Telecom Italia: The Whole Ugly Saga

This page is mostly a collection of previously-published material, bringing together in one place the long, painful story of our experiences with Telecom Italia. And the story keeps growing…

May 22, 2003

Setting up simple household utilities in Italy used to be an arduous process. As one friend put it, getting a phone line installed required “a recommendation and a bottle of whiskey.” The recommendation would ideally be from someone with contacts inside Telecom Italia, to ask the folks there to be nice to you. The bottle of whiskey would be a “gift” to encourage the technicians to get their job done, but you might need another bottle to tide you through the months-long, completely unnecessary wait!

Things have changed. I called Telecom Italia last week about a line for the new apartment in Lecco. The place has been inhabited before, so the wires are there, but I wasn’t sure all the plugs were working, and the line was of course disconnected. The lady said that a technician would call me in about ten days to make an appointment. Actually, he called me two days later, when I happened to be too far away from Lecco to meet him. So we made an appointment for yesterday morning, 9:30. When I arrived at 9:15, he was already standing outside waiting for me. Turns out some repairs were needed to two plugs, but within an hour all five plugs and the line were working.

Getting Connected

July 31, 2003

Two months back, I wrote about the pleasant surprise of finding Telecom Italia easier to deal with than they’d ever been before. Well, “easier” is a relative term. The phone line did get turned on immediately and all the plugs are working. The first bill also arrived immediately, and was twice what it should have been; they had forgotten to give us the discount for rolling over service from Milan to Lecco. So I had to call and straighten that out – strike one for Telecom.

I had also ordered “Alice Flash Mega,” Telecom’s top of the line ADSL Internet service, which would include a wireless router to network the family laptops to my big Dell desktop machine, so we could all be online simultaneously (increasingly an issue in this family). Obviously, this couldn’t be done until the phone line was installed, and I wasn’t in a hurry since I would be travelling; what little time I was home, I could limp along with a dial-up connection (these are offered free in Italy, since we pay by the minute even for local calls).

I planned to call Telecom and remind them once I got home, but, to my surprise, the modem was waiting for me when I arrived. The first part of the instructions actually reflected reality, so I was able to get the hardware and software working very easily. I stalled where the instructions referred to a username and password that I would need to connect; none were included in the box. I figured I would have to call Telecom on Monday.

However, when I fired up the Dell on Sunday to do some non-Internet things, Windows XP informed me that my modem was connected at 831 kbps. I supposed it had to be connected to something, so I opened Internet Explorer, and was taken immediately to a sign-up page for Alice, where I was able to make up my own username and password. I was then presented with “Alice’s Room,” where I could get into some cute services like online TV, or just go straight onto the ‘net.

This Dell had never been online before (I long ago gave up the struggle to get my previous service’s ADSL modem to work under Windows XP), so I spent the rest of Sunday preparing it to face the Internet…

I called Telecom Italia on Tuesday to find out when to expect the network router. Turns out they had screwed up the order and given me the most basic ADSL service, which doesn’t include WiFi. Strike two for Telecom. So I had to put in an upgrade request, and am now awaiting a call (“within 10 days”) from the technician who is supposed to bring the router and install it. Installation is included in the price, otherwise I’d just tell them to bring the router and let me deal with it. I have a feeling that the technician will do no better than I could myself, and a stronger feeling that I will have to upgrade the two laptops to Windows XP in order to get all the machines to talk to each other; I had a terrible time trying to do it with a regular, wired network, and gave up in the end.

I’m also waiting for another technician to come and check the line, which is very noisy when the modem’s attached, even with the ADSL filters on the phone plugs. Not supposed to be that way. Strike three for Telecom. Oh, well. At least so far I haven’t needed a bottle of whiskey.

Connecting, or Trying to

Nov 18, 2003

Way back in July I wrote about getting my Telecom Italia ADSL connection up and running, only to discover that I wasn’t getting the level of service I had requested. What’s happened since then has been so ludicrous that I don’t even want to recount the whole, painful story. Maybe (said she hopefully) the final piece will get done this Thursday when, after much screaming down the telephone, a technician is finally coming to install the router, and we should finally have everything we asked for back in May. Yeah, right.

I must have talked to about 30 different people by now at Telecom’s 187 customer service line, and, in sheer desperation, screamed at a number of them. Mostly, I feel almost as sorry for them as I do for myself. They’re supposed to be servicing customers, but they don’t seem to have much power to do so. They can’t talk to the technicians. One regional office can’t forward a call to another (if you call from a cellphone, you end up speaking to any region at random, but certain services can only be done from the local region). Half the time their computer systems are down when you call, or they can’t do what you’re asking from the systems they have access to. Hell, about 20% of the calls I’ve made have had to be re-dialled because the connection was broken either during hold time or in the middle of conversation – hello, are we a telecommunications firm?

Telecom Italia, like America’s AT&T two decades ago, is having to adjust to no longer being a monopoly, which they still were when we arrived in Italy in 1991. In those days, abuse of customers was legendary, and easy to get away with. There was no such thing as an itemized phone bill, unless you specifically asked and were willing to pay extra for it. So Telecom Italia employees had a well-known practice they called il ponte (the bridge): if you had a foreign last name and made overseas calls, Telecom employees would make personal long-distance calls and bill them to you, because, with an average larger phone bill, you were less likely to notice or complain.

Nowadays Telecom Italia has competition in both cellphones and landlines, and this creaking behemoth is struggling to figure out the concept of customer service. Telecom Italia reps have been known to practically weep on their customers, longing for the good old days.

Dec 17, 2003


Now we’re having a big hassle with Telecom about overbilling (to the tune of 500 euros). It’s time to write another letter…

Oct 8, 2004

…And you need to stay on top of Telecom Italia. I called them on September 8th to inform them of our move on the 27th. I called again twice, and each time was told that the process was underway. Enrico called on October 4th [when we had already been in the new house for a week], and found out that the process had come to a dead stop. The previous owner of our house had had the phone line registered as a business line, possibly because he was claiming a tax deduction on using part of the house as an office. Now we’re trying to switch it to a home line, causing endless confusion at Telecom. At one point they claimed they needed to do a technical test on the line, even though I was calling them from it (the old owner’s number is still active at the house, though it was supposed to be turned off 10 days ago).

Further, our house number has a letter in it, and Telecom’s computer system doesn’t know what to do with this, and/or the paperwork can get lost in the computer depending on whether a capital or small letter is entered. Gah! …

Oct 20, 2004

…Telecom Italia… continue to lose marks on both competence and politeness.

It’s been over a month since my first phone call about our change of residence. I had called Telecom on Sept 8th, warning them that we would be moving house, and wanted exactly the same services in the new place as we had (finally, painfully) had set up in the old place. “It’s a good thing you didn’t call any later,” the first lady told me. “Our current average for a move is 20 days.”

Our move occurred on the 27th. After a day or two we called Telecom. Several days later, still no phone line – in fact, the previous owner’s line was still on, though he had requested Telecom to shut it off the day we moved. Enrico talked at length with someone who told him that there was a mess on Telecom’s end, possibly due to the fact that the previous owner had had a business contract for his phone line in the house, possibly also because our address contains a letter as well as a number, which caused problems for the computers and/or the operators (this kind of address is not that rare in Italy!). This person advised Enrico that it would be faster to simply start over again with a new contract and phone number. A new contract normally costs more than a move, but she would give us the moving discount.

Monday (Oct 11) my cellphone rang, someone from Telecom in Como. “We’ll activate your new phone line in half an hour,” she said, “I’ll call you back when it’s on.” She never did call, and I checked the line all day – no change.

Tuesday morning I checked again and, lo!, our new number was finally working (the half hour had been more like 24 hours). But I hadn’t been able to ask the lady about the ADSL connection. So I called. The phone menu didn’t give any options that seemed suitable, so I chose “line faults.” I started to explain the situation to the lady who answered. She interrupted: “I’ll pass you to the commercial section.” Then I heard her lay the receiver on a desk and complain to a colleague: “We get everything on this line!” Did she want me to hear her bitching, or is she – a phone company employee – simply incompetent to transfer a call?

After 60 seconds or so I was passed on to another office, where the man told me: “The ADSL is turned on in a second step, it will be done by the 17th.”

