What to do if your Internet service isn’t working as advertised

If your Internet service isn't performing up to snuff, here's what you can do about it.

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ISPs make a lot of lofty promises when advertising their Internet plans. Blazingly fast speeds, comprehensive network coverage, unmatched reliability - it all sounds great, but what do you do when those promises turn out to be nothing more than hot air? It's not always clear what rights you have as a consumer, nor what you should do if you feel those rights have been breached. To help you through the process, we've put together this simple guide on the steps you should take if your Internet service isn't working as advertised.

Step One: Document everything

This is less of a step and more of a blanket rule, but it is nevertheless vital that you document all relevant information regarding your Internet woes to ensure the resolution process is as swift and smooth as possible. If you're suffering slow Internet speeds, for example, be sure to record the results from multiple speed tests. If you're encountering drop-outs or connection issues, note down when they occur and any error messages you receive.

Additionally, make sure to keep records of all communication between yourself and relevant parties such as your ISP. If you can provide clear evidence of contradictions between the service you've been promised and what you've actually received, you'll stand a better chance of seeing a quick resolution.

Step Two: Contact your ISP

The first point of call whenever your Internet connection isn't working as expected should always be your ISP. Most ISPs now provide service status pages on their websites listing any planned or unplanned interruptions to their networks, along with how long any interruption is expected to last. While there's little you can do if there's an outage in your area, knowing when it is likely to be fixed at least lets you plan out an interim solution.

Here are the service status pages for some of the biggest ISPs:

If there's no mention of your problem on your ISP's service status page, the next step is to contact the ISP directly. While you can contact customer support over the phone, many ISPs also offer 24/7 Live chat services on their websites, and this can be an effective means of solving smaller problems without needing to wait on hold for hours on end. Social media is another channel you can look to instead of picking up the phone, and it's a good idea to check your ISP's Facebook and Twitter pages before contacting them at all to determine whether other customers are encountering the same issue.

Here are the Facebook and Twitter pages for some of the biggest Aussie ISPs:

Step Three: Contact other ISPs

If you aren't able to reach a resolution with your ISP directly, you might find contacting other ISPs useful. They may be able to offer you a better Internet service that you can then use as leverage with your current ISP. Threatening to change providers can be an effective means of negotiating a better deal or fast-tracking a fix for your current Internet troubles, especially if other ISPs promise you won't experience the same troubles on their service. If that doesn't work, having a list of potential replacement ISPs will at least be handy after you've completed the next step.

Step Four: Contact the TIO

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is the last stop in the complaints process. Funded by the telecommunications industry, the TIO acts as a mediator between residential and small business customers and the large telcos, covering issues such as faulty services, frequent dropouts, inadequate coverage and other issues where an Internet service does not live up to the claims of its provider.

Because the TIO covers the entire telecommunications industry within Australia, it's important that you only lodge a complaint after exhausting all others methods of problem resolution. In fact, the TIO won't even investigate a complaint unless you can provide evidence that you've attempted to resolve it with the ISP directly - hence the need to document all parts of the complaint process.

If the TIO does agree to investigate your complaint, you'll need to be prepared for a potentially lengthy process that won't necessarily go your way. In most cases, the best outcome to hope for is a penalty-free termination of your current contract with your ISP, or perhaps reimbursement for payments made on an inadequate service. If the problems with your Internet service aren't simple fixes, it's unlikely your ISP will spend big money resolving them for you alone. This is why it's worth keeping a list of alternative ISPs from the previous step and looking to switch over to them once the complaint has been resolved.

Step Five: Wait, and consider looking elsewhere

Unfortunately, the TIO can take quite some time to investigate a complaint, and in the interim you could be stuck with a sub-par or even non-functioning Internet service. If this is the case, it can be worth looking into an alternate Internet service to tide you over. Whether this is a fixed-line service on a no lock-in contract from a competing ISP or a mobile broadband solution, the additional short-term expense will save you a lot of frustration in the future.

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