Govt needs to stop pretending the NBN is a success as the first step to actually fixing it

The Government has said that the Senate committee looking into the National Broadband Network doesn’t understand what is going on. It’s apparently ignoring all the happy people on NBN (perhaps because it struggled to find them?).

One of the recommendations asked for an explanation of the complaint handling processes for consumers. This was rejected on the basis that the request demonstrates a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the NBN’s role as a wholesaler that sells access and bandwidth to telcos who then sell to consumers.

Well let me tell you about my experience. I’ve had a range of problems with my non-NBN service. Because my internet comes through HFC, even though I’m not technically on the NBN, Telstra can no longer fix anything because the NBN Co owns the hardware. Yes, NBN may be the wholesaler, but Telstra is no longer in a position to fix any line problems – they must persuade NBN to fix it.

The last time I had to have an NBN technician come to fix a problem he told me it was fixed. I ran a speed test, with him still there, and pointed out that after his fix the speed was now 50% of what it had been before his ‘fix’. That was not his problem – any issues I had with speed I had to take up with Telstra. “But”, I cried plaintively, “You are still here and whatever you did hasn’t fixed my problem, it’s made it worse. Surely you have to take this on board and not leave until you’ve actually got service back for me?” “Nah bro, not my problem – it’s a speed issue and that’s Telstra.”

Back to Telstra I go, and lo and behold, they can’t do anything because the problem is in the lines which they no longer control. They escalate to their NBN liaison team who put the job out to NBN who send a technician… You get the circular idea.

So I don’t know in what rarefied world of government-provided Internet the Government is living, but as far as I can see asking for an explanation of complaint handling processes for customers makes perfect sense.

As a wider point though, just dumping on the report questioning what’s going on is a politician’s response to a technical and business problem.

I understand that the Government is embarrassed by the mess that NBN has become, not least because Malcolm Turnbull got himself so closely aligned with the NBN in people’s minds. The fact the opposition is making hay out of the whole mess is probably not helping. But surely there comes a time when there has to be acceptance that there’s a problem so that a solution can be found and the whole mess sorted out. Pretending that it’s all working out nicely and there is no problem is the response of a four-year-old when caught with a texta in hand by a stick man drawn on the lounge room wall.

Surely, surely we can expect better?

2 thoughts on “Govt needs to stop pretending the NBN is a success as the first step to actually fixing it

  • January 19, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Add to this: [1] Opinion letter from the Comms Minister in yesterday’s SMH, saying it’s just that people can’t be bothered paying the higher rates for the faster plans, and [2] People I know visiting Uruguay and asking why a third world country has blisteringly fast internet compared to their Sydney home…

    • January 19, 2018 at 11:29 am

      Yes, I have a friend who got a faster connection in the middle of a Sri Lankan jungle than they get at home in northern Sydney.

      But on the other issue I think people are scared of faster plans when they have to pay for usage. In many (most?) other countries you don’t have the usage limits we have here that mean people are worried that higher speeds just mean they’ll churn through their allowance faster and end up paying more. And isn’t it strange that when you talk to people in, say, NZ who have proper high-speed Internet they are (a) happy and (b) find uses for it which make them more productive. It really is ridiculous to say that people are, and are going to be, happy with slower speeds.


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