The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found Telstra, Optus, TPG and Dodo left at least 1,500 Australians without access to internet, breaching NBN continuity laws. More than 8,000 internet service breaches were found across a three-month period in total.
The telco watchdog has released findings showing all four major internet service providers (ISPs) breached rules put in place to ensure Australians were not left without internet during an NBN migration.
The country’s largest telcos failed at least 1,500 Australians
The rules force telcos to supply a replacement service within three days of a migration. If the situation persists for more than 20 days, the telcos are required to put a plan in place and communicate that to the customer. If it stretches beyond the 40-day mark, a technical audit has to be undertaken.
ACMA’s report, however, shows many of these rules were ignored or breached.
Focusing on a period between February and April 2019, it found there had been more than 8,000 breaches of the service continuity rules, including a failure to keep records of the issues.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said more than 1,500 customers were left without any replacement internet service at all.
“Many Australians rely on phone and internet services for their work and home lives, and significant disruptions can have a heavy impact on their livelihoods and wellbeing,” O’Loughlin said in a media release.
“TPG, Optus, Dodo and Telstra have all let down these customers and effectively left them high and dry during the NBN migration.”
Telstra, the country’s largest telco, registered the most breaches at more than 4,000. While it had limited breaches during the short-term period, it breached the service rules required for the 20 and 40-day disruptions.
TPG had the highest amount of breaches for failing to provide any interim internet service at 628 cases, followed by Optus at 550 breaches.
Telcos apologise and commit to improving services for the future
A Dodo spokesperson said it had since resolved the issues raised during the early 2019 period and argued less than one per cent of its customer base had actually been affected.
“After being notified of NBN migration issues which occurred between February and April 2019, we took immediate corrective action and implemented extensive process and procedural improvements to ensure ongoing compliance with service continuity rules,” a Dodo spokesperson said to Gizmodo Australia.
“Less than one per cent of our customers were affected, and these have now all been remediated as part of the process and procedural improvements.”
Optus also committed to improving its processes for the future to ensure customers weren’t left with major internet disruptions.
“Optus acknowledges the critical role we play in keeping Australians connected,” an Optus spokesperson said to Gizmodo Australia.
“The overwhelming majority of our customers have had a seamless transition to the NBN and for those that have not, we commit to be better at providing that connectivity when transitioning to the NBN for the first time.”
Both Telstra and TPG admitted to the breaches but also insisted it had only affected a small percentage of their customer bases.
“Our processes for providing interim devices let our customers down on a very small number of occasions — we made up less than 2 per cent of those times a customer didn’t get an interim service,” a Telstra spokesperson said.
“We kept our customers across their connection progress through phone calls but didn’t also send them a letter and perform audits when we should have and we’ve put a fix in place to address it.”
TPG pointed to a frustrating NBN migration process as the reason behind its previous failures but said it was working on improving it.
“The breakdowns in the NBN migration process were very frustrating to consumers and to TPG. While we rely on the NBN to successfully migrate customers, we apologise to those impacted by this issue,” Craig Levy, TPG’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.
“Between February and April 2019, TPG Internet successfully onboarded over 85,000 premises to the NBN, however, 628 customers were unfortunately affected by these breakdowns.
“We have already taken further steps to improve our NBN migration process and these are formalised in the enforceable undertaking.”
Peak advocacy group says apologies aren’t enough
Telco peak advocacy group, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), warned the telcos know the rules and it was up to ACMA to hold them to account.
ACCAN policy director, Una Lawrence, said ACMA would have to keep a watchful eye on the industry as the NBN’s rollout nears the finish line.
“[The telcos] know the rules regarding migrating to the NBN and what they need to do to keep consumers connected. It is very disappointing that they have failed their customers by leaving them without a working internet service,” Lawrence said in response to ACMA’s findings.
“To have over 8,000 total breaches of NBN service continuity rules is simply unacceptable. The ACMA may need to keep a closer eye on this issue as the NBN roll-out finishes and many more Australians make the switch.”
All four telcos have been given court-enforceable undertakings by ACMA to sort out the situation and will need to supply quarterly reports on their progress for 12 months. If they don’t comply, ACMA has said it can start court proceedings against them.