“Given that I made the original request to move a line on September 8th, and all this delay is due to confusion on your end, couldn’t you guys speed it up a little?” No, they couldn’t, wouldn’t even try.

So now the ADSL modem is connected and turned on, and I wait hopefully for the little green LED to come on, informing me that my ADSL line is working. That’s the only way I’ll know – Telecom has no intention of calling to inform me.

Wednesday or Friday : The DSL light on the modem came on, and all the computers were already connected to the modem, but I still couldn’t get out anywhere. I called Telecom again. This time I was told, by one Saverio, that I would have to wait til the DSL light stops blinking, that would be my signal that the line is fully activated. He couldn’t tell me how long this should take beyond the initial light-up. “Usually it takes 10 days from the first request,” he said. He couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me what exactly is going on or needs to be done, except that it’s being done from a central office somewhere that I am not allowed to speak to. Gah!

Sunday the 17th : This was the day promised for activation, and I just had another fruitless conversation with the same Saverio. He told me that the guy I had spoken to on Tuesday “was misinformed,” there is no way that the ADSL line would be activated sooner than ten days from the day the phone line is activated. He claimed to know more about it than anyone else in his office, but can’t/won’t bother explaining to me what it means that the DSL light on my modem has been blinking for four days, and that the line has static that would seem to indicate ADSL activity, yet I can’t get to the Internet. He was more interested in telling me what an expert he is than in listening to my questions; I got very frustrated and screamed at him. When I asked if there was anyone there who cares about customer satisfaction, he said, “No, we are not contracted to give a damn.” (“Per contratto, non ce ne freghiamo niente.”)

It turns out he’s at a third-party call center which takes calls during overflows, and on Sundays when there are very few actual technicians available. It may be that he didn’t even have access to our customer file, so the 10 days he was telling me about was by-the-book and had nothing to do with our particular case. If he had said he simply didn’t have access to the information, I would not have gotten so angry. But, by claiming to know what was going on and then demonstrating a complete lack of knowledge, he pissed me right off. Which was not a happy situation for either of us. He proceeded tell me things about my modem which aren’t true, then hung up when I tried to tell him what I was actually seeing on the modem.

So I tried the “commercial information” option on the phone menu for Telecom’s 187 number. This time I actually seem to have found a young man who (a) cares about customer relations and (b) knows what he’s talking about. He looked at the record and told me that there is in fact a notation that our line is supposed to be activated by this evening (Oct 17th) at 8, and if it isn’t I should call. But, as he clearly stated, there’s not much point calling tonight, as I’d simply end up talking to the same call center, so I might as well save myself the frustration and talk directly to the technicians tomorrow morning. In the meantime, there is some hope that the line will actually get activated sometime today.

So at least one person at Telecom understands customer service – all it takes, a lot of the time, is listening politely and acting like you care about the customer (better still if you actually do care). This young man couldn’t do anything to speed up the activation of my ADSL line; all he could do was give me correct information and sympathy. But that was a lot better than bureaucratic idiocy and outright lies.

Tuesday: Losing marks again, Telecom. Still no useful activity on the modem, 36 hours after the supposed deadline. I dialled 187, option 5, option 2, then entered our phone number as prompted, for the umpteenth time. I may have actually reached a technician; unlike everyone else I’d talked to, he didn’t give his name. “I’ll look into it,” he said, and audibly put the receiver down on a desk. I heard him breathing and shuffling papers for a bit, then the line went dead.

Dialled again. After a few minutes’ wait (and hearing the same commercial messages for the hundredth time, for services to which I now have a gut-level aversion and will never even ask what they are), was connected to someone named Domenico. After I explained the situation yet again, he said “You need the ADSL faults line, I’ll connect you.” Waitaminute, that’s what I dialled”¦ After a while, the line again went dead. Dialled a third time, got a lady, explained the situation. “You need the ADSL faults line,” she said. “That’s what I dialled.” “You couldn’t have. This is a commercial line. I know because sometimes I answer technical calls, but right now I’m assigned to commercial. Hang up and dial again.” “Your system must be misbehaving, because that’s what I dialled.” “Oh, no, that couldn’t possibly be.” I did not bother to say it, but it seems to me that Telecom’s system, which routinely hangs up in the middle of a call, is also perfectly capable of misdirecting calls from its phone tree. Either that or Telecom’s employees are conspiring to piss me off even further by pretending I’ve misdialled.

Dialled for the fourth time. Waited some more, talked to someone named Tiziana, who first stuck to the “ten days” story, then looked a bit further in our record and saw the Oct 17th deadline I had been told about. This is interesting – it means that that information was available to Saverio the whole time he was haranguing me Sunday, if he had bothered to look for it instead of insisting that he knew best. Tiziana gets points for taking me at my word and locating the information I was referring to.

But she’s not a technician, nor could she connect me to one; she’s at that same damned overflow call center. She put a note on the record, and advised me to either keep calling til I actually reach a technician, or call again tomorrow because, with a second request after 24 hours, a technician will supposedly call ME. Yeah, I believe that. At least I managed not to scream at her. Indeed, I thanked her for her courtesy – she, at least, was courteous.

Thursday: I was home yesterday morning, but didn’t bother to call. I don’t need Telecom encounters raising my blood pressure every single morning. Still no change on the modem, so I called this morning. 187-5-2 – “enter the phone number for which you are making the request”. I did so, and the line was immediately cut off. If I was paranoid, I would think they had programmed the system to specifically reject my number, though I had already observed this behavior every time I tried to dial this sequence from my cellphone. But I’m trying not to be paranoid, so I’ll just assume a really stupid phone system.

Dialled it all again, got through to a lady with a severe cold at the call center. The ADSL is actually doing something – it’s fuzzing the phone line so badly that I could barely hear her, in spite of ADSL filters on every phone plug in the house. But, as she explained to me, the circuit has not been completed, that’s why I can’t get to the Internet. So she put in yet another sollecito (request/reminder) which, given that it’s the second one, a technician should supposedly see today and maybe even do something about. Hope no longer springs eternal.

A friend told me that he finally got Telecom to respond to an equally egregious case thanks to a friend of his who’s a journalist, and was happy to publish his whole saga in one of Italy’s major papers. “The third installment is coming out in today’s paper,” Mario told Telecom. “Do you want to fix this situation now?” They did. Not that the public needs convincing that Telecom is incompetent.

Friday, Oct 22: Another call to 187-5-2 produced another promise of sollecito. Called back on the commercial branch of the phone tree. He passed me to the ADSL faults line, but they can’t do anything because the line is not yet activated, therefore they cannot see it. This man then passed me back to the commercial line, where a lady gave me some new news: the penultimate step in activation happened yesterday, and there is now a note on the record saying that the final step will be done by October 30th. WHAT?!? She couldn’t explain to me why this was. I asked to speak to a supervisor. “She’s not in yet.” She is supposed to call me when she arrives. Yeah, sure, just like the technician was supposed to call.

I grabbed the phone book. The sede legale (HQ) of Telecom Italia is in Milan, 02 85951. I called and said “I’m trying to find out how to reach your head of customer satisfaction.” “Where are you?” “Lecco.” “Call 02 48581, that’s the headquarters for Lombardia.” So I did. “Call back at 9 and we’ll put you through.”

9:21 Hmm. This is one of those numbers that gets busy after 9 am, with a particularly cheesy hold system – Mozart in electronic beeps. Finally got through to an operator, who passed me to another hold line with advertising. If this is not Lombardia HQ I’m holding for… It’s definitely a different hold line than 187 – it keeps saying “Please keep holding; an employee will answer as soon as possible.” Over and over again. My nerves are already stretched to breaking. I hung up.

In one of my other conversations, I had managed to elicit a fax number for complaints, 803 308 270. I sent a fax to that, giving a brief overview of the long, sad story, and requesting immediate activation of the ADSL line. I called back 02 48581 and got a fax number for the director’s office for residential service in Lombardia (02 48584681), and sent a copy to them as well. When my blood pressure drops a bit, I’ll call back overall HQ again and try for a fax number for whoever is responsible for customer satisfaction for the whole of Telecom Italia, if such a position exists (the receptionist at Lombardia HQ seemed confused by the concept). To this person I will send another copy of the same fax, but maybe also a longer one, telling him in detail what’s wrong with customer service at Telecom Italia: demotivated staff, a byzantine organization in which no one can or will talk to anyone else… God spare me ever having to work for such an outfit. I’d go postal inside a week.

