Ask LH: Can Telstra Force Me Onto An NBN Plan If I Don't Want To Go?

Dear Lifehacker, My street was recently joined to the great and wonderful NBN (slight sarcasm there.) Telstra has since informed me that I need to move my internet and phone across as it won't be supported in its existing state. I've got no problem with this, but it got me examining other telco's NBN deals and comparing prices.

I'm still under a 24-month contract -- or am I? If I stick with Telstra, I'd essentially be signing a new contract (which they're happy to do because it keeps me as their customer) but am I still obligated if Telstra is effectively terminating the service I signed up for? Cheers, ISP Curious

Dear ISP Curious,

This is why it pays to read the terms and conditions before signing a contract. Somewhere in that never-ending wall of text, there would have been a clause that looked something like this:

If your plan is no longer available for new customers, we may roll your service over to a different plan which is reasonably comparable or require you to move to any other current plan. We will tell you before this happens.

In other words, Telstra plainly laid out this scenario before you signed up. When you became a customer, you agreed to abide by the aforementioned solution in the event that your plan was discontinued.

There's a reason broadband contracts are so wordy and detailed -- they're designed to offer maximum protection to the service provider. Otherwise, customers would be wriggling out of their contracts whenever a better deal came along (which clearly defeats the purpose of having a contract in the first place.)

With that said, Telstra's customer terms for internet products and services also states the following (emphasis ours):

Transferring to the National Broadband Network (NBN)

If the NBN fibre network comes to your area, we’ll take responsibility for managing your transfer to this new network...We’ll work with you to make this as simple as possible, but we may need to cancel your plan if you don’t want to move across. We’ll let you know the details before any changes happen.

This is interesting. If you refuse to be migrated to the NBN and Telstra is forced to cancel your plan, it can't keep charging you for a service it no longer provides. We've contacted Telstra for clarification on this issue and will update the article when we hear back.

In any event, because Telstra is instigating the plan swap, your existing contract should remain intact rather than starting anew. So you don't have to wait a full two years before shopping around for a better deal.

Update: We just heard back from Telstra. The telco said that when the NBN arrives in an area, locals have 18 months to migrate their fixed phone and internet services to the new network, with Telstra or another ISP, before they are required to start disconnecting copper based services in that area.

Telstra customers can move to the NBN service on the new network and remain on their existing plan (i.e. in the majority of cases a customer will not need to enter into a new service contract in order to move onto the NBN.)

A customer will however also have the option of moving to the NBN with Telstra on one of the new plans or offers. In this scenario the customer would usually sign up to a new 24 month contract. 

The best thing to do is call 1800 TFIBRE to talk to a specialist NBN consultant. Hope this helps!

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Telstra will not force you to join the NBN if your current service is cancelled, but the real issue is whether early termination payments (ETP) would apply if the customer refuses to be transferred over to Telstra's NBN. There should be a clause on this in your contract - if you can even find your contract (no idea where to find mine - maybe in my email somewhere).

      You do not have an ETC Early Termination Charges if telstra has to cancel your plans because you didnt want to more to NBN.

        Except at some point you have no choice, anyway. Besides, you would have to be a complete tool to not move to an NBN service if it were available.

    Having my own little hell with misinformation from Dodo and Telstra about voip and fibre services. I contacted Nbn direct and this is the response:
    Homes that are connected to either fixed wireless or satellite services over the nbn will retain access to their copper line indefinately. This is part of the governements stated policy objectives in relation to the Universal Service Obligation. In nbn™ Fixed Wireless and Satellite areas you will have the choice to maintain your existing phone service over the copper network or access a VoIP service over the nbn™ network using fixed wireless and satellite technologies. You will need to discuss this option with your service provider. KEY word for me here being rural SA is - indefinately

    I live in a tiny one street town with a large rural surround. We have fixed wireless here now. I live at the base of a large hill that sits between me and the wireless tower. But because I'm less then a K from our little exchange I get excellent ADSL2+.

