How the NBN will lift its game

20 July 2018


July 17, 2018

Emma McBride, Federal Member for Dobell


A recent survey by found that more than 30 per cent of people who have signed up to the NBN think they were better off with the broadband they had before.

Among businesses, 42 per cent reported their connection was unreliable.

Survey respondents said their old broadband was faster, or more reliable, or better value.

That finding certainly resonates with what I have been hearing on the Central Coast, with businesses particularly frustrated.

For some, the problems are when switching, but when you run a business any amount of time without a phone or internet connection is too long.

I have spoken in Parliament about the nearly 500 people who have sought my help with NBN issues – individuals concerned about their health, or their studies; businesses concerned about their livelihood.

They have told me about slow speeds, dropouts, and unreliable service.

They have told me about making appointments with technicians who don’t show up.

And they have told me about buckpassing of complaints between NBNCo and the provider and back again.

I have spoken in Parliament about Vicki, a beauty therapist from Bateau Bay, whose address was simply not on the NBN rollout map. Vicki tried for months to get connected to the NBN – through several providers – and was sent back and forth. It was always someone else’s problem.

And I have spoken about Abigail, from Blue Haven, who runs a mobile locksmith business with her husband. When they applied to have the NBN connected their landline was switched off, resulting in missed calls and lost business. They asked Telstra to fix the problem. Telstra sent them to NBNCo. And NBNCo sent them back to Telstra. On it went, back and forth.

This month I received a letter from David who works in IT from his home in Holgate. David wrote: “When my nephew starts watching a YouTube video I literally can’t work. I’ve had colleagues work from Myanmar with faster speeds than what we get. Our internet is literally worse than Third World countries to the point where I’m actively investigating moving to New Zealand just to get a decent connection.”

When the Coalition came to office, Malcolm Turnbull was then Communications Minister, and dismissed Labor’s NBN as too ambitious and too expensive.

He promised a network that would be cheaper, and would be delivered earlier.

But instead of costing less, the mix of second-rate technologies we now have is costing more, and delivering less.

The rollout is nearly four years behind schedule and there has been a cost blowout of $20 billion.

Australia has slipped from 30th to 51st in international broadband rankings and there was an increase of more than 200% in NBN-related complaints to the Telecommunications Ombudsman in 2017.

Disillusion with the NBN keeps growing.

Labor is calling for the rollout of Fibre to the Curb as a minimum – not Fibre to the Node – in the areas where that remains feasible to provide customers with a faster and more reliable connection. It many areas it is too late.

For that reason Labor will establish an NBN Service Guarantee that will deliver better protections for consumers and, importantly, for small businesses.

The Guarantee will set regulated timeframes and wholesale service standards that will be enforced through financial penalties for underperformance.

The National Broadband Network is a critical project for Australia’s future, but at the moment there are no remedies to make NBNCo accountable for missed appointments and customer downtime.

Clear standards and timeframes for connection and fault repairs, and missed technician appointments, should improve service.  Otherwise, customers will need to be compensated.