What's Missing From The NBN Conversation?

Image: Aussie Broadband

Opinion: I won’t be the only one putting pen to paper after last night’s Four Corners article on the nbn. In fact, it appears many did that already, overnight. Me -- well, I went to bed. To those of us who work hands-on in the industry, last night’s article was disappointingly light on detail and disappointingly heavy on politics.

AU Editor's Note: We're republishing this comment from Aussie Broadband managing director Phil Britt in the context of Four Corners' report on the NBN last night. As well as its timeliness, we actually think it has some pretty good advice contained within. -- Cam

Image: Aussie Broadband

The nbn has always been a political football. Last night, it took a step into a new outrage stratosphere to become something more like a political cannonball.

Outrage makes great headlines. It builds audiences. It may, eventually, lead to new policy. What it doesn’t do, is provide any sort of practical help right now for the average person on the (fibre to the node/curb/basement/whatever) street.

While the politicians bash this out, and the pundits predict an ever-closer write-down, we are left to try to help people reach practical solutions to get on with their day-to-day lives.

So here’s our (non-outrage, no bullsh*t) list of tips for just getting on with it:

  • Don’t go near any company that offers unlimited plans. Yep, they’re great in New Zealand and one day, we hope they will be great in Australia. But right now, while companies are grabbing for as many customers as they can without putting in enough resources, unlimited equals a high risk of evening congestion.
  • Find a company that manages its back-end network well. Product Review or Whirlpool will give you a good idea of who these are. So will the new ACCC speed monitoring program when it’s released.
  • Don’t’ believe any ISP that implies you have no choice about rolling over with them when the nbn comes around.
  • Go for a no-contract plan – yes, there are plenty out there - and start at a lower speed. When your nbn is connected, your internet service provider CAN test and tell you how much speed your line is physically capable of. Then you can make an informed decision about how high you want to go.
  • Home Wi-Fi interference is a thing. Dodgy internal cabling is a thing. Water in pits is a thing. All these things – and a fair few more – can make a difference between the speed your line is capable of, and the speed you’re getting. Be prepared to do some work with your ISP’s technical support people to resolve some of these. Be prepared for a lengthy wait if the problem lies on the nbn side of the network, and your ISP has to battle it out with them for a resolution.
  • You get what you pay for. Cheap plans are cheap for a reason.

So back to our original question: what’s missing from the nbn discussion? We accept that political angles are always going to be a part of the nbn discussion. Politics happens. But perhaps, whilst the political melee continues, there’s room for another kind of nbn discussion – and that’s the one about how to help people right now.

That’s the one that we’re interested in.

Philip Britt is the managing director of Aussie Broadband. This opinion piece has been lightly edited for tone and clarity.



    Don’t go near any company that offers unlimited plans.
    That may not be so easy - the guy who sits next to me was just on a comparison site, and pretty much everyone except Telstra has an unlimited plan.

    Don’t go near any company that offers unlimited plans

    TPG unlimited 100/40 FTTP, 7pm GoT night, no slow downs. Big household with at least 4 devices streaming and/or gaming.

      I agree. I'm on TPG unlimited at home and work and have not experienced any dropouts or slowdowns during peak times. In fact, some of the highest speeds I've reached on FTTN have been at around 6 to 7 pm.

      With the CVC model, where ISPs buy capacity... you performance is subject to that.
      If your not with the major 3 - Optus, Telstra, TPG/iiNet. I don't think you will have issues.

      Your at risk of what your ISP capacity is it may not have the CVC in your area to support their unlimited or speed claims. Which makes the CVC model punishing on anyone going with a bargain ISP.

        My eyes are bleeding. Please ... "you're" is the contraction of "you are". Your is the possessive.

        Here's a handy little mnemonic that helps me remember the difference: "You're unreadable when your grammar is fucked up."

          Do you feel better now. The person above gave some useful information, with good intentions. And your contribution was ?

