NBN fibre splits renters and landlords

NBN fibre splits renters and landlords

Summary: For Australian renters, fighting with the landlord might take on a new dimension as the National Broadband Network (NBN) rolls out, unless NBN Co does something about it.

TOPICS: NBN, Broadband

For Australian renters, fighting with the landlord might take on a new dimension as the National Broadband Network (NBN) rolls out, unless NBN Co does something about it.

In first release sites for the NBN, the company went out and sought the consent of property owners to have the fibre rolled up to their door, with take-up rates varying from around 52 per cent in Brunswick, up to around 90 per cent in Armidale.

With the Telstra $11 billion deal all but completed (pending the outcome of shareholder votes), meaning that the copper network would be decommissioned as the NBN rolls out, NBN Co and the government are more relaxed about this process now. NBN Co told ZDNet Australia earlier this week that soon it will only install fibre to the premise when someone requests to get a phone or an internet service on the NBN from their retailer.

"A line and Network Termination Device will only be installed at the premise once a service order has been received from the [retail service providers], and after they have competed for and sold their services to end users once a geographic area has 'gone live'," NBN Co said.

What this means is, as the NBN rolls out to a particular area, telcos like Telstra, Optus, iiNet and Internode will have to get in contact with their existing customers, and let them know that if they want to keep their fixed-line internet or phone service, they'll have to switch over to the NBN within around 18 months. If the customer opts not to have the fibre connected, they will "go wireless", as Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said recently.

In light of the Telstra deal, this new method is definitely the most efficient way to ensure that everyone who wants fibre gets it. Except for the 28.5 per cent of Australians who rent.

One of the reasons that NBN Co said the take-up rate in Brunswick was 52 per cent was difficulty with getting approval from landlords for rental properties. Under NBN Co's revised consent plan, renters would still need to get approval from the landlord in order to connect a service, although the company said it is "planning to make this process easier".

Landlord and tenant disputes can fill up hours of current affairs tabloid television at the best of times, and I can only imagine how frustrating it will be as a renter to be sitting on your ADSL2+ service on the copper network, and keen to switch over to NBN services, only to be told that your landlord has decided that they don't want the free NBN fibre for your premises, so you'll have to go without fixed-line internet when the copper is finally switched off.

This is a worst-case scenario, and I would imagine that most tenants, given the choice, would opt to move out in such a situation, leaving the landlord to advertise a property to rent that has no means of connecting to the internet. Everyone loses.

That prospect alone might be enough to convince landlords that fibre is a worthwhile investment they don't have to pay for, but given the reluctance of landlords in Brunswick to have the fibre installed, NBN Co faces a difficult situation.

The simplest solution would be for the states to legislate the opt-out alternative that Tasmania has implemented, and Victoria looked at before backing out once the Liberal Party got into power in the state. The Telstra deal means that the NBN fibre deployment becomes less about rolling out a new network, and more about replacing the copper with fibre. It just makes sense that everyone should get the fibre unless they specifically request not to.

Until some sort of bypass is found, the roll-out of the NBN is only going to fuel tensions between landlords and renters.

Topics: NBN, Broadband


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • The situation will be even worse for unit owners if the body corporate does nothing (as tends to be the case). They cant simply rent another place.
  • It should be made illegal for a landlord to leave a tenant without any phone or internet connection unless the tenant and the landlord both agree to not have fiber and an NTU installed.

    Moving house and leaving the landlord high and dry would be great in a perfect world, but for a lot of people it would cost to much and it would be too difficult. Although I would do it on principle alone just to make a point.

    I think a more realistic option, if the government doesn't legislate to make it illegal, would be to refuse to pay rent (but don't spend the rent!) until the landlord has fibre and the NTU installed then pay the rent for however many months it took to get a phone and internet connection.

    Rolling out the NBN and replacing the copper is easy compared to all the political BS that goes along with it that is the hardest thing to deal with.
    • As it stands right now, in Victoria at least, you don't even HAVE to have a phone line hooked up to a property when renting it. I found this out when moving into a brand new property only to find that Telstra had not been commissioned to hook up the phone line yet, I enquired about this and found out that the landlord had no obligation to get this hooked up and if I wanted to go ahead and get it done not only would I need to get their permission to do so I would have to pay for it out of my own pocket as, unlike other utilities, there is no obligation or requirement for landlords to provide/ensure the availability of this service.

