TELSTRA should not be privatised until such time as it delivers a satisfactory communications service to metropolitan business.Telstra’s current advertising campaign for broadband Internet access exhorts business and domestic consumers to get on line, yet when an application is made you find that the company cannot supply it.I applied for broadband access through a local ISP and was told firstly that it would take between three and 20 days before Telstra would let me know if my application “was approved”.The application was subsequently “rejected” because my office was too far from the exchange. Yet, the relevant cable comes to within 500 metres of my office before taking a detour through the suburbs. It is also available directly across Vahland Avenue in Willetton, about 50 metres away.A cloak of secrecy thwarted my every attempt to contact any Telstra officer. The independent supplier who was supplying the ISP was “not allowed” to provide the ISP or myself with a Telstra name or phone number to discuss the matter.Eventually, an exhaustive search on the Telstra website threw up the name of an associated Sydney company involved in broadband. Again, these people were not allowed to provide me with a Telstra officer’s name or phone number, but they did ask someone from Telstra to call me. The ensuing phone conversation was as frustrating as it was fruitless.Essentially, the so-called ‘customer service officer’ told me that Telstra’s obligation was to supply me with one phone line. Everything else was extra.I asked her if it was possible for Telstra to run a spur line to our office and was told that, while it may be technically possible, it was highly unlikely Telstra would do so. However, she said she would get back to me next business day.That was two weeks ago. I have not heard anything since from anyone at Telstra.While much is being made about Telstra’s service in the bush, its treatment of customers in the metropolitan area is also highly questionable. The attitude of Telstra in this one instance smacks of total unaccountability.The cloak of secrecy around the people who make the decisions to reject an application for broadband access – while a simple engineering solution exists – is symptomatic of a corporation out of control.What will happen if they are fully privatised? What recourse will business and consumershave in situations such as mine under a fully privatised Telstra?It’s time that Telstra management realised that the corporation has a duty to supply all Australian businesses with the telecommunications infrastructure by which it carries out business.Privatising what’s left of the taxpayer-owned telecommunications provider will result in a total abrogation of anything resembling a responsibility to provide business and consumers with the level of service our inter-national competitors now enjoy.The current political obsession with ‘Telephones in Pyjamas’ (T1 and T2) should give way to a debate about the quality and level of service Australians need from Telstra.When Telstra delivers a whole of communications service that is on par with our international competitors, we can go back to the debate on privatisation.
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