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Leaving Optus

Today I phoned Optus to disconnect my Internet service. Some time ago I got an Internode [1] SOHO connection. This gave me a much faster upload speed (typically 100KB/s) compared with Optus having a maximum of 25KB/s. Also Internode has better value for large data transfer (where “large” in Australia means 25GB per month) and I get a static IP address. I also get unfiltered Internet access, Optus blocks outbound connections to port 25 which forced me to ssh to another server to test my clients’ mail servers.

But the real reason for leaving Optus is based on events two years ago. When I first signed up with Optus four years ago my contract said “unlimited uploads“. What they really meant was “upload as much as you want but if you transfer more than 8KB/s for any period of time you get disconnected“. They claimed that running a default configuration of BitTorrent was a DOS (Denial of Service) attack (the only part of their terms of service that even remotely permitted them to disconnect me). So I was quite unhappy when they cut me off for this.

What really offended me was the second time they cut my connection. I had been running BitTorrent on Friday and Saturday, and they cut my connection off on Wednesday. Once it was determined that the issue was uploads we had a bit of a debate about when my BitTorrent session was terminated, it was my clear memory of using killall to end BitTorrent during a commercial break of a TV show on the Saturday night vs the Optus idiot claiming they had a record of me doing big uploads on the Sunday. But I let the help desk person think that they had won that debate in order to focus on the big issue, why large uploads on a Saturday (or a Sunday) should result in a loss of service on Wednesday (three or four days later). They said “it was to teach you a lesson“! The lesson I learned is that it is best to avoid doing business with Optus. I didn’t immediately cancel my contract, if you have both phone and Internet service through Optus they do offer a reasonable deal (there are a variety of discounts that are offered if you have multiple services through them).

When discussing this matter in the past it had been suggested to me that I try appealing to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman etc. However I didn’t do this because I was in fact breaking the Optus acceptable usage policy for most of the time that I was a customer. When I signed up their AUP prohibited me from running a server and from memory I think it had a specific example of a shell server as something that should not be done, it now prohibits running any automated application that uses the Internet when a human is not present (which presumably includes servers). I’m pretty sure that my SE Linux Play Machine [2] met the criteria.

While I’m reviewing Optus service I need to mention their mail server, here is the summary of the Optus anti-spam measures in protecting my email address etbe@optushome.com.au in September (other months were much the same):
131 emails have been sent to your Inbox.
52 of these emails were identified as spam and moved to the Spam Folder.
39% of your email has been identified as spam.

The email address in question only received legitimate mail from Optus. This meant that I received between two and four valid messages a month, the rest were all spam. So of the 79 messages delivered to me, at least 75 were spam, and Optus blocked less than half the spam. But to be fair, given that the Optus mail servers are listed on some of the DNSBLs it seems reasonable for them to be lax in anti-spam measures. I wonder whether it would be reasonable for an ISP of Optus scale to run the SpamAssassin milter on mail received by their outbound relays to reject the most gross spam from customer machines.

But Optus are good at some things. The download speed was always very good (I could receive data at 1MB/s if the remote server could send that fast). Also their procedures for account cancellation are quite good. The guy who took my call offered to transfer me to the complaints department when I mentioned how I was “taught a lesson”, he also offered me a significant discount if I was to continue using the service. In retrospect I should have had that conversation six months ago and had some cheap service from Optus before getting rid of them. Getting the account terminated happened in a couple of hours. It was so quick that I hadn’t got around to transferring my Play Machine to my Internode account before it happened, so I had a few hours of down-time.

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