Half Of Aussie Homes Are NBN Ready, Unless They're Trapped In The Broadband Catch-22

Image: Adam Turner

It's hard to take NBN's "Ready For Service" numbers seriously when you keep hearing about connection horror stories and the appalling lack of accountability.

NBN boasts that more than 5.7 million homes and businesses are now able to order broadband from a Retail Service Provider, as the nationwide rollout adds up to 100,000 new properties to its footprint each week. Some of these homes certainly aren't celebrating, as the NBN rollout has left them with no home phone or fixed-line broadband for months.

These Australians are caught up in the NBN's brutal Catch 22, which sees NBN, the nation's internet providers, regulators and politicians all pass the blame until it makes the headlines.

Apparently the only escape from this Catch 22 is to take your plight to the media, as Optus customer Scott Moffat did after spending four months with no broadband or home phone. After Fairfax Media took up Moffat's case, the fault was resolved within 48 hours.

It's an ongoing pattern in my coverage of NBN rollout dramas; individual cases are fast-tracked but no meaningful headway is made in breaking the deadlock which continues to leave homes and businesses in broadband limbo.

The NBN Blame Game

So how do you find yourself trapped in NBN's Catch 22? Once your home or business is declared NBN Ready For Service your retailer is forbidden to connect you to their old DSL or cable broadband service. The "Cease Sale" regulations in the NBN rollout deal obligate them to connect you to the NBN, but if some kind of fault or installation backlog delays your NBN connection then you're stuck – especially if NBN still has your home listed as Ready For Service.

That's exactly what happened to Scott Moffat, who lives in a Ready For Service area but spent four months in broadband hell before contacting me, after which the NBN fault in his street was resolved within days.

Optus insists it couldn't connect Moffat's home to the old Optus cable service in his street because NBN failed to acknowledge this fault and reclassify his home as not Ready For Service. Meanwhile NBN insists his home was always Ready for Service, but efforts to fix a fault in the street were "mishandled".

So in other words, the phrase "Ready For Service" means very little. NBN continued to insist Moffat's home was Ready For Service even though it had known for months that he couldn't actually receive that service. Rather than conceding this point, NBN's stubbornness ensured that Moffat couldn't get broadband elsewhere so he was left with nothing.

The Same Old Story

This far from an isolated incident, stories like Moffat's keep landing in my inbox every time I write another article about NBN's Cease Sale Catch 22. The exact circumstances might vary but the basic paradox remains the same; you can't connect to the NBN, but you can't connect to anything else because you're ready to connect to the NBN.

As part of my ongoing investigation of this issue, the ACCC publicly ruled that the Cease Sale regulations can be bypassed in these situations, to reconnect old services while you wait for an NBN fault to be resolved. Yet time and again NBN and the Retail Service Providers have shown they'd rather push forward with the rollout – leaving some homes with no phone or broadband for months – than admit defeat and allow these homes to go back to legacy services.

Only recently did NBN decide to stop declaring homes in NBN HFC cable areas Ready For Service if they lacked a lead-in from the HFC cable in the street.

Trapped In Limbo

Meanwhile Moffat spent four months repeatedly pleading his case to Optus and NBN, along with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. He even took his plight directly to the office of Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield.

All of them failed to get Moffat's home phone and broadband connected, which doesn't surprise me having dealt with them all in the last six months in an effort to break this deadlock. I'm continually told that Cease Sale is not an issue, the people affected are simply the victim of NBN rollout delays which are to be expected on a scheme of this magnitude.

While an NBN fault might be the reason why these homes are not connected to the NBN, the Cease Sale regulations are the reason why they're left with no phone or broadband for months while they wait for the NBN fault to be resolved. These cases might only account for a small fraction of the overall rollout, but such treatment is still unacceptable – abandoning Australians due to bureaucratic red tape and the need to save political face.

No-one will accept responsibility for this farce and step in to break the deadlock, which means Australians will keep finding themselves trapped in Cease Sale's broadband Catch 22 for years to come. It's time for all involved to put politics aside and free these people from broadband limbo.



    Well, I was with TPG ADSL2+ getting 450KB/s downloads. 2 months before NBN was scheduled to be ready in my area (May 19th, 2017), TPG offered me to sign up, and I would get NBN installed on the scheduled day. Not thinking much of it, 19th of May came around, the day before, a TPG subcontractor contacted me with an install time on the 19th. The guy was professional and re-ran new cable in my roof, as the previous owner decided to do some DIY Foxtel cable management. He didn't charge extra and we had NBN running a few hours later.

    I went from 500KB's to 3500KB's for the same monthly price. So very happy with HFC/NBN

    Last edited 14/07/17 11:19 am

      I'm on ADSL2+ and I get 16mbs at the moment. I was prepared to wait a few years for gigabit fibre but now it looks like I'll get HFC which is 2 or 3 times faster (instead of an order of magnitude) and it'll be running on a decrepit copper network so the connection will, as time goes by, become more and more flaky. I had so much hope when the NBN was first mooted and now :-(

    You know you have a quality product when you force people to use it, remove competition and people's right to choose.