    "Don’t’ believe any ISP that implies you have no choice about rolling over with them when the nbn comes around."

    Uh ... what? That's the reality... You only get to keep your copper/HFC until the managed disconnect phase, where it will be disconnected without notice if you've not contacted your provider; if you're ready for service, you are NOT meant to be sold copper/HFC. Not sure where this is coming from.

      I think that's about having to stay with your current provider. Optus, I believe, have been done for telling existing customers that they must rollover their current ADSL to FTTx with them, and not point out that customers are free to choose a new provider.

    What's Missing From The NBN Conversation?

    Can I be overly snarky and say, "The NBN"?

    Why does the government go completely nuts about the resource and mining industry spending billions and doing everything to cut all the red-tape to exploit our land for jobs that are risky, seasonal and fluctuate wildly on financial markets... when the largest and most stable industry in Australia (Information, Communications & Technology) and one of the most used resource in this country (the internet) is given this pathetic football game of blame?

    May 18th persuaded by Telstra to instal NBN despite being quite satisfied with the existing copper service..the installation failed because of "service issues" the black box being taken back...however the landline was lost and out for 2 weeks before beong reconnected( presumably to the copper )..
    September..Telstra wanted to instal the NBN ...I said "fine "..before they would I would need to provide proof of occupancy ..the Telstra bill for years does this so advise them..Telstra declined saying I had to do that to the NBN after 6 conversations still nothing happened...
    october 18th..received letter from the NBN Connections lot at Telstra stating that they have been unable to contact me and if they heard no more the order would be cancelled on November 3rd...
    Two problems...1. when the 12 month anniversary of availability comes round, the Copper connection can be cut...2. why should the NBN rely on the buffer of TELSTRA ,,,any complaints are referred to TELSTRA ???even when they tell such porkies...
    Solution. have lodged complaint with the Ombudsman who HAS to take up the matter with TELSTRA..it seems nobody can get near the culprits who are causing the problem...the procedure could take up to 3 weeks or a month....then..my local member has been advised and should the problem not be resolved it can take another route...
    conclusion...it seems so stupid that a simple installation can be fraught with such difficulty..why do we have to put up with this inefficiency ???
    second conclusion...get access to high speed mobile internet..dispense with the landline...and the NBN can go and play with somebody else...

    there, I feel better already...

      There's one word, repeated throughout your comment, which explains your problem. That word is Telstra. In my experience, the most common cause of NBN problems is Telstra. I just don't understand people's obsession with using them for anything. They may have had a monopoly on telecommunications in this country for decades, but those days are long gone and there are much better alternatives now.

        Telstra only handle technician appointment scheduling, they don't control the technicians themselves (apart from their own, which are only used in 30% of cases now I'd estimate and the second appointment to install the modem), only set appointments.

        Sorry for the triple comment. It's just a niggling irritation for me; people that do not work in the industry are not privy to what goes on in it and make assumptions about how they operate.

        Long story short, we do not operate. NBN operate us. NBN set the goals, connections, etc. Literally everything. RSPs are just billers now.

          I'm basing my opinions on anecdotal evidence. I run an NBN-related Facebook page for my local area and I'd say that at least 90% of the problems experienced relate to Telstra. One of the biggest problems people have experienced is constant dropouts and these all relate to the default modem supplied by Telstra. Once Telstra (eventually) give in and supply a different modem, the problems are resolved. That's not an NBN problem, that's a Telstra problem. I'd also argue that RSP's are not simply billers. That's a buckpassing excuse from RSP's. If they don't buy enough CVC, that's not NBN Co's fault. If they don't have the right hardware installed at the POI's, that's not NBN Co's fault.

            I can guarantee you that Telstra buy more than enough CVCs. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.

            Believe me -- I don't run a facebook page, but work in a team dedicated to this stuff. I see, and know, a hell of let more than yourself.

              I'm only passing on what hundreds of actual NBN customers have said. Far be it from me to question your expertise. The last thing I would want is to bruise your apparently sensitive ego. Please forgive me.

