get here. We are returning to South Africa next year and have Helcom to look forward to again... hara!!!

  2. Just got back from the UK ourselves - still in 'furnished holiday accomodation' but our shipment has arrived from over the sea and we move into an unfurnished house in Kommetjie on 01 April - getting a phone line and broadband is going to be a challenge, I just know it!


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