NBN issues: I think I’m having déjà vu

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I could easily be forgiven for thinking that I’m in 2005, on the back of the growing press about provisioning, availability and quality complaints relating to the NBN.  You see, this industry has been here before and apparently did not learn.

Indeed, as Australians started to migrate their ‘dial-up’ internet services to ADSL in the early 2000’s, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman received many complaints about more or less the same thing.  I mean, I became the TIO’s ‘Broadband Internet Expert’ after handling several systemic complaint investigations about ADSL.

But curiosity killed the cat, and so I decided today to delve into my archives and see what the TIO’s backlog of annual reports had to say about it.  I found gold in the TIO’s 2005 report – a two page feature on broadband internet service issues (if you are lucky enough to still have a copy, it’s pages 50 and 51).

‘The deployment of infrastructure is merely the first phase of the customer cycle,’ the TIO says. ‘The TIO believes that too little consideration has been given to subsequent phases in the race to roll out broadband.

In particular, the nature of the complaints the TIO receives indicates a lack of thought about “what happens next” once the infrastructure is, or appears to be, in place.  Key areas of concern for consumers include:

  • provisioning
  • contracts
  • customer transfer
  • customer service
  • faults.’

Hmmmm…have to say that this sounds very similar to what is going on now.

The feature goes on to say in relation to –

Provisioning:  ‘Many provisioning complaints are about delays in providing services and/or confusing and contrary information about broadband availability from preferred providers’

Contracts: ‘In the TIO’s experience, when consumers are signing contracts for broadband services, they are often easily confused and need detailed explanation from ISPs about the process and what their expectations should be.  ISPs are often not well equipped to provide this information.’

Customer service:  ‘Key areas of complaint [relate] to inadequate or incorrect advice and failure to action customer requests.  In the TIO’s experience, ISPs often perform poorly in the area of customer service.  This has become more troubling as consumers increasingly rely on information provided by ISPs.’

Faults:  ‘These complaints cover drop-outs, log-on difficulties, outages and lack of speed.’

The TIO concludes the feature by saying:

‘At this stage, the TIO maintains its view that some level of regulation, in code form or otherwise, is required at what is still an early stage of broadband penetration in Australia, and while complaint numbers are manageable.’

Prophetic, don’t you think?

Perhaps it is time for industry to take on board some of the lessons of the past and get this sorted once and for all.


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