Jindera NBN outage was planned, but residents were in the dark

Southern Riverina residents were left without phone and internet connections when a National Broadband Network (NBN) tower was upgraded without warning last week.

According to reports posted to social media, Jindera residents were left in the dark about NBN Co’s “planned service outage”.

An NBN Co spokeswoman said retail service providers were notified on May 3, “well in advance of the mandatory 10 business days’ notice required by the wholesaler, to ensure adequate time to inform retail customers”, but residents said the first they heard about it was when their connections dropped out on Tuesday.

“NBN carried out planned works on the Jindera fixed wireless tower last week… some premises serviced by the facility would have experienced a planned service outage,” she said. “Services were restored the morning of May 24. These works were necessary for the overall sustainability and usability of NBN’s fixed wireless network.”

Despite the upgrade, Greater Hume Shire councillor Matt Hicks, who lived in Jindera, said the service was “still a bit scratchy”.

“It’s been very hit and miss, a bit disappointing,” Cr Hicks said.

“Apparently they tried to upgrade services but if we get a bit of crook weather it becomes quite unreliable, I think we’d have been better of to stick with ADSL. 

“The smart move would have been to make sure it worked properly first.”

The once-in-a-lifetime upgrade of Australia’s telecommunications technology had led to a significant spike in complaints, according to figures from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

The TIO revealed individual and small business customers lodged 65,760 complaints in the second half of last year – up by 33.8 per cent on the same period in the previous year.

Most complaints were about internet services – which also experienced the biggest growth in complaints at 53.6 per cent – followed by mobile phones and landlines.

Complaints related to the NBN jumped by 117.5 per cent.

Ombudsman Judi Jones said overall the biggest issues were customer service, billing and payments, faults and complaints handling, but with no root cause analysis, she couldn't pinpoint the main drivers with precision.

“What we know is that these services are very important to people’s social and business lives and we have higher expectations because we’ve moved on from the days of the dial-up modem,” she said.

“There's a lot of changes in the industry as well – roll out of the NBN, new entrants, and existing providers changing their offerings.”

The jump was significant, but she said complaints had been continuously going down for the past five years after hitting a peak of 197,682 in 2010-11.

NBN Co said when the figures were adjusted to reflect the total number of “activated” premises, there was a 30 per cent drop in complaints about services delivered over the network.

“With about 30,000 households and businesses being connected to services over the NBN every week, (the) increase ... reflects the acceleration of the roll out,” chief customer officer John Simon said.

“However, from (our) perspective, we need to continue to improve the consumer experience as we further ramp up.”

NBN recently launched a new campaign to help answer the most common questions about network, including how the service gets to a home or business and who is responsible for which portion of their broadband experience.