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.
This article has been updated since its original publication.