            As for modems well, that does indeed occur, but that's simply really bad luck and a quick fix with a replacement.

            Christ I've done it again I'm sorry.

            This was just a long winded diatribe that wasn't worth its time.

            Last edited 24/10/17 4:45 pm

      Proof of Occupancy is required by NBN (at least was, it's not any longer) to verify somebody's address if they have the wrong one. If they have the wrong address, they will never attend the site, even if it's just next door.

      Two problems...1. when the 12 month anniversary of availability comes round, the Copper connection can be cut...2. why should the NBN rely on the buffer of TELSTRA ,,,any complaints are referred to TELSTRA ???even when they tell such porkies...

      It's actually 18 months just fyi. NBN do not rely on Telstra except for technicians, as NBN do not have an adequate work force to complete both roll out and any necessary maintenance. Any complaints go directly through your provider; you can't complain individually to NBN (well, you can, but it's absolutely fruitless).

        but I was repeatedly informed by the NBN installations bosses from Telstra that proof of occupancy was required...and that such proof had to come from me to NBN..even though Telstra had been and still are billing me for years...BTW if it is 18 months now before cut off from the cable, that is better...thanks for that...

          Telstra (and another retail provider) can simply change your address up and there, no paperwork ever required, at all. The only time it was ever required was if NBN Co's system had the incorrect LOCID and needed to change it; if it didn't exist in their database they'd often prod Telstra for proof of occupancy. They stopped asking for that maybe two or three months ago now, so it's no longer a problem, thankfully.

          Telstra doesn't really care what your address is, it's mostly for billing purposes; what they're focused on is the cable path, the actual cable that starts from the exchange and goes to your address (service address).

          Last edited 25/10/17 10:05 am

      "get access to high speed mobile internet..dispense with the landline...and the NBN can go and play with somebody else..."

      That has been my reaction since NBN became available in my area.

      I have been using Mobile Broadband for almost a decade and have External Antenna, Router etc which means the Home Network appears no differently to anybody on a Fixed Connection. The connection is stable, provides for sustained 22Mbps download rates for most of the day. (I have three identical systems running for myself, my parents and sister)

      When I started looking at switching to NBN, all the data was suggesting download rates lower than I was getting on Mobile Broadband and while the volume I can use is limited on Mobile Broadband it's the speed that is more important to me.

      My parents live in the same area, were contacted by Telstra (at least someone claiming to be from Telstra) and told due to the FTTN Cabinet that a cabling change is needed and someone would need to access the house, to confirm the change was carried out correctly. They agreed to this and arranged a date time for this to occur. Nobody showed up and now, they're being hounded about having agreed to sign up for NBN with Telstra.

      We got the same calls and upon visiting a Telstra Shop there is no record of them reaching out to us.

      The whole situation is just so questionable we have all signed new Mobile Broadband contacts for the next 12 months to wait and see what happens.

      While I'd hate to loose the Landline number (it's been with one member of the family or another for over 50 years) at this point that seems the better option over signing up to anything to do with the NBN right now.

    So the correct response to the 4 Corners piece that was "disappointingly light on detail and disappointingly heavy on politics" is a light weight advertorial? LOL.

      G'day mate, this isn't an advertorial - we mark any advertorials extremely clearly on Giz. It's pretty good advice, even if it's coming from an RSP with a hat in the ring already.

        Regardless of the politics, it was an appalling piece of *cough* "journalism" by ABC last night. They should have realised and sold the rights to Tonight/60 minutes/ACA.

        And agree, Campbell, the advice given here has been much more beneficial to the average punter. Thanks.

    When all the people who say ADSL is good enough are dead (baby boomers?), what will we be left with? Remember when we had 1Mbps connections? Remember when we first got 2G data on our phones? Technology marches on and failure to update infrastructure is a failure on the part of the people in charge of it.

    But yeah, gotta keep the sponsors happy.

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