Willunga, a one-hour drive south of Adelaide, is a rural town that was announced as one of five first release sites for the National Broadband Network (NBN).
It has now been on the network for over 12 months, with the NBN switched on in September 2011, covering 940 premises.
NBN Co says there are now just under 1100 premises passed in Willunga and almost half of all premises have signed up for an NBN service.
Computerworld Australia spoke to three business owners in the town about their experience with the NBN.
The Alma Hotel
Melinda McCauley from the Alma Hotel has had one of the most difficult transitions to the NBN.
McCauley took advantage of training sessions for the network to learn about the benefits of high-speed broadband and potential drops in phone and broadband costs.
She was previously using a USB-connected mobile broadband modem for Internet access and now has three NBN plans with NuSkope – two for residential premises on 12Mbps and a 100Mbps connection for the hotel, which provides free Wi-Fi to customers at around 70Mbps.
McCauley has experienced several outages on the NBN. She has a VoIP line on the NBN for the hotel and was unable to make and receive calls for several days due to an NBN Co update, which she says she was not informed about.
NuSkope’s CEO, Michael Blake, posted on Whirlpool about the problem.
“What my customers and I myself want to know, WHEN do NBN plan to get their act together? It better be before the phone lines all get cut here in 18 months because how do NBN expect business to run at all without phone lines? Let alone for a 3-4 day wait for a tech to come out. Even Telstra is faster,” he wrote.
“This is my second PLEASE EXPLAIN to NBN this year in regards to outages, if the network is going to be this unreliable perhaps they need to hire a few more techs just like Telstra has to cover the issues with their network that’s not even 10 per cent built yet and already failing customer’s needs.”
Blake said over 80 per cent of the NBN faults in Willunga had so far been due to remote firmware updates that failed.
NBN Co told Computerworld Australia a scheduled firmware upgrade of the UNI-V or voice port was carried out in October after technical engagement with and notification to retail service providers.
“During the upgrade an issue arose that affected a handful of voice services offered by one service provider, and NBN Co worked with the provider to minimise the disruption and resolve the issue,” a spokesperson said.
The Alma hotel also experienced an outage when a painter at the hotel damaged the fibre connectors in the hotel, which took around three days to get fixed.
The two outages occurred at busy times for the hotel – one in the lead-up to Christmas and the other around Melbourne Cup.
“So we had quite a few people say ‘we haven’t been able to reach you – what’s the problem?’ It does have an impact on our business,” she says.
Despite the problems, McCauley says she likes being on the NBN and puts the issues down to teething problems.
She says she’s saving at least $100 per month on phone costs alone. In total, the saving is around $200 a month, factoring in phone line rental costs and cheaper calls.
“Also, now that we’re able to run the extra service of Wi-Fi for our customers that we weren’t doing before. Because Willunga is a fairly small country town, it has a big tourist element, so being able to offer [that to customers is good],” she says.