Poll Dancer by Keith Ng

Die Dirty Telcos, Die Die Die

I dream of the day when we can raze Telecom to the ground. The flurry of posts last week came because I had just managed to get internet connected. It took just under three weeks. Due to "a shortage of technicians", it took 10 days to get a phone - a plain old telephone, one of the things that those of us born in the 20th century just take for granted. It took another 10 days to connect us to the internet.

It's not like they had to build pylons to get to us. We *were* connected. We just needed someone to flick a switch. It's not an infrastructure problem - they just don't give a shit.

When I was advised that it'd take 10 days to get a phone-line, I said: "Oh. I guess I better find another provider then." Their reply: "Sure. I'll set this job up, and if you find someone who can connect it sooner, just call us and we'll cancel the job for you." They were confident that they owned our ass, and they were right.

And when we were looking for ISPs, why did we stick with Telecom? Of course we didn't! Who the hell would? We went with Orcon, but of course, they still needed to line up at Telecom's door to beg one of their benevolent technicians to connect the line, if they're not too busy.

When I called up Telecom to get my account number to give to Orcon, they asked: "Have you thought about connecting to the internet with Xtra?" I explained that, for the same price as their 3gb 256k plan, I could get an unlimited 256k plan at Orcon. "Oh. That does sound like a pretty good deal."

So yeah - Telecom's changes are great, but it doesn't change the fact that what I'm really after is *choice*; the ability to not have anything to do with Telecom at all.

(And what the hell's with Xtra's "Revenge of the Nerds" advertising campaign? Dude, that stereotype belongs in the 80s, along with the one where gay man = sailor-boy with handle-bar moustache and tight leather gear. Trying to sell internet with the former is like trying to sell Queer-Eye-esque fashion with the latter - it'd only appeal to people who geniunely didn't have a clue. Which is fair enough, I suppose - since Xtra's niche in the market is "suckers-who-are-unaware-that-other-ISPs-exist".)

Still, nothing can beat my personal grudge against TelstraSatan, who, a few years back, erroneously sent our flat a final bill of $1,700. All but one of my ex-flatmates bailed on me, which left me fighting the evil corporation for a year.

We wrote letter after letter, which were no doubt forwarded to the Department That Cares. We staved off the debt-collectors by taking the matter to the Disputes Tribunal, and when a manager from TelstraSatan arrived at the hearing, she had our letters in a folder, and informed the judge that she hadn't read a word of it. We went away while she read it, and she generously offered to settle the matter if we paid them $500. We politely declined and generously offered not to persue other costs if they paid us court costs of $70. They paid. We blew it on steaks.

For anyone who's considering taking on The Man, here's the thing: They don't listen and they are assholes. Their entire system is based on the premise that, if they fuck you around long enough, you'd get intimidated or really really bored and give up. It's a war of attrition that works in their favour, because it takes you more effort to get their system to notice you than it does for them to not give a shit.

But the Disputes Tribunal is a great equaliser. They can't get debt collectors on you if the matter's going before the courts. They can't ignore a court summons. They can't send in real lawyers. So they end up sending someone from middle-management who has better things to not do with their time, and suddenly, it costs *them* more to waste your time.

It's not quite razing them to the ground, but it's the closest legal alternative.

And the world would be better without them - if only we could get our internet another way. I've just been playing around with Skype the last few days - free calling to anyone else with Skype, and 3c/min to any phone number in most parts of the world. And with better sound quality.

The most attractive part of it is that it uses the internet, and thus, information is broken into packets and sent through whatever means is available. On a grand-scale, it means that the copper network can rot, but as long as you've got internet through fibre-optics or Woosh or whatever, then you're still fully-functional. On a practical scale, it means not having to depend on a particular physical network - it'd be like having a phone number that's as portable as your email.

The revolution is coming. And I know who'll be first against the wall.