    Telstra has been putting the hard sell on me to move to fixed wireless. But they point blank refuse to guarantee the quality. The only way they will test, is if I sign up first. But they won't tell me what they consider to be 'ok' reception. Says that's up to the NBN. But they do say they will disconnect my copper if NBN says it's fine.

    "So I could end up with a slower connection?", I ask. "Yes", they respond in a surprising moment of honesty, "and you won't be able to go back to ADSL2+ because we will have disconnected it".

    So I said, "No thanks, I'll keep ADSL2+". Then then inform me that they are going to be disconnecting the copper in my area in 18 months. I inform them that the NBN in my area is fixed wireless, and that isn't supposed to happen. He taps away on his computer and says, "Nope. Says here you're due to be disconnected in about a year. You really should sign up now before the rush".

    Now I tend to think Telstra salesguys are scum. And I kind of let it be known that I think he's full of it. He tells me to contact the NBN to get the full story. Which I do. After explaining the situation to them, they also inform me that refuse to test until I fully sign up with Telstra first. So I ask them about the other stuff. Oh, they inform me, I'll have to contact Telstra for that information.

    So back to Telstra I go with the info NBN gave me. Oh no, they tell me, you'll have to speak to the NBN about that. But they sent me to you!!! Nothing to do with us, they say.

    So basically I'm planning to sit on my ADSL2+ until it's forcibly removed from me thank you very much.

      This is your best option. Just make sure that you've provided contact email addresses that you actually check and don't delete anything from them without reading it carefully. We've had the experience at my work (govt telecoms) that they're very... cavalier about providing disconnection advice.

    When we were connected to FTTN about 3 weeks ago there was a deafening hiss on the analogue line that made it impossible to use.

    We were getting 24.5 Mb/s down and 4.5 Mb/s up and 8 ms ping compared to our previous 3/0.6/115 so we were extremely happy with the Internet access.

    When I contacted the ISP they said that that shouldn't happen and that we should be able to use the analogue line until our number was ported over to VoiP in "3 business days". There was never any mention of an option to stay on the analogue system.

    When I plugged a phone into the modem there was silence. After 3 days the analogue line went quiet and there was an engaged signal on the VoiP line.

    We then had a very wet day and we lost Internet access. When I contacted the ISP they said that they would get NBNCo to check our line in 2 business days and the VoiP phone would be available in "5 business days".

    At the scheduled time on the scheduled day (upvote for this) two NBNCo techs came to the door and said that they had checked the pit between our house and the node (it's only 200m away and there's a **** pit in between!) and they had found that our line was hanging by a thread which they had reconnected.

    It doesn't say much for NBNCo's claim that they check and remediate any faulty lines before they activate FTTN.

    Also, we should have been able to receive the same 10Mb/s over ADSL as our next door neighbours get if the ISP had been prepared to get a Telstra tech out to check the line when we complained several times over the last couple of years.

    Our Internet was reconnected but the VoiP was still engaged.

    We left the next day to catsit for a friend for 2 weeks so the phone connection wasn't a priority.

    When the 5 business days was up I tried phoning our home number but it was engaged. I contacted the ISP and they told me it would be connected "in 5 business days".

    After another week I contacted them again. I was told that Telstra (I think they said Telstra but I'm not completely sure) had been trying to port our number to the VoiP system for 2 weeks without success and that the only way they could give us a phone line was to give us a new phone number. We'd only had the number for 2 years so we weren't that fussed (not like my mother who has had the same number since 1953 starting with a number in the format of F1234 through three changes to the current 5678 1234).

    When we got back from catsitting this Monday the VoiP phone worked.

    I visited the local Telstra (not our ISP) shop and spoke to a knowledgeable tech who told me that theoretically we should have been able to port our number but that because our area is the first one in WA to have FTTN there had been a lot of teething problems and that many numbers couldn't be ported.