11:02 No call yet. My cellphone has not been used this morning, so there’s not even the excuse that the supervisor might have tried to call while I was on hold or sending faxes.

Sunday, Oct 24: I never did receive any call from a supervisor on Friday. No point trying for one over the weekend – I’m pretty sure none are present.

So today I happen to have a bit of time to hassle with it. Here’s today’s tally of calls:

1. 187, hold for the commercial line: Someone named Mario eventually answers, I get about two sentences into my explanation, and the connection breaks.

2. Dial and hold again. Finally get a lady to whom I briefly outline the situation. She says that, according to what she sees on the screen, the line should be fully activated since Friday evening. Well, it isn’t – I have tried it repeatedly, and it ain’t working. The DSL light on the modem is still blinking, and my computer still can’t get to the Internet. Therefore, she says, this is a technical problem and I should speak to the technical office, to which she will pass me. After several minutes on hold (same ads over and over again), I get a “due to heavy demand” message and the connection is dropped again.

3. Dial 187-5-2, enter my phone number as requested, and am put on hold for some minutes. Connection drops again.

4. Try 187-5-1, just for grins – that’s “Servizio Ross Alice,” whatever that means – another form of ADSL of some sort. Here I get an immediate message that no operators are available.

5. Dial 187-5-2 yet again, on hold again, with an automessage promise that my call will be answered within 3 minutes. After about that time, line goes to static.

6. Call 02 48581, the Lombardia HQ. No one available unless I work for the servizi dell’ordine (police) or a hospital. The servizi dell’ordine will soon be needed, believe me…

7. After various attempts on 187, finally got someone, who said he’d try to pass me to a technician. On hold again.

8. 187-5-2 plus phone number on my cell worked, oddly enough while I was on hold on the other phone and hearing a message that, due to intense traffic, my call was being disconnected. Actually got a live person, whom I suspected to be an actual technician because she did not give her name. I told her the number, and she said she was looking at the problem. Then I was suddenly back on hold, and eventually the connection dropped.

After several more attempts to reach an actual technician, I end up with someone in the commercial office who thinks she knows all about it. “Have you reconfigured your modem?” she asks. No, it never occurred to me to do so, nor has anyone suggested that I should. I am suspicious, but dig around and find the installation discs, while we discuss a great many other things about why this situation is all my fault. She says I can’t make a claim for economic damage, because this is a residential line, therefore it’s my tough luck if I actually need an Internet connection for business purposes (which I do).

I finally give up on this lady, who claims she cannot make any sort of sollecito to the technical office. I look at the original install discs for the modem, decide a reinstall is risky, and call my expert friend, Pancrazio. “Should I need to reconfigure this modem after moving across town?” “No. If the light is blinking, it means the modem is trying to reach the central server and not getting an answer. The technicians need to test the line from their office.” That’s what I thought. The problem is, I can’t reach the technicians today.

After another long hold, I reach someone who says that, although he is not in the technical office, he should be able to put in a request for assistance. He asks for a number I can be reached at and says someone should call me within 48 hours. I would like to believe that but, even if it’s true, any call will probably occur when I’m working for the lawyers again and cannot answer it.

Tuesday Oct 26: No call from anyone within the given 48 hours, so I tried again. Dialing 187-5-2 again got me to the usual call center (all my fault again, as far as Telecom is concerned – I didn’t call earlier in the day when they were less busy – the fact that I was working earlier in the day is no excuse), who said she would pass me to the technical line. To my vast surprise, I got a line that actually was answered – by the wrong person. She had passed me to a technical office for ADSL via satellite, who could not help me for an ADSL ground line. “Then why did they pass me to you?” I asked. “I don’t know; they do it all the time.”

Called 187 and held for the commercial line. Spoke to one Maria who, like everyone else you can actually speak to at Telecom, cannot do anything, nor pass you to anyone who can. She claimed that, even if her supervisor was free to talk to us, he could not do any more than she could. However, she did not let either of us (Enrico was around for this one and eventually got on the phone) speak to him.

Tried calling Lombardia HQ 02 48581, and was rudely told that they close (except for emergencies) at 16:30 in the afternoon – which makes it rather hard for anyone who works to actually speak to them.

Called the sede legale (legal/financial HQ) and was told to call 02 6211 from 9:00 to 13:00 or from 14:00 to 16:25.

Nov 4: While I was away in India, Enrico took the situation in hand. He finally got hold of an actual technician, who said that, as far as he could tell, the line was working fine on their end. Enrico happened to mentioned the problem to the neighbors, who said that they had, after months, resolved a similar problem when they realized that their burglar alarm system (which is also hooked into the phone line) was interfering.

This could have been the problem for us as well, so we called in the electrician who had installed our phone lines. In spite of my exhausted, just-returned-from-India state, he and I spent a couple of hours (for which I’ll be paying him) testing every possible position of the modem on the phone circuit. No change.

Maybe it’s the modem? he suggested. I happened to have another ADSL modem handy, the simple, non-WiFi one that Telecom originally gave us last year, which ran perfectly well at the time. I tried installing it on Ross’ laptop (Windows 98). All the LEDs light up and it appears to communicate with a server somewhere, but then claims that my username and password are wrong. I was never asked for either when I installed this last year, this may be a spurious message when in fact it’s not communicating with the server at all, as the other modem fails to do. Or maybe I do need a new username and password, since we now have an entirely new ADSL contract… I tried to reinstall it on my desktop XP machine, where it used to work, but for some reason can’t get it to work there now.

I called Telecom again and the lady immediately offered to make an appointment for a technician to call me. The appointment is for this morning, Tuesday, November 9th. Yesterday someone called from an office in Milan, apparently an office where one of my faxes of complaint ended up, to confirm this appointment and offer us a reimbursement for the time in which the ADSL line has actually not been working. That’s fine if the line actually gets working very soon…

Nov 9: A technician actually did call at 8:30 this morning, and was competent and polite – it’s so much nicer to deal with somebody who believes that I have a brain and treats me accordingly! He reiterated that, as far as they were concerned, the line was working, and he could see that the modem was responding. So I attached the old modem to the Win 98 laptop again, and got him to walk me through connecting it for the first time. “What do I put in when it asks for a username and password?” “aliceadsl for both.” Aha! That’s something I could not have known, because it is nowhere in the installation instructions.

I should then have been taken automatically to the Alice registration page where I could invent my own username and password as I did last year. This didn’t occur automatically, so I had to type in the URL.

In this way I reached a page full of advertising with no obvious place to register. “Click on controlla i tuoi acquisti [check your purchases], ” said the technician. This got me to a page which stated “A technical problem has been detected which does not guarantee maximum quality of access to the new Alice services…” and then asked me to fill out a form requesting help. This was not the registration page the technician expected me to see, so he has put in a technical sollecito to have this problem fixed. Apparently this happens a lot.

The good news is that for the moment I have complete access to the Internet even without registering. “As long as I can surf, I’m happy,” I told him. “You could go on like that for a while, even months, then suddenly get cut off, until you succeed in registering,” he said. “Quite frankly, it’s unlikely that anyone will call you when the problem is fixed, so you should just keep checking the Alice site and trying to register.”

So for the moment I have access, the wireless modem is working again, and I’m happy, though the sword of Damocles is hanging over my head – I have no idea when access may be suddenly withdrawn, nor how long it will take to fix this registration page problem. [NB: It was never fixed. Over dozens of visits to the Alice ADSL site I was never able to register, always seeing the same error page. The page includes a form to fill out, which I did once, but that never got any response.]

Telecom Strikes Again

Mar 26, 2005

No one deals with Telecom Italia any more than they have to, because the service is so horrifically incompetent as to leave strong men weeping in frustration. Because we had the poor judgement to change our residence two years in a row, and the strange desire to have a phone line and Internet access in each new place, we have spent a cumulative total of four or five months screaming at or pleading with hapless, hopeless Telecom employees.

Back in 2003, they got our billing into such a mess that one of their own employees advised us to refuse to pay a bill of €533, and send a formal letter explaining why. That amount approximately balanced the overcharges on the previous two bills, so it made sense that the errant bill was officially expunged (“radiato“) by Telecom, and the following bill reflected that all was in order with our account.

