Many Australians risk losing their phone and internet access in 2017, with their home services cut off if they fail to switch to the National Broadband Network service available in their area.
This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald's home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.
After getting off to a slow start, the NBN rollout has reached 3.5 million premises across the country. While the network initially planned to run fibre to the premises at 93 per cent of homes and businesses, the new-look multi-technology mix will see the lion's share of premises rely on potentially slower fibre to the node connections. Telstra's metro-centric HFC cable broadband network will also be retained as part of the NBN, but not the Optus cable network.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman reveals Australian's biggest NBN gripes and which mobile network lifted its game in 2015-16. While 3.5 million Australian homes and businesses can now activate an NBN-based broadband service, to date only 44 per cent have made the switch — the rest sticking with older copper and cable-based phone and internet services even though the clock is ticking.
Homes and business have 18 months to migrate to the NBN once it is available to them, after which traditional copper and cable services in the area are severed — cutting off fixed-line phone and internet access.
After switching to the NBN, customers can choose from a wide range of internet service providers, as the NBN is only a wholesale broadband provider and does not compete for customers against retailers such as Telstra, Optus and TPG.
After the cut-off date, Foxtel's home Pay TV services will still be available via Telstra cable, but Foxtel subscribers will need an NBN-based broadband service in order to access online streaming video services such as Foxtel Play and Foxtel Go.
Time is running out in some areas, with the 18-month NBN cut-off reaching 447 suburbs across the country in the first half of 2017. It affects 348,627 homes and businesses across every state and territory but mostly in New South Wales (102,885), Victoria (71,266) and Queensland (53,966).
Only a quarter of Australian households are fully aware of the consequences of not switching across to the NBN before the cut-off date, according to finder.com.au research. As a result millions of homes are in danger of being caught out over the next few years, says finder.com.au telco editor Alex Kidman.
"The NBN is still a foreign concept for many Australians because, relatively speaking, so few people have access," Kidman says. "It's not surprising to see that many don't know their existing service will be cut off if they don't connect to the NBN once their home or business is declared NBN-ready."
"There's no two ways about it, if you're living or working in a premises that is declared NBN-ready then you have 18 months to subscribe to an NBN plan. Otherwise your phone line and internet will be disconnected, which could be a disaster if you're running a business."
Kidman also advises that home and business owners check the NBN status of their area before signing up for a long-term contract with their current provider which may overlap with the arrival of the new network in their street.
"If you're signing up to a 24-month ADSL plan which relies on the copper phone lines, but the NBN is coming to your home in six months, then you're limiting your broadband options," he says. "Chances are your ISP will happily let you switch from ADSL to an NBN plan without breaking contract, but once you have access to the NBN you might get better value for money from another ISP."
"If the NBN isn't too far away then it might be worth opting for a month-to-month plan with your current broadband provider rather than signing up for a long-term deal which locks you in."
An NBN Co spokesperson said that currently, take up of the NBN at the close of the 18 month migration window was "strong".
"About 74 per cent of those that can order a service do so by this date. This in line with our plans and expectations", the spokesperson said.
"Of course we encourage people not to wait, the sooner in the 18 month window that they connect to the NBN network, the sooner they get the benefits".
NBN-ready suburbs nearing the cut-off
The highest concentration of premises set to hit the cut-off point in the next six months is in the Northern Territory, with 4222 premises in the area of East Point, Eaton, Fannie Bay, Ludmilla, Parap, The Narrows, Woolner, and Bayview needing to switch to NBN or risk disconnection.
In New South Wales, 3924 premises in the area of Gorokan, Lake Haven and Charmhaven are in the same boat. Meanwhile, in Victoria's Shepparton, Shepparton East and Orrvale, 3778 premises are set to hit the deadline soon.