Ask LH: When Do I Have To Switch To The NBN?

Ask LH: When Do I Have To Switch To The NBN?

Dear Lifehacker, Optus says it will cut off my home phone and cable internet on September 9 2017. (I have to take the NBN.) I contacted NBN and they say I have until October 2018 to make a decision. Who is correct? Thanks, Cable Confusion

Dear CC,

Sounds like a frustrating situation, but not one we haven’t heard before. The Sydney Morning Herald reported back in March that Optus was cutting off cable customer’s phone and broadband services within 30 days of giving them notice or, even worse, sometimes without warning.

However, in regards to NBN rollout, the facts are so: Homes and businesses have 18 months to switch to the NBN once it has become available in their area, after which point the copper cabling that’s bringing phone and internet access will be severed. If you haven’t signed up with an internet service provider (ISP) to join the NBN by that point, then you won’t have access to a phone line or the internet. Thus, in your case, you will have to be on an NBN plan by October 2018, if you want to have a home phone and internet connection.

Here’s where it gets messy.

It seems Optus, in its attempt to shut down its old HFC cable network, is trying to migrate its customers across to the NBN on much tighter deadlines. Optus has given you a cut-off date of September 9. Unfortunately, this kind of heavy-handed approach isn’t actually illegal, even though the NBN has objected to Optus’ rapid cable shutdown.

By migrating customers more quickly, Optus have been attempting to get them to switch over to new Optus plans – sometimes starting entirely new 24 month contracts. Many customers are being left in the lurch between Optus shutting down their old connections and the NBN connecting new connections and it sounds like you might also be put in an awkward position.

If that bothers you, you’re not alone. According to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), the dispute resolution service for telephone and internet complaints, they received 10.1 new complaints per 10,000 services in operation from Optus customers between the period of April to June this year, making Optus the most complained about provider for that period.

The short answer is this: the NBN is correct in telling you that you need to switch from the old network to the NBN by October 2018 or you will not have access to your home phone or your internet.

But Optus, through its cable user agreement, reserves the right to shut down its old cable network. Moreover, because of cease sale regulations, telcos cannot offer you access to phone or internet using the old HFC cabling. Thus, with Optus cutting off your service early, unless you move to the NBN, you will be caught in a position where you cannot access any phone or internet services at all.

If you end up stuck in the lurch with no home phone or internet, then you are going to have to contact the TIO to file a complaint and seek a resolution. Sadly, as it stands, Optus is able to shut down its old network as it sees fit. Just be aware that doesn’t mean you have to continue to use them as your ISP, you are free to choose any NBN plan you like – but if you’re contracted with Optus and want to change providers, you may have to pay some hefty disconnection fees.

Good luck.



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  • “if you’re contracted with Optus and want to change providers, you may have to pay some hefty disconnection fees.” If Optus shuts down the cable service, surely that terminates the contract? Otherwise the customer would be paying for a service they are not getting.

  • If Optus at their sole discretion have chosen to disconnect you from their network then I see no reason why you should be obliged to pay out any disconnection fee. I would change ISPs and lodge a TIO complaint if Optus pursue disconnection fees. This sort of shabby treatment of customers shouldn’t be accepted.

  • For all those concerned, have a look at the Optus CIS (there is a similar clause in Telstra cable CIS), specifically under the title: Other InformationChanging the access method [i.e. changing from Optus adsl/cable to whatever technology NBN is using in your area]

    If you refuse our request, we may cancel the service by giving you at least 90 days’ notice. If the service is cancelled, you will be liable for charges incurred up to cancellation, but you will not be liable for any cancellation fee or outstanding equipment charges.

    Basically, they will notify you that NBN is available in your area and that they will cancel your service within 90 days notice if you do not change over. You are then able to either renegotiate a deal with Optus for NBN, or join another NBN provider.
    Obviously chat to Optus and see what sweet deals they may entice you with to stay with them and at least inform them that you will be changing so they don’t cancel your home phone number before the porting is complete.

    It’s all in the fine print that nobody reads…

  • I think what the author meant was that if you cancel before they cut you off then you have might have to pay early termination fees, not if you don’t sign up to another contract and let them terminate you on their own.

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