The House The NBN Forgot

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When the NBN rollout accidentally skipped Martin Bugeja's house, his ADSL was cut off and he was told he'd have no home phone or broadband for almost a year; all because no-one could sort out the paperwork.

Bugeja's broadband saga actually began back in 2013, when the paperwork for his TPG ADSL service in suburban Sydney mixed up the street name meaning his house didn't appear on Telstra's maps. This meant his home was overlooked this year when the NBN came down his street connecting premises to HFC cable.

Meanwhile, Bugeja received several warnings in the mail that his home phone and ADSL broadband would be cut off at the end of July, because the other address — where Telstra and NBN Co mistakenly believed he lived — was reaching the end of its 18-month migration window.

TPG repeatedly assured Bugeja that his connection was safe and the incorrect address had been fixed. But, come the end of July, his line went dead.

"You don’t know whether to laugh or cry when you find out that others think your home doesn’t exist," Bugeja says. "I estimate I've burned two full weeks of my time trying to sort this out over the last 18 months.

"TPG could not get our address correct despite many calls and emails and also providing physical proof multiple times, with utility bills, that we actually lived at our address."

At this point, TPG asked Telstra Wholesale to reconnect Bugeja's phone line and ADSL service. It refused, incorrectly insisting his home had reached the end of its 18-month migration window and couldn't be reconnected due to "Cease Sale" rules.

Bugeja was told he'd need to live with no home phone or broadband until July 2020, when the NBN could come back to connect his home to HFC cable.

Bugeja's pleas to TPG, Telstra Wholesale, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and even his local Member of Parliament failed to resolve the issue, each insisting that nothing could be done and he would need to spend 12 months in broadband limbo. All because the rollout map marked his house in the wrong street.

The decision to leave Bugeja with no home phone or broadband went against NBN's Service Continuity Standard. Introduced last year to break the Cease Sale Catch-22, it forces telcos to reconnect Australians to their old broadband service or mobile broadband within days if a home is disconnected by accident or an NBN installation goes wrong.

The Service Continuity Standard was introduced in part due to Telstra Wholesale's history of refusing to reconnect legacy broadband services, despite requests from retail providers like TPG and pressure from the ACCC.

Bugeja is far from the only Australian still languishing in Kafkaesque broadband limbo but, as is often the case, his unsolvable broadband problems quickly became solvable after he contacted the The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald at the end of August.

Within days of media enquiries into Bugeja's case, Telstra Wholesale had agreed to reconnect his home phone and ADSL service. Meanwhile, NBN managed to bring forward his HFC connection to October instead of next July.

With the NBN now only a few weeks away, instead of almost 12 months, Bugeja has decided to live without ADSL for a few more weeks and wait for the NBN to be connected.

As for who is to blame for his plight, Telstra Wholesale initially blamed Bugeja, insisting he didn't "raise the appropriate form" for his home to be acknowledged as a serviceable site.

Telstra Wholesale then shifted the blame to TPG, saying it failed to advise Telstra Wholesale of the reconnection request and follow the correct reconnection process.

Meanwhile, TPG blames Telstra Wholesale for failing to update its records with Bugeja's correct address. NBN relies on Telstra's records when rolling out the network, which is why it overlooked Bugeja's home when it went down his street and connected his neighbours to HFC cable.

Wherever the fault lies, Bugeja says that Australians are sick of the "NBN blame game" and that no-one deserves to be abandoned in limbo for 12 months.

"This whole process has been absolutely crazy and has left me exasperated and wanting to tear out my hair," he says.

"It's just left me thinking what a joke this whole process is, and that everyone involved would rather blame someone else than admit they screwed up and actually help you."


This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald's home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.


Comments

    The fault lies with the Australian work ethic generally. Most Aussies do just enough to not get them fired, the bare minimum, and they just don't really care if they do their jobs properly or who suffers if they don't.

    Anyone who has been a customer of Telstra knows whom to blame.

    And they get really nasty when that is shown to be the case.
    Ahhh ... our "beloved convict country" ... the land of no worries, mate.