      Thank the LNP for making sure we got the worse possible NBN.

      while that would be nice to have a choice, there will always be hold-outs who will never give up their old legacy system, no matter how good or value-for-money the new system is. it's like the old house surrounded by huge skyscrapers in UP.

        pretty sure they don't have a choice? people are getting forced onto NBN aren't they?

    I have heard that a worrying number of the installations are faulty. It often isn't detected for some time and there's no structure in place for quality control and going back and re-doing installations.

    So as in, they install it in your street. Months go by before anyone signs up, the installation is faulty. All the contractors and installations have moved on to else where. They then end up getting people who didn't do the installation to go, figure out the issues and fix it. All very time consuming and difficult. Where as if they just had better contractors and tested it all properly the first time, they'd avoid this issue.

    Here's my ongoing horror story. My area became ready for service on June 16. Having waited years, I jumped straight in. I did lots of research and decided to sign up to MyRepublic despite reading so many stories about their terrible customer service. I'm IT savvy, so shouldn't really need it that much. Wrong! I received my modem and an install date of June 28. The next day, I received another install date of July 5. Not a replacement date, a second date. When I queried it, I was told that my application had been rejected. After several more frustrating attempts to communicate with them, there were a further two (that I'm aware of) rejected attempts to connect me. I was eventually told that there was a data mismatch problem where my landline didn't match my address. It has been working perfectly for almost nine years.

    Eventually, I decided to give up on MyRepublic. Believe everything you read about their appalling customer service. That, in itself, was a nightmare. Eventually, they released me from my contract. Then I decided to go with TPG. I'm already a customer at my office, so it should be okay. Wrong! My applications with them have also been rejected multiple times. They claim it's because there is an existing porting request in place on my number. Back to MyRepublic to insist they cancel the porting request with iiNet. That was done, but the applications were still being rejected on the basis that the service on that line was inactive.

    I tried to resolve it with iiNet and they said there are no active porting requests on my line and that I shouldn't even be discussing it with them. That's TPG's job. Needless to say, they're telling TPG that I need to arrange this. It's a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing (although I'm pretty sure I know what someone's right hand is doing). iiNet says my service is active and even rang me on that number, but they're telling TPG the service isn't active.

    TPG are in the process of contacting Telstra to clarify the details of my phone service. This has been going around in ever-expanding circles for almost a month and there's no resolution in sight. I could simply opt for a new number, but my wife is reluctant to lose the number we've had for nine years which has been given to lots of people (family, doctors etc.).

    Looks like I'm destined to never be connected to the NBN.

    NBN boasts that more than 5.7 million homes and businesses are now able to order broadband from a Retail Service Provider,...Shouldn't 'are now able to order' read 'MUST order'?
    AFAIK, you have to connect if your property is nbn-ready. My local Optus shop advised me I had 30 days from the time it was 'available'. While I believe the time period was hyped, the intention wasn't.

      Optus has been in serious trouble for touting that 30 days nonsense. How long ago was this interaction?

      It's 18 months. They're just quoting 30 days to get people off their infrastructure to save money. And as @cubits said, they're in trouble for doing it. Would be very interested in knowing how long ago this was.

        @cubits and @tonyintsv
        About the end of April as we were going on holidays and wouldn't be back within the "30 days", so went ahead with the swap (Optus HFC to Optus nbn) before our holidays.

        As a separate issue, this meant our new Fetch TV box was delivered to a neighbour after our departure and now I'm having a hassle trying to get back the $200 they've fined me for not returning the old box within the required period (because we weren't here to do it). The 'five business days' that their Indian-based call centre operative said they'd get back to me by was 4 days ago.

        You've got to love their customer service, haven't you?

    Looking like the trick is to sign up with another provider on a no contract basis (if possible), then if all works move your existing connection over... and cancel the test service...

    don't' know if possible and if so, it sucks bad that one needs to think of doing this BS for a crap half arsed NBN deployment...

    I'm so dreading when my area becomes NBN ready... too many horror stories and even worse speeds than what they had previously... :-\

    A couple of things: why are people signing up with second rate ISPs like iiNet and TPG and then complaining? Use Telstra or Optus.

    Why stay on fixed line broadbans anyway? I changed over to Optus WirelessBroadband and get 12 Mbps all day every day and don't have to worry about a landline either.

    NBN was always going to be clusterf*%k, whether the Kevni 07 variety or the Trumball variety.

    If your thinking about NBN, don't do it. Try a wireless broadband service instead.

      ...probably because they don't like getting price gouged?

      Suggesting people use Telstra for home internet service is phenomenally bad advice. Things may be different for NBN installs, but I highly doubt it.

        Ha Telstra, I'm on a hundred dollars per month contract with them, they've delivered equipment to the wrong place, blown the power fuse in my house 12 times, until the NBN node got put in. It's taken 3 months and 12 attempts to get anywhere near NBN, I have ADSL 2+, yet I wasn't on the NBN address database, one time, attempt no 7, I spent 4+1/2 hours on the phone. I contacted the telecommunications industry ombudsman, my federal member, it's still not on, 24/7/17, they say; I've set up their modem, pray for me.