But no one in Telecom talks to anyone else, so, in early 2005, in a new home with a new phone contract, we were being dunned for payment on the bill that they themselves had advised us not to pay back in 2003, and threatened with a service cut-off. After many phone calls, Enrico got that straightened out, though he had to pay a €10 difference of some kind, which he duly and promptly did.

Thursday morning I was working tranquilly at home when the Internet and phone line simultaneously went out. Hmm. I’d been expecting the Internet to disappear any day now. Telecom has been publicizing an automatic, free speed upgrade to all its ADSL customers. A friend in downtown Lecco had been without ADSL for a day while they did upgrade in her neighborhood. We were supposed to receive an email advising us when to expect it, but, since I had never been able to register and create an account on Telecom’s Alice ADSL site, there is no address at which I could receive this mail. I expected that the upgrade would be performed at some point, without warning.

However, Celia had not mentioned her phone line going out during the ADSL upgrade. So I called Telecom’s 187 help line, and waited through 5 minutes of hold music to talk to a phone line technician. “I’ll have some tests run from the centralino and call you back on your cellphone.”

I got to wondering whether the problem was really technical. Had someone decided we hadn’t paid a bill, and cut us off deliberately? I called Enrico and asked him to deal with it, since the Telecom people seem to take him more seriously. He talked to several offices, but never quite got a straight story. As usual, no two people had the same (if any) information about our account, and/or some of them were lying. Phone service was restored Friday morning, and probably also Internet though I didn’t figure that out til later – I had forgotten to reattach the modem line after I yanked it out to test what was wrong in the first place.

Later the same day

Today’s mail included two statements from Telecom. One, referring to our previous address and phone line in Lecco , said that our account was in order, all payments up to date, nothing needed to be paid. The other one, at the new address and phone number, was €725 euros – of which €533 was the contested amount from the fall of 2003 about which Enrico had already had many conversations with various Telecom employees.

After more screaming, he finally managed to speak to someone who would actually admit to having some responsibility and authority, someone “Responsabile” inNovara. This gentleman accepted Enrico’s version of the story and promised to initiate the official procedure needed to straighten it out (again), and even (reluctantly) gave Enrico a phone number at which he personally can be reached in case something else goes wrong. He would neither admit nor deny that our phone line was cut off by some overzealous bill collector. This point is still in doubt since one of the technicians Enrico spoke to mentioned that there had in fact been a problem at the centralino.

May 8, 2005

A minor miracle occured soon after I wrote the above: Telecom Italia actually apologized for the billing foul-up, revoked the not-really-outstanding bill, and even gave us a bit of a refund for our (many) pains. Furthermore, our ADSL speed was indeed doubled and is working fine, after some initial burbles (and Telecom reps have called several times to verify that everything’s okay). Competition is heating up among Italy’s ADSL providers, so I hope by fall to have the line up to 4 Mbps incoming, and at least 2 Mbps incoming…

Jan, 2006 - Read Rebecca’s Telecom story – hers is a lot funnier.

The Saga Continues (Again)

Aug 30, 2006

The next part of the story begins today. I have for some time needed an Internet speed upgrade, to get more upstream bandwidth so I can (using TVBLOB‘s own products) work from home more often. For six months I’ve been wavering between Fastweb and Telecom Italian, both offering 20 mbps in download. Wavering, because I knew that either choice would most likely be painful to execute. As with so much in Italy, leaving things as they are is tempting, because at least it more or less works and doesn’t involve any new hassles.

In the last two weeks, however, our current ADSL line is working less rather than more: the putative 4 mbps in download we’re supposed to be getting from Telecom is increasingly mythical. Today it tests out at 1 mbps or slower. I went to Telecom’s customer website to try to find out what was going on. First I had to use Explorer instead of Firefox (my usual browser), then the site insisted that I install special software of theirs to test speed. I tried twice to install it, both times running into an error message that “this software must be installed from your Alice ADSL line” – which is precisely the line I’m using, I have no other at home. The dialog box further advises, if the problem persists, to contact technical support.

So I called tech support. After one lost connection and redial, I got through fairly quickly to a woman who immediately instructed me that I must install their software in order to register a complaint about speed. When she finally let me get a word in edgewise, I explained that I had already tried to install it.

“You have to use your Alice ADSL login and password,” she said. “I’ve never had those, and where would I put them?” “When you log into the Internet you enter them.” “I don’t do that. My modem is on all the time and I just use it. Years ago I put in “˜AliceADSL’ as both login and password, on advice of one of your technicians, and that’s how it’s been ever since.” “Well, you have to put in your login and password.” “Put it where?!?”

We went round and round, with her insisting that the failure of their software to install was “a problem with your computer”. I finally got her to listen as I read off step by step what I was doing to attempt to install the software, arriving at the final dialog advising me to call tech support. “That’s you. So I’ve called you. So now what do I do?” “Hold the line for a moment.”

Ten minutes later, I gave up holding the line and called Fastweb. The lady was nice, though some of her statements were misleading. I only wanted Internet, but could only have the 20 mbps if I also took their phone services. I hesitated, not wanting to open that can of worms right now, but eventually decided to go ahead, and get Telecom out of our lives forever. However, that will require a disdetta (“un-saying” – revocation) of our Telecom contract, which can only be done via registered letter. The Fastweb lady couldn’t tell us where to send that. A web search turned up a few smaller Italian operators who could, so I’ve written to Fastweb to ask if some other company’s advice on undoing Telecom is equally applicable to Fastweb. [NB: Never got a reply on that.]

Here’s hoping (dimly) that the process doesn’t take too long, doesn’t involve too much hassle, and doesn’t cause us to lose service completely for any period of time.

In the meantime, being a pissed-off, nasty bitch, I have looked all over Telecom’s corporate website to try to find a way to let those in authority know just how pissed off I am. The only people willing to accept email in the entire corporate group are those in investor relations. So I’ve sent them a link to the article on my site, with an explanation. It will be interesting to see whether that gets any response at all.

Here’s my original email to Telecom investor relations, written in my very best sarcastic Italian:

Inviato: mercoled 30 agosto 2006 16.08

Potrebb’essere interessante ai vostri investitori sapere quant’e’ stressante essere _cliente_ della Telecom. La nostra saga – anzi, tragedia – e’ raccontata sul mio sito, http://www.beginningwithi.com/italy/living/telecom.html

Oggi ho anche un nuovo capitolo d’aggiungere, il che mi spinge a cercare un modo per catturare l’attenzione di qualcuno ai vertici di Telecom in grado di farci qualcosa. Non tanto per noi – abbiamo gia’ deciso di lasciarvi – quanto per tutti gli altri clienti e per voi stessi e i vostri investitori.

Da cima in fondo, il vostro servizio clienti, per utilizzare un termine Americano, SUCKS. Pagine web che non funzionano (il modulo di disdetta impossibile da scaricare – come mai?). Operatori tecnici – quando trovabili – che non sanno quello che dicono, tantomeno sono in grado di risolvere problemi, e (ciliegia sulla torta) sono maleducati.

Vi scrive una cliente profondamente irritata che di solito gode di pressione bassa, ma non oggi, grazie all’ennesima disservizio Telecom. Vi auguro di prenderne atto e salvarvi, finche’ siete ancora in tempo.

best regards,
Deirdré Straughan

In the US, I could make a lot of blog noise and get all consumer active. Here in Italy, that’s unlikely to work – Telecom’s poor service is legendary, and certainly would not be considered newsworthy by the Italian media. Perhaps I can find out who Telecom’s international / institutional investors are and try to raise a stink that way”¦ At this point my motivation is pure vengeance, I admit – do you blame me?

Telecom Italia: “If Only I Had a Brain”

Sept 9, 2006

Interestingly, my email to investor relations did produce a response, within an hour, from someone very politely saying that they wanted to do whatever they could to make us happy, and “please respond to this email address”:

Caro Azionista,
grazie della sua segnalazione,

Siamo spiacenti dei disservizi da Lei lamentati e siamo a sua completa disposizione per risolverli nel minor tempo possibile.

La preghiamo di inviarci una e.mail direttamente a questo indirizzo di posta elettronica spiegando il tipo di problema da Lei riscontrato.

Non esiti a contattarci per ogni richiesta d’approfondimento anche di carattere economico-finanziario relativo al Gruppo Telecom Italia.

