Standing up for Canberra

NBN: Understanding the Switchover

I met with NBN Co last week and in that meeting we talked about the experiences many Canberrans have had with their new NBN connections—the unexpected dropouts and the need to replace equipment, like fax machines.

In 2017, complaints about the NBN alone increased by 204 percent—204 percent!—and what has become increasingly clear is that consumers have not been brought along the NBN rollout journey, which is why Labor's NBN service guarantee is so welcome. Labor's NBN service guarantee will set wholesale service standards for fault rectification time frames, installations and missed appointments. It will apply financial penalties on NBN when those standards are not met and it will establish stronger penalties to safeguard small businesses from excessive downtime. It will ensure the NBN is more accountable to retail providers, so that retail providers can in turn be more accountable to their customers. Consumers will benefit from have having a clear link between service standards, individual consumer outcomes and fair recourse when things go wrong—and that is happening very often.

But what about helping Australians actually understand the NBN before the switchover happens? Compare the experience of consumers with the switchover from analog to digital TV. Advertising campaigns ensured Australians were informed about when the switchover would happen and what it would mean for people—what it would mean for them. Targeted advertising was used and new televisions and set-top boxes had stickers to say if they were digital-ready. Workers at technology and home appliance retailers received product training to assist customers make an informed purchase. This was under a Labor government. So why not? What about the NBN rollout?

NBN Co's website talks about some existing devices and services perhaps not being compatible with new NBN technologies—medical alarms, emergency call buttons, monitored fire alarms, home or business security monitors, fax and teletypewriter devices and wireless door bells. For each of these difference devices or services the advice is the same: contact your retail service provider to check if your particular device or service will continue to operate when connected to the NBN. And while you're at it, check to see if there are any costs involved. Imagine the rude shock for many Canberrans when they find out that their devices don't work only after the switchover to the NBN and that they need to upgrade office equipment, security systems, fire alarms and door bells at a cost. For many, that is an unexpected and probably unwelcome cost.

Then they need to wait for an appointment, which, based on 204 per cent of complaints in 2017, shows is likely to be missed—more uptime, less downtime and greater accountability are needed.