    A similar thing happened to me when my home was left of the property database. The result was that couriers would not deliver, returning the goods to the sender. All they had to do was drive down the street and the house would have been obvious.

    The national broadband notwork: fibre -to-the-nothing.

    My elderly parents are ailing and rely on the home phone. They were told the NBN was ready and warned that the adsl would soon be switched off. TPG signed them up to NBN50 home phone bundle, mailed out a modem, and sent a technician who installed a wall socket but refused to actually plug the modem in and check that the internet and phone were working. They weren't. None of the computer savvy members of our family could get the modem to work, however it still had a light indicating it was syncing to adsl. TPG refused to believe us and sent another technician to see if we had plugged the modem in correctly, which we had. The technician tells TPG that there is no NBN signal on the line. TPG refuses to believe it and a week later two NBN technicians arrive and again confirm there is no VDSL/NBN connection at all. Fully two weeks later somebody claiming to be the "head of engineering" at TPG suggests we try plugging in the old modem. Seriously? TPG did not even realise that adsl and vdsl does not co-exist in the same line. TPG offers a temporary username and password for the adsl to get the internet working for 3 days at a time, but does not reconnect the home phone and refuses to provision the VOIP to work with the adsl connection. All questions to TPG and NBN CO were outright ignored. The ombudsman was made aware of the situation and during a phone call with my father 2 weeks later proceeded to look at a computer screen and say the same thing every telco says: "oh I see you have NBN connected". No amount of emailing or calling made any difference. We were in an endless loop, no way forward and no way back. Nobody we spoke to or contacted over a six week period would acknowledge that NBN's database was wrong. No telco could hook us up, invariably looking at their computer screens and saying "I see you have NBN available". And when any of them appeared to consider the possibility that this information might actually be incorrect, proceeded to say "you can't go back from NBN". So we can't go back to adsl from a non existent NBN even though adsl is still syncing and thus was not disconnected? I explicitly asked NBN co to remove the erroneous information as it was preventing us from signing up with another telco. NBN co are not contactable, and the ombudsman only takes complaints from retail service providers.
    We are in a situation where the NBN was rolled out but missed my parents address, and there is no process by which the problem can be resolved. TPG refused to provision VOIP, restore the adsl or offer a backup service via my father's mobile phone which is with TPG. Telstra refused to honour their service guarantee and reconnect the home phone, again using the excuse of nbn "rules" which prevent them from activating the phone.
    After six weeks of unfathomable incompetence we gave up, cancelled the TPG NBN contract and bought a "home wireless" broadband service and a VOIP box. Then we find that we cannot port the old phone number which has been active for twenty years, as TPG threw it in the bin. We are told that to "port" a phone number one must have an "active" account, and that in spite of the fact that quarantining of phone numbers is for the very situation we are in, apparently no process exists for retrieving the number from quarantine. TPG and telstra, both with no knowledge of what obtaining this number actually means in terms of actual work, offer a workaround whereby we buy a home phone service from them, even though it will not be connected, so they can port the number. But although they wanted us to pretend to connect the service just to get the number, they didn't want us to pretend to pay for it of course.

    What is the root cause of all of this? The lack of work ethics is definitely a part of it. There is a culture in this industry and perhaps others as well whereby workers are behaving like robots, fundamentally unable to think outside of or respond to issues within the system they are administering. Instead of noticing and acknowledging that the problem cannot be resolved by clicking on a screen and escalating the complaint to somebody with the authority to act, there simply is no no responsible person or group of people in the entire industry. Nobody cares.
    I have learnt a lot from this clown show about human nature, and the lengths people will go to to simply get out of doing anything difficult. People will lie through their teeth and burn you if your circumstance represents a headache for them.

    There are already 1,368,208 Service Class 0 premises... Class 0 SC10 (FTTN/B), SC20 (HFC) and SC30 (FTTC) is to difficult / Requires additional work / Sorry, we forgot, didn't know you existed... add to that the congested Fixed Wireless network and those over 400mt from a Node and the Abbott / Turnbull government have wasted $51 Billion of our money...

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