Cordiali saluti

Telecom Italia
Investor Relations

Which I did, with an abbreviated account (in Italian) of the latest misadventures. That was a week ago, so far I’ve never heard back from them in any identifiable way although, as you’ll see below, they may actually have taken some action.

I cc’d Enrico on that round of messages, and he forwarded it to the helpful person he had found during our last Telecom troubles, with a note: “I had hoped not to need to disturb you again, but…”

In the meantime, Enrico had received pages upon pages of documents from Fastweb that had to be filled out, signed, and sent here and there in order to activate our account with them, start paying them, eventually stop paying Telecom, etc. etc. Understandably, he balked at all this – just too much hassle to deal with right now, and word-of-mouth about Fastweb’s customer service is not much better than Telecom’s – the Fastweb people are generally nicer, but no more competent. (One friend who’s been through it offered to send me her 10-page account of everything that went wrong with her Fastweb installation. Her conclusion: “The only thing you can say for them is they’re not Telecom.”) So I called Fastweb and asked them to put a hold on the whole procedure.

Telecom is offering a line upgrade to 20 mbps (ADSL 2+) for about the same price we were already paying for the supposed 4 mbps. This could be requested via their customer website, so we did that, in hopes that during the installation process they would figure out what was wrong with our line, or that the upgrade would fix the problem anyway.

Enrico heard back from his Telecom contact, who promised to shepherd this through personally and make sure we ended up happy. Eventually we got a call from a technician, who wanted me to be present so he could test the system and see what was going on.

This gentleman came out Thursday morning and was very nice and competent. Unfortunately, his colleagues had neglected to tell him that the line had been switched the night before to ADSL 2+, so he spent three hours testing for regular ADSL service and wondering why all the test results were so awful. When he finally figured it out (and gave his colleagues a furious earful), it was noon, and he had another customer appointment to go to.

So he came back yesterday and we spent another three hours on it. I felt sorry for the frustrations he endured trying to get information he needed from various Telecom offices. Unbelievably, the technicians have to go through the same phone queue as the public to try to reach their colleagues, and half the time the systems they need are not working (though he did say that yesterday seemed to be unusually bad in that regard).

He told me honestly that we would never get 20 mbps at home using ADSL 2+. We’re about 2 km from the local Telecom headquarters, and the speed of ADSL 2+ depends on distance from the source. The most we can expect is around 8 mbps (or maybe 11-12), perhaps less (he will be doing some calculations to give me a more precise figure). What we’re actually getting is about 4 mbps. We don’t yet know why. (I can see Telecom’s roof, with all their antennas, from our house. If they wanted to experiment with WiMax, we’d be perfect candidates…)

After much switching things around and trying this and that, we figured out that my modem is not the culprit – we got the same speeds with his official Telecom modem. I realized that the extremely slow speed (100 kbps) to my laptop must be a problem with my built-in wireless card. Ross’ computer (also on wireless) is getting up to 3 mbps, and if I plug an Ethernet cable into my laptop, I get over 4 mbps.

Telecom as a company has suddenly become solicitous, whether because of Enrico’s contact or my cry to investor relations. A lady called just as the technician was walking out the door yesterday, and another guy soon thereafter. I explained to both that the situation, while not totally resolved, is a lot better than it was. Both promised to call back later and find out if it was resolved.

The good news is that I’m getting around 400 kbps in upload speed – slightly better than what Telecom was promising with the ADSL 2+ line – and this is (just barely) enough to communicate with the office (and elsewhere) using a TVBLOB box. I look forward to videochatting with the US friends in whose houses I installed boxes this summer!

The technician was intrigued with the box and could see applications for his own work. I explained my need for upstream bandwidth, and he explained to me that the upstream and downstream rates are controlled by user profiles at a central computer. These profiles can be adjusted, so he’s trying to find a clever colleague who can lay hands on my profile and changed to give me a bit more upstream.

As always in Italy, it’s not what you know – it’s who you know.

Telecom needs to improve their internal communications, as well as their communications with customers. Their technician wasted half a day at our house testing for the wrong thing because he did not have up-to-date information. He spent still more time on hold trying to reach the colleagues he needed. So this installation has proved to be far more expensive for Telecom than it needed to be – a full day of a technician’s time, most of which was their own fault. You’d think a communications company would know how to communicate…

Update

Oct 5, 2006

Two different Telecom offices followed up on this case, and eventually sent the technician back for a third visit to try to figure out why we were only getting about half the bandwidth we should. They changed the profile to the one they use for their IPTV customers, so that, as far as their central servers were concerned, I should be getting around 24 mbps in download. By the technician’s calculations I should be getting 11 or 12 of that into the house, but what I can measure on the computer is around 8. No one seems to know why, but at least we’re better off than we were. Most of the time. Sometimes lately the service has cut out for a few minutes here and there, for no apparent reason.

I am able to use my TVBLOB box at home, which is cool. I don’t have enough upstream bandwidth to be able to transmit full-screen video, but I leave it turned on all day with the camera pointed out the window, so I can check the weather at home at any time from the office.

So we’ll give Telecom points for trying. In my final conversation with the lady (I assume) from investor relations, I pointed out that the fine print on their site does not mention that the rate of speed you’re going to get with ADSL 2+ depends on how far you are from the server. Their marketing site “checks” your phone number to see whether the service is available in your area; they could without too much difficulty use that to calculate distance from the server and tell you what bandwidth you can realistically expect – which might result in fewer subscriptions, but would also result in fewer calls from customers who are disappointed and confused as to why they aren’t getting 20 mbps (or anywhere near that).

In the meantime, Telecom Italia is going through its own messes from the top, leaving the employees (as usual) confused and uncertain about their jobs, which is not going to help motivation… At least I’ve made friends with the technician. Maybe we’ll hire him for TVBLOB.

Oct 21, 2006 – Too good to last? For a week at least, I’ve been noticing that the ADSL line simply cuts out for minutes at a time, for no reason. It comes back soon, but not immediately, since it takes time for the modem to re-align. Very distracting and annoying.

The Never-Ending Story

Nov 9, 2006

I’ve put in two calls to Telecom in the past three weeks about the continual loss of the ADSL line. The first time the technician apparently could see on his test screen that something was wrong, and promised to repair it within two days. Two days later I called again, because it was still happening. There was no trace on the system of my previous complaint, presumably because the first technicial thought he had fixed the problem. Interesting – and disheartening – to know that Telecom does not keep (or at least does not make available to its phone operators) customer case histories: they have no way of knowing that I am a multiply-dissatisfied customer, because the minute that one problem is “resolved,” all record of it disappears. This cannot be helpful in diagnosing ongoing technical problems.

The woman I talked to this time could not see anything wrong from her onscreen tests, but promised a repair within two days. This seemed odd: how can she put a timetable on a repair if she doesn’t even know what’s wrong?

(NB: It would be nice if they could note in their records that I have some degree of expertise. I do not like being asked “is the modem power light on?” – I know enough to have looked at the modem to see what state it’s in, and to try powering it off and on again.)

Then there was some weirdness last week when, for a couple of days, we couldn’t reach Google and some other major sites. I called about that, too, and the lady I talked to seemed baffled at the possibility. We tested it on all three computers in our house – no Google. I asked friends all over the world, including Italy, Google was fine for them. It finally came back, but that was strange and disorienting.

I thought the ADSL line had stabilized in the last few days, but when I went to bed last night I noticed that it was out again. When I woke up this morning, it was still out, so I put in yet another call to Telecom. Again, without even knowing what’s wrong, they are promising a repair within two days. Clearly whatever “repairs” they have done up to now have been ineffective. I suspect there is some deeper problem that they have not yet managed to find, but because the technicians have quotas to meet, they do something minor, hope it works, and close the case.

Time to escalate. Again.

Nov 11, 2006

The line came back Thursday night and worked until now, Saturday evening. In the meantime, a technician called Friday to schedule an appointment to come out Tuesday.

I called again when the line went dead this evening, to let them know – again. So I dial 187 then 2 then 2 for the line for “problems with the ADSL line.” And I’m told my wait time will be one minute, but soon I’m getting a recorded apology, and end up waiting ten minutes. And there’s a message, playing over and over and over again: “On our site www… you can find all the help you need for your Internet connection!” Which seems like a cruel joke given that I HAVE NO INTERNET CONNECTION AND THAT’S WHY I’M CALLING – as they should know from the phone queue that I chose.

