The Horror': NBN's heart of darkness
You don't have to look very hard to find 'horror stories' relating dissatisfaction with the NBN. With so many affordable NBN alternatives such as corporate fibre and fixed wireless available in much of Sydney, it is a wonder why businesses are taking the risk.
In June this year, website finder.com.au reported on its survey of almost 1000 NBN users, saying: "One-third (34percent) would revert to their pre-NBN service if they had the option. The leading reason for this desire is that respondents believe their previous connection was more reliable or faster."
Elsewhere, ImagineNowIT, a company based in Maitland NSW that provide business-oriented IT support services to SMEs, has a page on its web site devoted to NBN Horror Stories. It details a number of problems, both local and from elsewhere in Australia.
The Labor Party, whose vision for an all-fibre-to-the-premises NBN was destroyed by the incoming Coalition Government after Labor lost the 2013 Federal Election, is proposing a NBN Service Guarantee, noting that " In 2017, complaints [to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman] about the NBN alone increased by 204 percent."
ALP leader Bill Shorten wrote on his Facebook page: "We've all heard the NBN horror stories, like people taking time off work only for a technician not to show up, or an outage fault that isn't fixed for days leaving a small business in the lurch. Under Labor's NBN Service Guarantee it will be the NBN that pays - not you."
Installations seem to a particular challenge for NBN. In March this year The Register reported: "Horror stories about poor installation experiences for Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) are everywhere, which might be making businesses reluctant to give up old but reliable services."
It continued: "To get those customers over the line, [NBN Co], the company building and operating the NBN, has announced it will let business customers keep their ISDN services in parallel with an NBN connection until they're ready to migrate.
ISDN, you may recall, was introduced in the late 1980s by Telstra, -- Telecom Australia as it then was. It comprised a basic rate service at 64kbps and a primary rate service, being a bundle of 30 basic rate services or 2Mbps – a far cry from and poor substitute for today's multimegabit services!
A more specific criticism of the NBN, about the lack of business grade NBN services, was made recently in a blog post on the Lifehacker web site by Stephen Rose, industry marketing manager at Commercial Property Guide.
He argued that internet performance was now a priority feature for commercial landlords seeking to attract and retain tenants, and not only was the NBN not of sufficiently high standard, but the asymmetry of rollout was also favouring Sydney over Melbourne.
"NBN penetration in previously low rollout areas of Sydney CBD and North Sydney has surged to 35percent and 38percent, however, Melbourne CBD remains an effective NBN-free zone at only 6percent," he said.
Rose also bemoaned the notorious NBN multi-technology mix, under which NBN Co has largely abandoned FTTP for a mix of FTTN and HFC.
"Universal fibre to the premise (FTTP) was replaced with a low-cost model that had an associated low performance. Driven by budget constraints fibre to the Node became the main technology to be deployed by NBN," he said
This at a time when, according the former head of Internet Australia, Laurie Patton, full-fibre rollouts are what’s occurring in 80 percent of new broadband projects globally.
And when will Australia get full FTTN network? Not for a very long time. Earlier this month the CEO of NBN Co, Steven Rue told Senate Estimates that FTTN would be part of the NBN until 2040.