Confessions of a digital dummy

Oblivious millennials are the perfect captive audience for telecom giants

Google image search for how to install wifi The struggles of being a digital native

The word ‘millennial’ is burdened with connotations. The generation that came of age in the early 21st Century  has become synonymous with the ‘digital native’ whose world is defined by the technology within it.

But whether or not young people have an intuitive understanding of technology — just because it has always been a part of our lives — is not always as certain as it seems.

In reality, most millennials don’t know any more about how the Internet works than the bare minimum needed to keep their Facebook streams, Twitter feeds, and Instagram grids running. Even though we are the heaviest users of the Internet, millennials are surprisingly unaware of the intricacies of the technology we depend so heavily on.

I am one of the many millennials without a clue. This realisation dawned on me when my roommates and I found out we were moving into a new home without working Internet. As true ‘digital natives’, surely we had the skills and knowledge to fix it ourselves.

How wrong we were.

After Googling ‘how to install Wi-Fi’ to no avail, it was time to call in the “experts”.

Finally, after hours on the phone with Telstra, they send not one, but two separate technicians who haven’t been briefed on our issue and can’t help. These experts were either just as clueless as the rest of us, or they weren’t in the fixing mood that day.

This service isn’t unique to Telstra. Every telecom company we speak to has poorly trained staff, horrendous wait times and little coordination between departments. Customer complaints about telecommunications companies have risen by 33.3 per cent over the last quarter alone, suggesting that my experience is a common one.

Despite this trend, there isn’t much evidence that telecom companies are concerned. Millennials are the perfect captive audience for these industry giants because we can’t function without their product. There are approximately 13.3 million broadband subscribers in Australia, and most of us, myself included, depend on the Internet to engage with work, study, family and friends.

But our lack of knowledge is not entirely our own doing. The experts I spoke to used jargon that was intimidating and made me question my right to the title of ‘digital native’. This language not only alienates consumers, but it creates a situation in which telecom companies can charge up to $299 for simple services that they portray as complicated, like the activation and installation of a Wi-Fi modem.

Obviously telecom companies have a monopoly on the actual infrastructure that gives us the Internet and the plans that allow us to use the service. But activation and repairs are all provided at added costs. My particular issue was quoted at $800.

For my housemates and I, that price just wasn’t an option. With nothing left to lose, we tried to do it ourselves — again.

Within 30 minutes we were online.

What two qualified technicians and numerous Telstra call centre staff had tried to charge us $800 for, we had fixed in 30 minutes.

Whether this result was pure luck, Telstra’s mistake, our combined determination to save money, or all of the above, it definitely provided a reality check for this digital dummy.