The lady I spoke to this evening said she could in fact see the history of my calls, but has no access to any notes there might be about what was thought to be wrong. I said I would appreciate it if the technician who comes Tuesday actually reads the case beforehand and knows what has already been done, so we don’t waste everyone’s time. Apparently she has no influence over that, however.

Nothing will happen before Monday, however, because the technicians don’t work on Sundays. Lucky them. And what if I had work to do on Sunday?

Dec 15, 2006

It’s not just me.

Why Internet Takeup in Italy is So Low

Oct 4, 2007

Our ADSL setup has been working without a hiccup for many months. Now that I’m working full-time at home, of course, is when it decides to have a problem. It just went out, without warning or explanation. I tried resetting the modem several times, no change. I gritted my teeth and called Telecom.

After several minutes of looking at who knows what, the lady on the phone said: “I will send a report and it will be investigated from the centrale. If the problem is on our end, it will be fixed by October 5th. If it’s on your end, the report will be cancelled without telling you anything.”

In other words, I have to sit tight and keep hoping until an unspecified time tomorrow, then, if nothing changes, it will be up to me to figure out why. I asked: “How am I supposed to determine what’s wrong?”

“You are entirely responsible for the connections within your house.”

Any concrete suggestions on how I can figure out what’s wrong? (Note that I had to ask – she wasn’t about to volunteer any helpful information.)

“It could be a filter or a telephone cord burned out. Go to a shop and buy a new filter and experiment.”

“Fortunately for both of us, I more or less know what I’m doing. If I were an average consumer, how would I be supposed to deal with this?”

“If you don’t know how to use ADSL, you shouldn’t buy it.”

Uh, right. Very good marketing, that. No wonder Italy has one of the developed world’s lowest national rates of Internet usage. We’ll sell it to you happily, but cazzi tuoi if you don’t know how to make it work.

Somebody, anybody, please buy this very fucked up company and get me out of their nefarious clutches!

Oct 9, 2007

This is far too painful to be funny anymore.

The line went out again this morning.

The signorina as usual could only say that they would look at it (giving a limit of two days this time!) – no idea what went wrong before, or how often this might happen.

In the past, when I have complained to Telecom that I work via the Internet and it costs me money to be without it, I have been told: “Too bad, you’re a residential customer – we don’t have to reimburse you.”

Since I now work full time at home and my business absolutely depends on having a functioning Internet connection, I wonder whether having a “business” ADSL line would gain me anything in terms of service or guarantees. I assume it would cost more.

I tried calling 191, the Telecom business line, then pressed 1 for “commercial information” and 0 to “talk to an operator” (since no other option was of interest). Then it asked me to enter the phone number for which I was seeking service, which would be our home number. Within a minute a signorina answered, and I asked: “Do you offer an ADSL line for business with guaranteed service?”

“I can’t help you, you’ve called 187, the residential customer line.”

“No, I didn’t, I called 191.”

“When you call from a residential number, the call gets deviated to us. Try calling from a cellphone.”

I did. Same sequence as before, including entering the home phone number. This proved to be a mistake – I found myself back at the same 187 call center.

“This happens all the time,” said the new signorina, “but I can’t help you.”

I guess Telecom really doesn’t want any more money from me, they make it so damned hard to find out how to spend it.

I tried for a third time, from the cellphone, this time I didn’t enter the home phone when prompted, but kept pressing 0. Finally I got into what appeared to be the correct hold queue, and was told I would have 4 minutes to wait. By this time I was literally screaming with frustration, but also noticed that the ADSL line had come back – once again, we don’t know what was wrong in the first place. Am I going to have to keep calling every few days just to keep this line working?

So I checked the 191 site. Hmm. The costs are about the same, and I can find no mention of any service guarantees. The only possible advantage would be a different number to call for support, which is supposedly staffed Monday through Saturday. Would it actually be any better than the (lousy) service I get now? Probably not enough to be worth the hassle they’d put me through to get it.

share your experiences (good and bad) with Telecom Italia, below in the comments

33 thoughts on “Telecom Italia: The Whole Ugly Saga

  1. Ann

    Sounds all too familiar!!! We TRIED to switch from TIM to Alice, with no success. Telecom was SUPPOSED to email my husband to let us know when they were going to disconnect our adsl line from TIM, then switch to Alice. One morning my husband tried to go on the internet, nothing. He calls, the line has been disconnected, early. No notice, and no definate date as far as when we would be connected to Alice. Then “oh tomorrow”‘s started. Then when my husband would call Telecom, it was supposed to be a problem on our end, that their system showed that we were connected. My husband is a computer techincian by trade, so on our end everything was configured correctly etc. My husband can do it bindfolded/asleep. After about two and a half weeks, we were fed up with the ….. and cancelled all contracts with Telecom, including phone, and have gone with Eutelia for both phone and adsl. We were up and running in less than a week, with no problems/drama etc, and for a fraction of the cost. For phone and a 4mgb adsl connection, 14 free hours of calls within Italy, .05 cents a minute long distanceabout 45 euro a month.

  2. Judith

    I will have been here 6 years in November. For all of that time I have been trying to get anything faster than dial-up. In every phone call or email enquiry, Telecom says: withing two years, signora!
    We have a series of B&Bs out here (6 km from the city) a big frantoio, several agriturismi, and the rest of us all have computers and go online for our various purposes. It isn’t that there’s no market, and it isn’t because we are remote and too far from the office. Who knows why?
    We also don’t have cellphone signal unless we walk up to the road and try different positions for the phone. We don’t have digital TV signal.
    Before I moved here I had a farm in Appalachia, remote as you can get, in a deep valley amongst the mountains, and guess what? They have high speed connection now, and the same line carries television signals. They always had cellphone signal. So what’s the problem, Telecom Italia?
    There can be no economic growth that includes the internet until they clear out the corrupt managers who misuse the fibreoptic cables we already have or neglect to use them at all.
    Oh, and it took me 4 months to get a phone at all. I actually broke into a secure Telecom site by following a truck on foot and bearded a technico in his office, because otherwise all I got was lies– like “It was installed 3 weeks ago.”
    There is no slander you could make about Telecom, because every slimy story told is true.

  3. Jason

    Here’s a tip on setting up a new phone line. If you aren’t Italian but married to one use your spouse’s last name for the contract. We waited nearly two months before some nice customer service lady made the statement “I see that the service was requested in your husbands name” “Yes”, my wife replied. “The service would be installed much quicker if it was in your last name.” “Why?”, my wife asked. “Because he isn’t Italian and doesn’t have an Italian sounding last name.” Sure enough after changing it over to my wife’s last name they came in two weeks and the phones were up and running. Then, about four months later two telecom techs showed up to install MORE lines into the house. HUH? Yup they finally showed up to install the line we ordered in my name and then canceled and ordered in my wife’s name. We would’ve been without a phone line for six months just because I wasn’t Italian.

  4. Jason

    I can feel Ann’s pain. I too live in an area which should have ADSL service but doesn’t. I live near the Aviano Airbase. The little town I live in is a very short drive to Aviano and thus is crawling with Americans who out number the actual Italian population. All of whom would love to have anything other than dial up. I’ve live here 4 years and heard that song and dance about 2 years every 2 years. It’s not for a lack of desire that Telecom hasn’t installed the lines. Our community has sent in at least 2 petitions with lots of signatures to the town hall. Still no results. In the last 4 years while we have not seen an expansion to the ADSL service Telecom in its infinite wisdom has brought ADSL to a small mountain community. OK so bring ADSL to a town with a few 100 people living in it of which maybe a couple dozen might subscribe to the ADSL service but not an area with several thousand potential customers? No wonder Telecom is bankrupt! Anyway, about a month ago the local paper had an interesting article. It was about an artist organization that was sick and tired of the whole area being without ADSL. So they got together and have successfully put up a privately founded WiFi antenna which services a large portion of the area without ADSL service. They plan to put up another 2 antenna’s over the next couple of months which will cover all the area’s without ADSL. The name of the company doing the installations is ASDASD http://www.asdasd.it . I haven’t used their service yet because I’m in one of the places not covered by the first antenna. I’ve seen it at work and it runs well. Although, the fastest service they offer at the moment is 1.5Mb and that will decay as the number of people subscribe to the service. I guess beggars can’t be choosers, so I’ll take just about anything over dialup.

