IF there is one word that casts fear into the hearts of internet service provider call centre personnel it is this: ombudsman.

It is the trump card and I had saved it up.

But I was forced to play it on Wednesday when I racked up my 11th round of contact with the Telstra NBN complaints team because of the vanishing of my internet connection.

It was the day I had served more than a month in a cyber vacuum.

My NBN connection was taken down briefly in June for 'scheduled maintenance' and simply did not resurface.

I had been sentenced to online silence despite being not guilty and had grown weary of being unjustly imprisoned in isolation.

I have had to rely on the kindness of others and the hotspot my phone, eschewing Netflix and iView, and abandoning working from my home.

The disconnection had turned me to the dark side and made me meaner.

With each contact, I had to jump through the same hoops. (Pic: iStock)
With each contact, I had to jump through the same hoops. (Pic: iStock)

Long ago, I adopted the approach that one gets further in life with honey than with vinegar, but my tone in conversations with the team members in some far away nation had increasingly become imbued with acid edges.

At the start, I began calls with a deliberately warm voice, but I was tested by the frustrating routine and was found wanting.

With each contact, I had to jump through the same hoops of giving name, rank and serial number and receiving a text so that I could go online for a chat rather than speak to a person. Oh, the irony.


Each time, I was asked if I was having problems with the speed of my connection.

Yes I am, I would bite back - the problem was I didn't have any. None at all.

Two weeks in, when my case was 'escalated', I still had to answer the same inane questions - yes, I have gone through the troubleshooting steps; no, the lights are not green; yes, there is power going to the box on the wall.

Each time I had to walk through the level 1 and 2 steps before getting to 3.

I wore a figurative track in the virtual carpet.

Hours of my life have been lost navigating the same maze with the same outcome. Only idiots do that and here I was.

The failed promises are the worst. Someone would call me back - it could be before 9am, or after 3pm or this evening, I was told.

My phone remained stubbornly silent and not one promised appointment was kept.

And what is it with the practice of saying at the end of a call 'is there anything else I can help you with today?'

I wanted to dive through the phone line and show the infuriatingly polite but resolutely unhelpful call centre staff member my contorted and reddened face in response.

A few days ago, I was cut off on a call after waiting for 23 minutes on hold.

Australia is meant to be proudly crafting a digital economy, encouraging industriousness and income generation for ourselves and the nation from home, the road, anywhere.

On my experience in the past month, the standard of the craft is preschool level.

What a crock.

After a month of calls and turning things on and off again, it’s hard to be anything but frustrated with Telstra and the NBN. (Pic: AAP/Mick Tsikas)
After a month of calls and turning things on and off again, it’s hard to be anything but frustrated with Telstra and the NBN. (Pic: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

There was a time I would nod sagely and look sympathetic when people would tell tales of their burps and bubbles in their internet service.

Since NBN came into my life, I was riding the rocket of seamless connection, flowing along in the endless stream, reaching for whatever cyberspace treats I desired.

I now look at my smugness with some embarrassment, having fallen from the stars to the gutter in one day and found myself lodged there.

On Wednesday, the Telstra call centre chap sounded gleeful: they had figured the problem was not theirs, but NBN Co's. Never mind that no one else in my building is left lost and disconnected.

I must hover near my box from 8am to noon and they would fix it, I was told.

I am still waiting.

But what about the month of connectedness I had automatically bought but had not enjoyed, the $100 I had forked out for dead air, unused data and sweet nothings?

I was advised that on my rather fat file of complaints and problems I had logged, no notes would be made on that at this juncture.

Once I was back on the air, I should call again and take my claim up with the billing department, I was told.

I am already practising my best manners, bracing to stretch my tolerance limits yet again - and limbering up for round 12.

I try to be grateful for small mercies and the knowledge that at least I am not alone: there were 22,827 complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman from July to December last year, up over 200 per cent.

If patience is a virtue, many of us must have already been unwillingly, unexpectedly sainted.