Despite promises last year to break internet connection Catch-22s, telcos are not rolling back to legacy services in the case of a failed NBN installation. This has left affected customers unable to join NBN or ADSL services, effectively stranding them without internet of any kind.
With iiNet denying his severed NBN connection ever existed, Peter Williams is trapped in Kafkaesque broadband limbo; despite promises last year to break the deadlock leaving Australians without the internet for months at a time.
Peter has been without home broadband since late June when his NBN connection abruptly stopped working. The HFC cable NBN service was connected several weeks earlier when Peter moved back into his Melbourne home following major renovations, before which the house had relied on ADSL via the copper phone lines.
Upon contacting his internet provider iiNet, Peter was told that his home had never had an NBN service, with NBN Co confirming that it was not due to reach his area until next year.
"It was something I'd never experienced from any company, that someone would just completely deny the existence of a service that I'd seen working with my own eyes," Peter says.
"I almost felt like I was being gaslighted, like I was reading a Kafka novel, it makes you wonder what's going on with the NBN that they've become so detached from reality."
NBN Co says that construction work is required before Peter can connect to the NBN network, yet iiNet was unable to reconnect ADSL. This is despite the NBN Service Continuity Standard insisting that, when an NBN installation fails, telcos must reconnect Australians to their old broadband service within days, or else supply mobile broadband.
Taking his case to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Peter was told that he needed to resolve the issue with iiNet, as the industry watchdog does not have the power to compel telcos to reconnect fixed line services. Meanwhile, iiNet offered him an interim mobile broadband service while continuing to bill him for a non-existent ADSL service.
After pleading his case to NBN Co, iiNet and the TIO for a month, Peter approached the media. Within 48 hours of The Age taking up the issue with NBN Co, iiNet contacted Peter to arrange the reconnection of his ADSL service.
iiNet booked the ADSL copper reconnection via Telstra Wholesale that same day, July 19. iiNet claims it had previously been unable to book because Telstra Wholesale's systems had not been updated to permit the reconnection of a legacy service at that address.
In the past, Telstra Wholesale has failed to reconnect legacy services after a failed NBN installation, despite requests from internet retailers and direction from the ACCC. The NBN Service Continuity Standard introduced last year supposedly breaks that deadlock.
According to Telstra Wholesale, when a home can not be connected to the NBN, the retailer — in this case iiNet — needs to request a "service class" rollback with NBN Co. After this, NBN Co changes its Historical Footprint List to reclassify the premises as not ready for service. Telstra Wholesale then updates its systems from this list, but not daily.
NBN Co updated the status of Peter's home on July 1, yet neither iiNet nor Telstra Wholesale can explain why the reconnection order did not go through until July 19 following media enquiries.
While that would seem to resolve Peter's broadband limbo, the saga continued when ADSL installers arrived at his home to discover the previous copper phone line had vanished. After digging up his front garden in search of the phone line they concluded it had been removed, with Peter confident that the renovation builders were not responsible.
Meanwhile, the NBN HFC cable still runs from the pit in the street to Peter's house, with iiNet claiming that this cable is damaged. This is same cable that iiNet said was never connected, despite Peter using it for several weeks before it stopped working overnight.
Now iiNet insists that Peter pay for a new copper line to his home, or else remain on mobile broadband until the NBN becomes available. The NBN installation is delayed due to damage to concrete around cable ducts in the street.
"We clearly had an ADSL line from the street to our house, I don't know who else would have removed it other than the crew who installed the NBN cable," Peter says. "Meanwhile, the NBN cable is currently connected, we can see one end in the pit in the street and the other end at our house.
"The only work we know of around our cable duct was our NBN installation, so the most likely reason for the damage and the disappearance of our ADSL cabling was something that happened during our NBN installation."
Peter continues to rely on mobile broadband while debating this issue with iiNet and NBN Co's senior escalations team. Meanwhile, iiNet continues to charge him for the ADSL service which vanished into thin air, in place of the NBN service it insists never existed.