  5. Jason

    Speaking on WiFi. Back about 4 years ago when we finally got our phone line turned on I decided to research my options to pay by the minute dial-up service. I found Alice WiFi and thought……I’M SAVED! I figured I could at the minimum subscribe to Telecom’s WiFi service, buy a laptop, go find a nice cafe downtown that was in a hotspot and conduct my business from there. I was even laughing about it with associates of mine. Ah, I thought, what a hard life it would be to be required to go to the cafe all day for work so that I had broadband service. My associates were to say the least GREEN with envy. The future was bright……till I called Telecom to order the service. I got through right away to the customer service rep. A polite woman was more than willing to help me order Alice WiFi. Then everything came to a screeching halt. The woman asked me for my phone number. I gave it to her. Then she said something along the lines of “Oh, I see you don’t have ADSL service available in your area.” “Yes thats correct”, I said. “Oh well then you can’t subscribe to our WiFi service.” “Ummmmmm and that would be because…..?”, I said. “Because you don’t have ADSL service in available where you are located.” “Ah, OK but maybe Pordenone has it available.” “Oh well yes they do.” “OK, so I’ll just drive down to Pordenone and use their service.” “No I’m sorry it doesn’t work that way.” I hung up on her. I figured it wasn’t her fualt that clowns ran the marketing department and it was better to hang up than to leave her with an unpolite message to pass on to whoever was in charge. How is it that Telecom advertises that they have HotSpot’s all over Italy where you can use this service while on the go BUT you can’t subscribe to it unless you have ADSL available at your home. DUH! Whoever thinks up such stupid stuff.

  6. Luigi

    Hi! I’m one of the native inmates :) I have a pleasant experience to report about Telecom Italia: my hate for their customer service and my sound “incazzatura” … for their rip off of the so called “anticipo conversazioni” (an advance payment for phone calls, due by those who don’t charge their “bollette” to a bank account) … which they never refunded after I sent them a “disdetta” for a former contract. Of course! … “disdetta” translates perfectly as “tough luck” … :)) So, this time, rather than trusting their kind chi-se-ne-frega customer care advice … i googled for disdetta and telecom and 187 … to find out how the real procedure works. This Telecom Italia Saga came out at the top of the usual garbage load … and I felt like I had been awarded a special bonus … because this web site turned out to be very interesting. I wouldn’t try to say why right now. I need some time to look around and understand why it seems to be appealing to me. I’ll just say that I’ve enjoyed some past and long gone expat experiences myself, in the UK, Switzerland and California. To survive the cultural shock of relocating to my own country, i decided to start a part time living experience as an “extracomunitario” in Veneto (where I have been a “bloody foreigner” from Bologna for 15 years). Hope to get back with some ideas about overcoming Telecom Italia Sagas and their likes, sooner or later. Congratulations for a great job, I’m so glad I came across it … that I might even feel grateful to Telecom Italia for giving me a motivation to .. serendipity (??).. for it :))

  7. webmaster

    Well, at least they’re occasionally good for something! I’m always glad to find new friends, though I’m not sure I want to thank Telecom for it.

  8. Christopher Johnson

    I have been trying to e-mail my father using alice adsl. He uses Comcast in the United States, if you try to e-mail someone from the Alice to Comcast, Comcast will deny or filter the e-mail because Alice’s servers are on a “blacklist”. This is due to Alice allowing their servers to be part of a spamming network. No kidding!! If I cannot e-mail my father because they are blacklisted I’m going to need to talk to someone at customer service. Ouch! I have a feeling they will not care. If that is so isn’t that a breech of contract or something? I am paying for services that they can’t provide. What if I just stopped paying for their services that they can’t provide? They’d shut me down of course, and that is the pain. I hope someday Comcast or Time Warner or at least one of the major U.S. companies just totally buy out and overhaul the entire Telecom monopoly. And take all their jobs too.

    Their service is the worst EVER.

  9. webmaster

    I can give you an invite for Gmail, if you like. That or some other web-based email is probably your best bet for a quick solution.

  10. Luigi

    Using Gmail is probably the best way out for Alice mail failing to reach a Comcast mailbox. It’s a less drastic solution than a US take over of TI; however, there also some internet service providers which work well, in Italy .. if one can avoid talking to their customer service.

  11. Joe

    Okay, i am not one to say “they NEED to get an English phoneline to call” but to tell you the truth, it would save everyone alot of headache (mostly ours). As much as they service us (people near Aviano is whom i speak of), you would think that they’d finally figure it out, that w/ probably 60% of their customers being American, they’d actually start to higher English speaking people, with a little option on their completely, non understandable if you’re not Italian, that has the menu in English, urgh, just… so… hard… not… to kill little kittens in fustration…

    Fustrated,
    Joe

  12. Josh

    Well I have had a fine run in with telecom myself, and as I don’t speak italian its a bit more painfull so I deal with a customer support center in the town of Aviano. Well I have been fighting from day one, March 15th to get a 20mega connection my connections have gone up and down and services been all screwed up. I never got the 20mega they said I could only get the 4mega for the area I live in. I find that unlikely being that I live in Pordenone which is kind of a big city and you think they would have that in this area. No problem though I will happily take the 4 mega. Of course they say wait 10 days, its not a 10 day wait at all its actually pretty fast, but here is the kicker when they activated my 4mega line they fried my either card which is an on board card as most motherboards are, along with frying a modem that I paid 100 euro for. So the total cost is about 200 euro in damage, this is mainly a guess cause I have a backup modem that I’m using and I have to either ports and am using my other one which all work fine but the moment I use my other modem or port nothing works. I have not yet been able to contact telecom about this issue but when I do its not going to be pretty. And as far as how long it took for everything to be said and done well I started out with all this BS in March its now July and ummmm yeah I got my 4mega connection which is really fast I may add, but at the expense of hardware on my motherboard being toasted and my modem being sizzled I don’t think its really worth it and I doupt telecom will take fault for this or give me a discount for my bill. I fucking hate telecom bunch of assholes, even though I don’t directly deal with them I still hate those stupid pricks.

  13. jo

    i actually dont have the energy to explain the very long story, but for me it is still ongoing, and I dont see a light, I still have no internet after over 40!!! calls!

  14. Fab

    well, this is not about adsl troubles, but is about Telecom Italia Customer Care (if any).
    More than a year ago they invited me to switch from smail mail paper bills to website access electronic bills. I accepted and registered my account on the website, but after getting your ID and password, you need a further registration in order to access you bills informations. This further one-time registration asks for a couple of infos from one of the latest paper bills to work, but unfortunately this doesn’t work with any -correct- data!
    So i can’t access details of my Telecom voice and data bills since last year!
    I tried to call 187 many times but the front-end operators don’t have a clue about a way to fix the problem. Anyone has a different “idea” about a “possible” solution… try this, try that… Finally one day they said.. “we have to remove your account and you will start a new registration”. Well i thought this was the first time someone at 187 said something close to fix the problem. They said to wait for a week and then re-register to the site. When i did it i discovered they did not remove my account, they just changed/disabled my password. With a new password the problem was still to fix. I called again, and after a week they … reset my password again! :-( Today i called again and the guy said to me, “why don’t you try deleting your account from the website?” I simply can’t do it from the website myself!, I said. “Why don’t you register a different account?” Because when you register, the first information is a unique code and the system recognize that you’re already registered!, I said. I asked please to try removing my account, not my password. I also asked for any different access to customer care other than calling 187, and if there is a way to communicate to someone responsible to the customer care service. Nope.
    No hope.
    I’ve found the email address of the Telecom Italia eCare Manager and sent my case. Never got a reply.
    I will say goodbye to Telecom Italia _very_ soon.

  15. Fab

    update: after sending an email to Telecom Italia CEO and to Domestic Fixed Services Director, i’ve got my problem promptly fixed and they called me from two different offices to be sure that all is ok now. After months of calls to the Customer Care!
    So if you want to try, just get their names and the Telecom Italia mail-address format… :-/

  16. Tomas do Amaral

    I am at the moment going through a similar experience. In March 2006 I stopped one of my Telecom numbers sending Telecom a registered letter, but they went on another 4 months invoicing for it… I have sent all the correspondence 3 times by registered mail and 4 times by fax and they are still trying to collect 400 euros for services not rendered.

