My Telstra divorce

Well Telstra, the divorce papers came through…

It’s been 35 years or so. The separation comes with a wrench, I suppose, but it was inevitable. The Telstra I teamed up with back then is no more. Let me list the ways we grew apart.

Sub-standard living. Telstra could not fix a three year problem that caused my email service to bounce messages back to senders when the mailbox on their server was full. The only remedy was for me – the user – to go online to their webmail and delete old emails 25 at a time – all that could be selected. After offering a discount for this they reverted to full charges. It’s just as if you bought a car and it periodically broke down, and the manufacturer refused to fix it.

Mental cruelty. Trying to fix a Telstra problem is incredibly difficult. You have to navigate a voice menu which periodically misunderstands you. Eventually you get through to someone with a very difficult to understand foreign accent who insists on going through a script each time of possible faults. If the call fails – and it sometimes does – you have to start again. These attempts at a fix could often take up two or more hours of your life, but it hardly date night.

Desertion. Telstra offer a service where you can pay extra – Telstra Platinum – to have a real IT technician in Australia fix the problem. So they did once for me – until their repair fell over some months later.

Lack of Communication. Telstra became harder to understand as time went on. Partners normally become easier. I hear that in other marriages to telcos this is not always the case. For example, I just sent Telstra the following message:

“I have terminated my service due to poor performance from Telstra. My account is in credit $115.16. I want this money transferred to me or sent by cheque. I cannot contact Telstra to arrange anything – I waited on the phone for 23 minutes and you then disconnected it – and your online sections have no option to do this.”

All up Telstra, it’s time to hit Tinder and so on. Sad but true. Goodbye.


Dr Tom Lewis is now happily with another telco.


In my experience, the only way to get Telstra to fix any non-trivial problem* is to lodge a complaint with the TIO. That gets the attention of someone in oz who actually knows what they’re doing and can fix it.

non-trivial problem*: one that is not an nbn issue and cannot be resolved by the basic steps which are all you get otherwise. As if any rational being would take on the torture of an oxymoronic ‘Telstra help’ chat without checking cables, resetting and rebooting everything in sight multiple times.


Lucky this way because there is a Telstra shop nearby, and the staff are friendly enough, and help as much as they are able to.
The biggest gripe over here is about the loss of Crowd Support, the searchable Q&A forum with a substantial knowledge base.
They also pulled the free three_month_per_year home broadband top up if you breached the limit, no email notification of that received. The service is still available for the 24/7 mobile app, apparently.


Was the problem with a full mailbox a Telstra problem or a client problem? By client, I don’t mean the person, but the software used to receive emails. As far as I know, there are three broad categories of mail client:

  • Internet based client where all the mail resides on the server, and the client provides a window into the mail

  • IMAP client, where the mail resides on the server and the client(s). Each client has a copy of the mail on the server

  • POP3 client, where mail is transferred from server to client, then may be deleted from the server.

Many people use an Internet based client. These are dependent on the whim of the mail provider, they provide the interface. The user experience is variable. I suspect this is the client used by CynicalAussie.

POP3 is an older client protocol, it was designed with the idea users would have one computer for their mail. It is clumsy when people retrieve their mail from several devices.

IMAP clients are supported by most email servers. Because the IMAP protocol is a standard, the user is not locked into a specific experience (as is the case when using the Internet based clients). The user can select a client that suits their requirements, with the advantage that many clients are highly configurable.

I use the Thunderbird client on my computers. The main one is configured to monitor seven different mail accounts (don’t ask), all presented in one screen. It also has what is called Local Folders so emails that I want to keep are transferred there and deleted from the server. There was an occasion where an email account which we’d forgotten about was added, it had over 7000 emails almost all spam. It was easy to sort the 7000 by sender and block delete all but the 30 or so emails we wanted to keep. It is well worth looking at having at least one ‘proper’ email client for the flexibilty it provides. With IMAP, any alterations (e.g. deleting emails) is reflected back to the server, and then propagated to any other client using the same account.

As for Telstra, our divorce was over 20 years ago. We had a phone line, used at times for dial up Internet. Usage increased to the point where we decided to get a second line so the children could use the Internet and we could use the phone. My wife organised the second line. There were problems, my wife tried to get it fixed but was told she couldn’t initiate the action as the line was in my name. “But I organised the connection without needing his permission” she argued. To no avail, I had to intervene and the problem was never satisfactorily fixed. So when we moved we went with a different provider who have provided equivalent services at less cost than Telstra. At the time, Telstra were excellent hand holders, for most the premium price was worth the excellent support. Anecdotally the prices are still premium, but the service is anything but.


Oh yes, Cynical, I know what you mean! I had to ditch my phone account when Telstra’s computer decided to charge me $20 every day for calls I didn’t make. I hardly ever use my mobile, so this was patently a mistake. Calls to their Indian customer service centre yielded nothing & a stubborn insistence that their computer never makes mistakes.