      Why fixed line broadband? Probably because wireless is astronomically more expensive. Try getting unlimited data on wireless and come back to me.

      Why don't people use Telstra or Optus? For the same reason I outlined above. Telstra prices in particular are nothing short of ridiculous. I'm with Optus but the only reason I signed up with them is because they were offering unlimited data for $60 a month.

      Aaaaaaaand your 12mbps won't even come close to being able to stream 4K, which is already happening.

    Please elaborate on this 'Trick'

    I'd like to be prepared.

    No-one will accept responsibility for this farce and step in to break the deadlock

    And who should be stepping in? The government wrote the law in such a way that if anyone other than NBN Co were to "step in to break the deadlock", they would be fined. It's quite clear, there is no grey area. The only exceptions in cease sale areas are for ISDN services which the NBN can't replicate.

    I am on Optus HFC. I get a great speed (~3 - 10mb/sec ACTUAL downloads, depending on where I am downloading. Pay for 30mb/sec theoretical). It's unlimited downloads and very reliable, not capacity issues. Its $60 bundled with a mobile.

    Website says NBN is coming in this year.

    Here is my problem. If I go onto NBN for the same price and downloads, the speed is dropped to 12mb/sec (Theoretical, I think?? Or does this not happen with NBN??).

    Why would I go to NBN unless I am forced?

    (Unless some of my assumptions are incorrect. I'm sure the internet will tell me)

      I'm also on Optus HFC at the moment and it is fantastic. I get the full 30mbps down constantly and the network is rock solid. On NBN you should get roughly 25mbps down. I'm about to move house so unfortunately I'll be losing my HFC connection and going back to an ADSL2+ connection, I'll probably be lucky to get 10mbps down on that.

      Anyway, to your question. Why would you go to NBN unless you're forced? You are being forced. You don't have any option. Once NBN is in your area it is either that or no fixed line broadband at all. Your only other option will be wireless, which is ridiculously expensive. Depending on where you are it has the ability to be faster but you're also sharing the network with hundreds of other people.

    I avoid Optus like the plague now since on 2 occasions with the NBN I've gone to them and they can't even find the address let alone connect it. They insist they need to go through a manual paper trail application process to locate the address and verify it with NBN. This process they told me can take up to a coupe months, sometimes longer.

    On both occasions I went to Dodo and was on within 48 hours for 1 and the other needed a tech to install the box in my garage and even that got done within a week. Better service from Dodo than any provider I've ever dealt with in the 13 years I've had broadband connections. The CS staff even provided me the Modems at the application time and kept an eye on the activation to register the modem serial number for me the second it was active so I was on as soon as possible. That is service and the way it should be.

    Even while connected with Dodo I entertained moving over to iiNet and holy shit was that a bad idea, thankfully I never got disconnected from Dodo so never lost my connection but iiNet were just as bad as Optus, they actually fucked up someone else's connection by registering the wrong details and they got cut off and never even managed to connect me. Went to the ombudsman to get it resolved because they still wanted to charge me for cancelling and had also taken 3 months in one go and refused to refund any of it.

    With the NBN I can't recommend Dodo enough, great crowd and have done right by me at every stage.

    I summon lawyerspicnic
    It is time for a pro bono lawyers class action on side of the PEOPLE OF AUSTRALIA vs the extortionist gov/nbn/telstra and ISP cashing in like no tomorrow.

    This is an out rage, if we were in the middle east people would have hands already!

    Case (1)
    My car needs fixing
    - I phone mech book it in
    - I might have to take an hour off work dropping it off and collecting it.
    -mech discovers extra issue, phones to verify and then orders part same day or next and fixes.
    - I collect my car.

    Case (2)
    My internet is down
    -I contact ISP
    -3-4 weeks go by a techunician finally is booked to come to my house.
    -I have to take 4 hours off work unpaid to be there.
    -the tech doesnt show
    -i rebook via my ISP (whilst telstra have a giggle at ISP exspense)
    -i take more time off work unpaid.
    -no faults found at house , tech recommends an "NBN specialist" look at the lines and externally.
    -I am notifyed that i am not reequired to be there a day later for the nect fault test.
    -I get a call at work saying the tech is there and need to get inside the house.
    - i explin i was told by isp i dint require attendance.
    -a day passes
    -another tech calls and says he is at the house and needs to b let in.
    -I explinan with emphasis how frustrating this is ans could someone just get my legacy service connected, it was fine for 12 years prior to NBN rollout in my area.
    -Tesltra and NBN co tech have a giggle
    -No input back 3 days later from ISP still waiting.
    -Follow up with ISP when will this be closed out why am I still being billed for a service I am not receiving?
    -i am now self perscribing heavily I am anxious frustrated angry on edge.
    -tesltra, ISP and NBN co are giggling.

    Case (3)
    I report a fault/issue to my ISP
    -they go and fix it at their cost no questions , ASAP problem solved.
    -If cost incured are responsibility of third party provided , they are reimbursed by NBN CO or telstra for their incompentancies.
    -my connection and life resumes.
    INTERNET CONNECTIVITY has been deemed a 1st world right !

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