ISPs: Now’s the time for ADSL users to jump ship

ISPs are encouraging dissatisfied BigPond ADSL subscribers to take advantage of a newly released one-step customer churn system, which will allow users currently accessing ADSL services from the ISP to swap to another ADSL provider for free.

Previously, consumers wanting to change broadband providers were required to disconnect their existing service with one ISP and reconnect to a new broadband service with another provider.

The new customer churn process, unveiled by Telstra Wholesale in April and available to consumers from June, simplifies and shortens the process of transferring customers between ADSL service providers by doing away with the need for disconnecting a current service from a consumer’s ISP. Instead, the user can now perform the entire transaction through their new chosen provider, lodging one single application for an ADSL service with their prospective ISP.

Internode managing director Simon Hackett, one of the early advocates of the churn system, said several ISPs participating in the scheme, such as Internode, were giving users the ability to transfer to their ADSL services from other participating providers for free. So far, other participants utilising the new transfer scheme include BigPond Retail, iiNet, Internode, Swiftel Communications, WestNet and RSL Com Australia.

Internode’s transfer process, which will be available from today, will initially allow ADSL users on any participating ISP’s network to sign on to Internode’s ADSL service free of charge.

“We expect to ultimately charge this changeover at around $35: a major discount on our normal full setup charge of $139,” he said. “This will be implemented as a rebate/credit applied to your bill once the churn has been successfully accomplished.”

For those who are changing from an ISP that is not participating in the new churn process, the normal $139 fee will apply.

Hackett said the industry expectation is that the majority of churns will be away from BigPond ADSL retail toward other market players “who will make it very clear.. that they invite customers to use this churn mechanism to join them”.

One such example is ISP iiNet, which announced that it would allow BigPond ADSL customers wishing to transfer to its ADSL services to do so free of charge during the month of June. Customers being serviced by other ISPs participating in the transfer scheme can also swap for the reduced setup fee of $69.

Western Australia-based broadband supplier WestNet also revealed that it would begin offering the transfer process to users from this week. Current ADSL users transferring from an ISP to WestNet’s ADSL services on a 12-month contract will be able to do so for free, while consumers wishing to join WestNet on a no-contract plan will be charged a $29 transfer fee.

WestNet managing director Peter Brown said the new DSL transfer process will eradicate the extended downtime and hassle normally associated with transferring ADSL providers.

“Once we receive an ADSL Transfer Authorisation form we submit it to Telstra,” he said. “Then it will take between three to 10 working days to process the application.”

But most importantly, network downtime will be significantly shortened, typically to about one hour per customer, he said.

Hackett was slightly more realistic, saying the downtime during changeover could be anything between 30 minutes and eight hours for each customer.

Like Internode, the WestNet offer is only available to customers whose current ISP is participating in the transfer process. Customers must also honour any contractual obligations they have with their current service provider before being able to use the transfer process.

“We are hoping that more ISPs sign up on this process in the near future which will allow ADSL customers total freedom to choose any ISP they want,” Brown said.

But despite the recent spate of transfer offers, Telstra spokesperson Kerrina Lawrence said Telstra BigPond Retail was unconcerned at the efforts of other ISPs to lure away its customers through free setup fees and easy transfer processes.

“Customers wanting to sign up to ADSL will weigh up the benefits of the service – which is more relevant than waiving a [transfer] fee,” she said.

Lawrence said both she and Telstra broadband chief Justin Milne agreed while there was a legitimate place for such offers to be made to customers, and they were confident BigPond continued to present a great ADSL service to consumers. Lawrence referred to BigPond’s value-added services, such as its broadband service level guarantees and 24-hour help desk, as strong incentives for consumers to sign up to BigPond ADSL. Telstra’s $1 billion investment into ADSL also illustrated the telco’s commitment to providing a good, reliable service, she said.

The telco is offering new customers $100 off the cost of installing ADSL and cable broadband services to new customers for the month of June and has plenty more promotional offers “in the pipeline”, Lawrence said.

“These gestures will bring in the types of customers we want to have using our broadband services,” she said.

Lawrence also pointed out that even though some customers are “happy to churn to find a lower priced deal”, the new transfer system was not a way of keeping churn customers, because “it’s just as easy to churn away as they [customers] churn in”.