I’m a pensioner & not blessed with a lot of financial leeway, so was left with no money for food when the bill reached $280. I contacted the TIO & the problem was solved in a day. Needless to say, I cancelled my contract & got a refund. It’s the only way to get their attention!


Privatise and perish.

Having moved on we forget how it used to be.

For the 20% who do not live in the larger cities, the choices were limited. That number has been steadily whittled away over time.
It’s now suggested Telstra mobile coverage reaches 99.5% of Australians, Optus 98.5% and the new Vodafone 96%.

Telstra remains responsible for maintaining access to copper lines for phone and ADSL services in the NBN Fixed Wireless and Satellite service areas. When travelling away from the larger centres despite a lack of population, one might have coverage, and if so Telstra is the likely provider.

We divorced (a virtual divorce) Telstra for landlines more than a decade ago. Reality is that our home ADSL services whether in regional QLD or Brisbane or … provided by Westnet all came via Telstra. The only other option prior to the NBN Optus also relied on Telstra copper and exchange infrastructure for our chosen homes.

For those looking to mobile alone, it’s worth considering that today over on the other side of the main road of our SE QLD rural community the divorce rate is very low. Telstra is the only provider to reach reliably into the home. Those on Optus are self evident at the local chemist, profusely apologising for their failure to deliver the QR code for the next prescription.

Not all divorces turn out as hoped for?


I can’t count the number of times I have been in tears of frustration with Telstra “support”. My mum’s options in rural NSW are limited, and she has a unfathomable loyalty to them.


Yes, all these global institutions now take their customers for granted. It’s the way these insidious businesses run. Record profits for the company and shareholders, huge bonuses for the executives, with little or no other interest other than that. Just look at Qantas!

I suppose the answer is to vote with your feet. Having said that, they now have ways to make this so difficult, you give up. Have you tried to ‘unsubscribe’ lately? Oh dear…

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I have been with Telsttra for a long time and my Medical alarm was set up through Telstra. When I went to change from Telstra to try and cut down on expenses, the Company found that it couldn’t change it because of they way Telstra had set it up and it would cost me too much to change it as they would have to start from scratch… Is this legal?

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Without further information little can be added. This Whistleout page describes some of the pitfalls, eg being locked to Telstra.

There are also a number of article on Choice, this being an intro

If you had a contract with your supplier and your device is locked to Telstra, and your contract is not over Telstra (or your supplier) can charge you for the remaining time on your contract - if that scenario applies.

Could you add your supplier and whether you have a contracted time with them? It will assist ‘us’ in understanding the terms you may have signed up for and those would govern changes.


I recently obtained a new Live Life alarm for my mother, who now lives with me. Having had one before (3G network), I knew how it worked. However, this new one (4G) often can’t maintain contact with the network (Telstra). Seems I am in the .5% of Australia (yet I live in a sizeable FNQ city) that Telstra doesn’t quite reach. My house, and a number of other streets in my and the bordering suburb are in a black spot.
On phoning Live Life for advice, they could tell me that the closest tower is 1.8km away, and there were two more proposed towers, to be 1.3km and 1.4km away, but they didn’t know when they would be built and online. Bless him-he suggested phoning Telstra to find out. Have you ever tried to give a bot an instruction that’s not in their repertoire??
Given that I have no issues with my own mobile (Vodafone) in the house, it’s extremely frustrating that this alarm doesn’t have reasonably constant contact. As the Live Life person says-they’re not there with quality compared to a mobile, but they’re working on it…
So at the moment, our only option is to get a booster (still waiting to hear from Telstra re that), or to send the alarm back for a refund, and go with something much more expensive and with vastly less function.
I seriously don’t live ‘in the sticks’, so it’s a really frustrating and disappointing situation.


Most chatbots will respond to the word ‘agent’ or ‘need agent’ or a similar statement. Sometimes discovering the exact word required can be challenging. Some will ask another question prior to transferring and some will just do it.

Any chatbot that does not connect to a human deserves a formal complaint being lodged.

FWIW I am in outer Melbourne metro and like yourself am in the 0.5% where Telstra service does not quite’ reach’ reliably and Optus is not much better. Telstra (a GPRS system) and Aldimobile (mobile phone) just point at their coverage map showing I am in a 5G area and do not want to know that my signal is usually 3G. Telstra 3G will be shut down next year.


Marriage guidance often suggests when all else fails, partners seperate on a no blame basis. People change, life’s circumstances change.

Businesses also change as do their customer’s needs. We’ve moved on from Telstra as the one and only to Optus, followed by Westnet/iiNet and then Aussie BB with a few diversions along the way. If I was to rate our experiences over the previous decade with Telstra vs Optus vs iiNet vs Aussie BB, all but the last has offered up frustration by the swill bucket load. It should not be as difficult as it is, but ‘such is life’. Preference in response to each little frustration has been to not add to the load in the bucket irrespective of the service provider. It makes for a more pleasant experience, and sometimes might even expedite an outcome.

P.S. real life

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