    A friend of ours who lives 200m from the exchange and who gets 16Mb/s ADSL, so she has no interest in switching over, received a letter from NBNCo this week telling her that she would eventually have to switch to FTTN but not until Feb 2018.

    She has an "interesting" problem. She has iiNet VoiP over ADSL. A friend of hers has just switched to iiNet VoiP over FTTP. Both use iiNet supplied modems. He can phone her but she can't phone him. She can phone us and we can phone her.

    iiNet's Oz based support, not the South African call centre, hasn't been able to solve the problem after 2 weeks. They're up to factory resets at this stage with flashing ROMs on the horizon.

    It's good that everything is iiNet because it means they can't point the finger of blame at someone else and handball the problem.

    I don't know why they don't just send out new modems like Telstra do whenever another friend of ours has a problem. Twice he has received 2 modems by courier a day or two apart. I have received many hand me down modems from him over the last 5 years or so.

    Hahaha, its funny reading this and thinking that the government and NBN is complaining people are not taking up the NBN. Maybe look at the charges and contracts if someone is willing to stick with what they have rather than upgrade your doing something seriously wrong. The NBN should be better, cheaper, easier to connect to and simple... not complicated, questionably unreilable, more expensive and a pain in the butt to connect to.

    There’s a reason broadband contracts are so wordy and detailed — they’re designed to offer maximum protection to the service provider. and thats the root of the problem, no one wants to deal with the legalese bullshit. Its ridiculous that the most important factors of a contract are in the smallest and most illegible english the world ever sees.

      In the words of the great Tom Waits "the large print giveth and the small print taketh away"

    I had this exact same issue. Where a change of of the data to the bundle started a new 24month plan. Then the NBN became available and i started looking around at other service providers to compare deals and Telstra wasn't even close to being able to provide what others could. So i decided to investigate about terminating my contract with Telstra and moving to someone else. I was advised that there would be an early termination charge (ETC).

    I then pulled out the contract and started reading through the citical information summary and found the following clause.

    Transferring to the National Broadband Network (NBN)
    Your 24 month contract could overlap with the rollout of the NBN.
    If you wish to transfer to the NBN with Telstra, please contact us. If you
    don’t wish to transfer to the NBN we’ll continue to provide your service
    up until the date on which we’re required to disconnect it as part of the
    migration to the NBN, when we’ll cancel your service and your access
    to existing networks. No ETC will be charged in these circumstances.

    To me the above statement was a little ambiguous in the context of the customer. Especially this part: If you don’t wish to transfer to the NBN we’ll continue to provide your service
    up until the date on which we’re required to disconnect it as part of the
    migration to the NBN

    Sounds to me like if you don't with to transfer to the NBN with Telstra but do want to migrate to the NBN with a different provider. Telstra will continue to provide your service up until the date in which they're required to disconnect it. As a part of connecting with another service provider to the NBN. It states migration to the NBN but doesn't actually say with the Telstra NBN network.

    With the information above i rang Telstra and get transferred 3 times and was on hold for almost 2hrs. I finally got someone who had authority to waive the ETC and provide a reference number come implementation time with a new service provider. They agreed it was ambiguos and i'd imagine they will probably be releasing an ammendment to the critical information summary to address this issue.

    So might be worth your while to see if that clause is in your contract. I had 18months left on mine. I have been a Telstra customer for over 8 years. It's just a shame they can't compete with other providers. You would think if you were going direct to Telstra they would be able to provide a better deal. Other than those that have to lease from Telstra and then to customers.

    Good luck!

    Talk to skymesh as they offer no contract nbn plans so you can see what speeds you will get without being on a contract.

      Anything not FTTP has a speed dictated by many factors. Most notably, if your ISP can be arsed to check out all connections and ensure they are working normally. NBN on non-FTTP is still a gamble.

    "If your plan is no longer available for new customers, we may roll your service over to a different plan which is reasonably comparable"

    I have ADSL2+ unlimited. I better be getting 25/5 unlimited NBN when/if it ever arrives.

      TPG look like they have some

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