  17. Kate

    Don’t bother switching to Alice “Business” — we were without ADSL for almost three months this spring and a friend of mine in Como has been without hers since May. There is NO GUARANTEE whatsoever regardless of whether your contract is under a business name — we actually got a faxed response to our written complaint and request to be reimbursed for the months we paid but did not actually receive service (not business lost, mind you, just payback for the months we paid for NOTHING) and were basically told in two lines of black and white: “cazzi tuoi.”

    I hate this company. They’re just evil. Across the board. I recently bought a Blackberry (locked to TIM, stupidly) in the hope that at least that would allow me to check e-mail for reservation requests and do basic work when our rental property opens, but I’m still waiting after three weeks for them to respond to my request to initiate service. I wish I could figure out how to get satellite service somehow — I’ve heard it’s possible, but I don’t know much about it. The idea of contacting TI to hook up my newly completely affitacamere makes my blood run cold.

  18. nn

    Telecom Italia is the worst organisation I have ever had the misfortune to deal with. the 187 phone desk is 99.9% rude, hopeless, and ineffective. Promises given over the phone are a mirage that evaporate into hot dusty sand. I recently signed up to Alice with the option of buying a lap-top. The technician duly arrived on the right date at the wrong time, so I missed him. That was in October 2007. January 2008, after repeated phone calls, faxes, and e-mails to every Telecom Italia point of contact under the sun, still no sign of making the technician re-materialise despite all the assurances from 187. The company deserves to go down and I won’t be shedding any tears when it does – as surely it must. I just worry about the hours and days this totally incompetent organisation has taken off my life in terms of stress and raised blood pressure – not to mention the loss of time phoning, faxing, and waiting in for never-respected appointments. I’d switch tomorrow if there were another option – the sad fact is all the other operators have to go through this humongous colossus of uselessness so in the end you just end up adding a further layer of inefficiency to the process; plus the fact that Telecom Italia plays dirty with 3rd parties. Real open competition when it finally comes will quickly dispatch Telecom Italia down the plughole of infamous company dismemberment. That will be the day to uncork a bottle of bubbly . . .

  19. Stuart

    So many have said it before me, but I’ll reinforce the point. Telecom Italia has to be the worst run, most disorganised “piovasca di merda” (Shower of shit – and yes, I have actually managed to get some of my friends to start using this expression in Italian) I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with. I won’t bore you with the full story but suffice it to say that I have just this very evening recieved a telephone bill for a line that I had disconnected nine months ago when we moved house. To add insult to injury the final bill is a whopping 500 euros. They must be taking the piss, but for the sake of low stress levels of my wife and father-in-law I have decided not to go to court over it, depsite having plenty of documented evidence to support my point of view.

    Italy is a fabulous country and Italians are for the most part a marvellous, warm and friendly people (except whilst driving), but their national services stink and Telecom is the crowning turd in the waterpipe. We are now on a Skype telephone connection and I have vowed NEVER to use Telecom Italia again for the rest of my life.

  20. elizabeth from naples

    I woke up decided to ring my daughter in australia, nothing unusual here. A message arrives,”you are not able to ring international”….excuse me?. Try again. “you are not able to ring internationl”. I tried a local number, telephone is working O.K. Its Sunday, no point in ringing the usual waste of time and energy number. Monday, rang to ask “What the devil….?”. Answer, after innumerous cutoffs, deadlines, etc. We all know the story!!! The Answer: ” I have an accent!” I am stunned, almost, but, almost speechless! “EXCUSE ME?” Answer; “When we ring your number your answer machine answers in another language,!!!!” So, the anti-fraud office has cut your use of international calls.”….can some-one help???

  21. elizabeth from naples

    To continue; “Who the ***********! are you to tell me who and when I speak to whoever I ****well please!” Answer: “We did this to protect you from someone trying to use your phone, to phone an illegal number and, run up a bill.” Q: “have you seen my bill of 44 euros?” A:”Well, maybe you didnt pay your bill then?” Q:” What the devil’s the matter with you girl?!!”….and so it has contnued, and continued, I am now supposed to write a fax, with all the usual photocopied bits of paper, asking them (TELECOM ITALIA) Who else?.. If they could please, reconnect the possility of allowing me to phone internationally. Can someone out there inform me of my rights, reguarding. Privacy. Discrimination. Please?

  22. Deirdre Straughan Post author

    If your internet bandwidth will support it, use Skype. There are even Skype handsets you can use to make it more like a regular phone experience, and it’s a lot cheaper than international calls with Telecom Italia. And why gives those bastards any more of your money?

  23. elizabeth from naples

    Thankyou Deirdre, for your tip. Any of us who has had what I can only term as “A nightmarish experience with telecom Italia”, I personally have had several, have had to threaten legal actions, in order to recieve a working internet, not to mention the endless;”Yes, I ****well have paid my ********bill, so damn well re-connect!!” phone calls, have to admit I will now gather whatever strength is left in me, and launch myself into another battle for a telephone system, that may, or not, function.

  24. Timothy Murphy

    Our ADSL line worked perfectly for about 2 years, but has now started giving trouble.
    The connection is lost roughly once an hour.
    The modem has to be switched off and then on again,
    and it usually comes back in about 3 minutes.

    We’ve rung Telecom Italia (187) about 10 times in the last week.
    There is a kind of mantra they have, about the problem being solved in 48 hours.
    It is no use telling them that that is what they said 48 hours ago;
    they don’t seem to find any contradiction in this.

    A technician actually came to the house one day;
    he tested the line and said it was fine,
    and told us to swap the modem (free).
    We did this but it had little effect.

    I think the only way to survive is to regard the whole thing as a farce.

    Actually, I am from Ireland and the situation in Ireland
    was at least as bad as this 15 years ago -
    we waited 5 years for a phone,
    at one point they told us they were held up
    by a shortage of wire-benders!
    But then about 10 years ago an American was appointed CEO
    of Telecom Eireann, and the whole scene changed in a matter of weeks.

  25. Monica

    You may be able to help me. I feel you pain. We cancelled our Telecom Italia number a year ago.. been billed the whole time. Since I am not in Italy at the moment, do you know of a fax number or how I fax from the US to 803 308 187

    Grazie e ciao.

  26. Brian

    Shit, SHIT and even more S H I T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Come on the word Italia obviously means fertiliser, add Telecom to Italia and you have the deepest fertiliser in the known universe.

    Put together, ‘Telecom-Italia’ can be used to add emphasis, such as Telecom-Italia Brain Dead, or Illegitimate, or Useless, or Useless Illegitimate, or perhaps Stupid, Wanker, Tosser, Arsehole, Liar ….. the list is seemingly endless!!

    In 45 years of home ownership, and 20 of these with two homes, I had never met a telephone engineer. And then in 2003 I rented a Telecom Italia fixed line….. Now I know loads of telephone engineers, how many children they have, how much the insurance costs for their car, how much they pay in rent, how to stabilise a ladder for them, when they will retire etc. etc. etc. I do so wish that I didn’t know any of this and just had a telephone line that actually worked properly for a whole week or two at a time……. Yes, You are right, Telecom-Italia Useless!!!

    Do you know how these guys connect the wires from telegraph pole to telegraph pole? It’s so easy, it goes like this, you strip the insulation off a pair of wires for an inch or so, you join these to the next length of cable, by wrapping them together, and then wrap them both with insulation tape. Then you bend the cable and point this joint upwards so that the joint does not take in water, good eh? Then you pull this cable over the second telegraph pole, using this only for support, then on to the third telegraph pole (are you still with me?) at the third pole you connect these two wires to the next two, yes, wrap them together etc, point them upwards to avoid water entry and so on, it’s a Telecom-Italia Miracle that it works at all!!!!!!!

    So now when it rains, or it’s foggy, or when it’s windy, or windy and raining, Guess What?? It Telecom-Italia DOESN”T WORK !!!!!!

    Did I tell you about the line being hit by lightning? Better not life is too short………

  27. catarina

    worst service ever!
    they still owe me money!
    AND it took them 3 months to make me use my internet( was paying for it!!) , then i cancelled it.
    regardless, i would never recommend it to anyone.
    i hope there are better operators in italy….
    good luck out there, and i hope they will get a better service one day, because a good service in this world, should be a must.

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