The electorate offices of Labor MPs in the Macquarie and Newcastle areas are being “flooded with complaints about fibre to the node”, the architect of the original all-fibre blueprint for the National Broadband Network, Senator Stephen Conroy, said yesterday during a Senate Estimates hearing.
Those complaints include slow speeds, delayed connections and disrupted services, Conroy said.
Fibre to the node (FTTN) relies on copper phonelines for the ‘last mile’ connection to premises and is a key technology in the ‘multi-technology mix’ NBN pushed by the Coalition government.
The NBN FTTN offering was launched in September.
As of the end of December, there were 6636 end users with NBN FTTN services, compared to more than 610,000 active fibre to the premises (FTTP) services.
Conroy quoted from a number of FTTN complaints that had been lodged with MPs’ offices. Around 60 complaints have been made so far, with more coming in every day, the senator said
“We are connected to the NBN at a fast, upgraded speed at a premium price — we pay extra to get 50[Mbps] but this service speed is rarely achieved,” one complaint read out by Conroy said.
“Could you please make enquiries of the appropriate officers or ministers as to whether the FTTN NBN will provide a worse service compared to the ADSL2+ it is replacing. At the moment, that seems to be the case,” the complaint read.
Other complaints were from people who said they wished to ditch FTTN for ADSL, and several mentioned network congestion in peak periods.
One person from the Lake Macquarie suburb of Valentine “actually wants to go back to ADSL,” Conroy said.
“He bought an ‘up to’ 100/40 FTTN plan which goes down to under 5 megs in the evening and he is now having trouble communicating with colleagues overseas and in Brisbane.”
“I am aware of some of the complaints that are coming through” NBN CEO Bill Morrow said.
“We don’t want anybody to any poor experience that’s to do with anything with NBN,” Morrow said.
The NBN CEO said that he accepted the complaints were genuine.
“I know you had many calls coming into your office when we first started to roll out fibre to the prem as well — it’s the unfortunate nature of doing something for the first time,” Morrow told Conroy.
“I will point out that we looked at every complaint that has been received on fibre to the node, and not one of them was actually a speed issue that was related specifically to the fibre to the node technology,” Morrow said.
In some cases it could be related to an end user’s in-home network, the backhaul provisioning of a retail service provider or the capacity (CVC) being purchased at an NBN Point of Interconnect by an RSP, the CEO said.
“People that are experiencing a peak hour ... reduction of speed — that is more likely to do with that CVC capacity that’s being purchased by the RSP, the provisioning network size by the RSP and/or if there are other points of contention within the network,” Morrow said.
“We evaluated and inspected every complaint on this to see because this is so important for us to understand if in fact the technology cannot deliver the speeds that we need to, and we did not find one case where fibre to the node technology was a factor in those speed complaints that were coming forward.”
“These complaints are coming from every RSP... you’re actually saying they’re all under-provisioning?” Conroy asked.
Morrow said that NBN has not found anything as yet that would suggest FTTN was the root cause of speed issues.
“I wasn’t pointing the finger at the RSPs and saying it wasn’t NBN’s fault,” Morrow said.
“The reality is that there are multiple companies that are involved to make this service happen — we work together,” Morrow said.
However the CEO said that in some cases assessed by NBN the speed issue was linked to an under-provisioning of capacity at a Point of Interconnect.
The CEO was also quizzed on research that NBN released during its half year financial results.
NBN said that a survey found FTTN users expressed the same level of satisfaction with their connections as FTTP users, both rating their satisfaction at 7.7 out of 10.
However, that FTTN score incorporated the results of households who have fibre to the basement (FTTB) connections, which are typically rely on much shorter lengths of copper.
Conroy said that he understood that FTTB users had on average rated their connections at 8 out of 10, while the FTTN score was less than 7.
Asked to confirm whether that was the case, Morrow said he would take the question on notice.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam also quizzed the NBN CEO about the combined satisfaction rating for FTTN and FTTB.
“It’s basically the same kind of technology,” Morrow said. He took on notice a question from Ludlam about whether NBN could disaggregate the figures.