Telstra f’up again, again and again – ignores USO and converts landline to 4G anyway

The latest Telstra f’up concerns a 91-year-old, in-home care dementia/stroke patient losing her landline, her lifeline. Telstra’s behaviour when asked to fix this was equally f%$*ed’up.

In early April, we wrote Telstra to move your NBN home phone to Telstra 4G – DON’T DO IT. In essence, Telstra wanted to move the Universal Service Obligation (USO) $25 (plus calls) or $45 (Ultimate Voice Advanced, including calls) landlines to 4G. This only affected seniors with the landline service delivered over NBN. It does not affect those with Telstra NBN data packages which start from $80 per month.

A reader contacted me in a panic. His 91-year-old mother, a dementia/stroke patient, receives in-home care while waiting for a nursing home place. She had lost her phone service after it was converted to 4G. DESPITE him advising Telstra well before the 18 April 2023 deadline NOT TO CONVERT.

He wrote

Telstra took Mum off NBN FTTN and went to 4G for her home phone. I read your article and made sure I advised them before the cut-off date not to do so.

A few weeks ago, her landline became almost unusable. Calls would drop out, people would call, but her phone would not ring. She would answer calls, and there was no one there, and there were extended outages. We know 4G is way too unreliable at her home on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.

I contacted Telstra (after waiting over an hour on hold); they said, as we did not have an NBN data broadband account, they switched it to 4G without advising us. I explained that I had advised them well before the deadline that 4G at her address was unreliable, and she had medical equipment.

Telstra was not interested and said that I had to register my enduring power of attorney (that would take time) and something called a Priority Assistance Application (that needed a doctor’s signature). All the while, Mum did not have life-saving phone access. I pleaded for some understanding, and they said no and hung up. The next day we received a notice closing the case file. Still no phone.

This only happened after the 4G cut-over, and there have been numerous occasions that my family has been unable to contact her, let alone call for an ambulance, as she frequently needs.

What do I do?

Telstra f’up and, as usual, is not willing to see the logic and help a poor old lady dementia/stroke sufferer

The reader tried again and called Telstra (waiting nearly an hour). He was told that the only way it could do anything promptly was if the landline owner called (on the faulty landline), correctly identified herself (she can’t remember which day it is, let alone secret questions) and authorised him to talk to Telstra. Ain’t going to happen.

The solution – divorce Telstra at any cost

A small segue. Another Brisbane reader (who initially told us about this issue) asked that her landline not be transferred, yet kept receiving letters after the cut-off date advising that her service would be transferred.

When she called (and well over an hour of waiting to get through), the assistant looked up the original reference number. She said that it had not been actioned because the request had not been processed correctly (another Telstra f’up). Another reference number was issued, and she was assured that it would be processed correctly this time. The assistant also said they had experienced a massive response to staying on NBN and were weeks behind.

It appears Telstra does what it wants if a senior with a USO landline does not have at least an $80 per month Tel$tra NBN Plan. Now most seniors can’t afford $25 (calls extra) or $45 (calls included) and rely on the familiar, easy-to-use landline as their only contact with the outside world.

In this case, the reader calls his mum daily. It helps him check that she answers the phone, and as happens every few weeks, when she does not, he immediately calls an ambulance.

He was so sick of Telstra. Do you blame him?

I offered to ring Aussie Broadband (that I use) to ask for their advice. Within 2 minutes, I was talking to an extremely helpful person who immediately understood the predicament. “We get so many calls about this and Telstra’s inability or unwillingness to help.”

She said all the reader needed to do was call Aussie on his mobile (she would leave notes in the system attached to that number) so the next Aussie person would have the information at their fingertips.

She also said that while he was on the call, he could get upload the Power of Attorney for his mum, which would become effective immediately (no waiting weeks for Telstra to process it).

But there were two problems with all Telstra transfers that were beyond Aussie’s control.

First, Telstra can take up to six weeks to port a phone number to Aussie. Most other providers do it in a few days, and while they can give it a priority status, that had no sway with Telstra.

Second, Telstra modems (Gen 1, 2, or 3) use proprietary Voice over IP signalling, whereas Aussie uses industry-standard VoIP. If you want to keep the Telstra modem (and a new modem costs $179 plus freight), you will need a $69 ATA (Analogue Telephone Adapter) that bypasses the Telstra modem. A simple and low-cost solution

Aussie was terrific and prompt. It offered a $50 Seniors package with unlimited inbound calls and low-cost outbound calls (as the reader’s mum doesn’t call anyone anymore).

CyberShack’s view – Telstra f’up again, again, again, ad infinitum

The reader was beside himself. He had no technical knowledge, lives two hours away from his mum, and the daily carers could not deal with Telstra either. He cannot believe Telstra’s uncaring attitude and lack of sympathy. Perhaps they hear sob stories all the time and are so inured to them.

This comes hot on the heels of Telstra’s vulnerable customers ignored – ACMA court-enforceable undertaking to address issues. It seems that you must know about requesting a priority assistance application form and providing more information than necessary to allow Telstra to deem if you need assistance.

That assistance is a 100% reliable landline telephone service over NBN (not 4G) for a diagnosed life-threatening medical condition whose life may be at risk without access to a working voice telephone service. Applicants require certification by a medical practitioner or another authorised person. A simplified explanation is here.

Obviously, the reader thought the response to Telstra’s initial letter was sufficient.

How dare Telstra ignore sick seniors, make arbitrary decisions to move them to 4G, and not even tell them?

CyberShack Telstra news here.