      I'd like to see the law changed to make it a requirement that all rental properties have NBN connections available for use by tenants, this is the only way you'll ensure that landlords and body corporates don't hold up the process.
      • incorrect?

        The landlord is obliged to pay for all except the amount you would pay to have a phone line reconnected as a phone line is an essential service.

        So for instance, if I pay $299 to get a line installed by Telstra, I am entitled to a rebate from the landlord of $240. That has been my advice from both the tenancy board and the real estate agents?
        • http://www.tuv.org.au/articles/files/resources/utility_charges_RT_FS_052010.pdf

          No, you sir are incorrect.

          "Tenants are responsible for all charges related to the supply and use of a telephone at the rented premises. This includes all service fees, call charges, equipment rental charges and connection fees. It also includes the cost of the initial connection of a telephone line. "
  • Wouldn't the simplest approach be to have the installation proceed it EITHER tenant or landlord applied for it?

    I can't believe this issue has consumed so much debate. And not just here.
    • What right does a tenant have to give the go ahead for modifications to a house that they don't own?
      Imagine it were your property and instead of asking you, your tenants decided to make some changes you didn't want.
      Regardless of whether or not it changes the value of the house at all, it's still your house and not theirs.
  • In Queensland on the General Tenancy Agreement states in it's Standard Terms...

    Fixtures or structural changes – ss 207–209
    (1) The tenant may attach a fixture, or make a structural change, to
    the premises only if the lessor agrees to the fixture’s attachment
    or the structural change.
    Note – Fixtures are generally items permanently attached to land or to a building
    that are intended to become part of the land or building. An attachment
    may include, for example, something glued, nailed or screwed to a wall.
    (2) The lessor’s agreement must be written, describe the nature of
    the fixture or change and include any terms of the agreement.
    (3) If the lessor does agree, the tenant must comply with the terms
    of the lessor’s agreement.
    (4) The lessor must not act unreasonably in failing to agree.

    Sounds to me like a new NBN connection would fall under these terms.

    It may require lodging a complaint with the Tribunal (which would take a bit of work and is not ideal), but I would imagine a lessor failing to agree to a basic service such as a phone line (after the copper is switched off or even before given that it will be at some point in the near future anyway) would be considered unreasonable unless the lessor could think of a very good reason...
  • The REAL issue is that owners (as opposed to landlords, landlords are the party that looks after the property eg. Real Estate Agent) don't want to spend any more money (remember most are negativly geared so the owner is still paying money on the property as well).

    I lived in 5 rental properties in teh last 16 years, in every property the owner had NO ISSUE with any of teh following:
    Having Cat5 cabling installed
    Having CableTV/Internet Installed
    Having SateliteTV installed (including sat dish on roof)
    New telephone points installed

    Some of which required significantly larger holes to run cables etc etc. Once the owner was told it won't cost them anything and would be left in place when I left, they were more than happy to let it go ahead

    If you expect any of this to happen by the owner paying for it forget it, it won't happen. If you still have an onwer that is not willing, spell out the benefits; It adds value, makes their property more desireable as it already is wired for internet to every room, allready has cable TV/Internet and they will realise that you intend to stay long term if you want to do all of this stuff.
  • This problem reminds me of when that paytv-cable-company-that-wont-be-named was rolled out in '97. I was renting with 3 mates and as soon as the service was available we just called up the company and requested installation, no landlord consent or anything ... easy!

    Ultimately having an NBN connection adds value and convenience over NOT having it, it shouldn't be a debate. Perhaps the only debate should be the route into the building(s) that the fibre takes (better avoid Betsy's vegie patch or they'll be hell to pay!).
  • Look at how me renters have got satellite and cable tv installed, I bet the owners or body corporate didn't have a say in it at all. It just seems to have with out a problem...
  • This whole debate sounds like beat up to me.
    I have been a landlord for the last 7 years. Why on earth would I not let NBN be installed to my property, particularly if it is not going to cost me anything?
    Even if it did cost me, having my property lose its fixed line would cause the property to be less appealing, resulting in lower income from rent. Its a no brainer, any landlord with any sense would do it
  • There's been a bit of a development that may have some bearing on the issue of how consent works on premises. Yesterday, I saw on Twitter that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy had posted new draft regulations for comment:


    The regs contain various provisions to speed up NBN rollout by sidestepping the need for various sorts of consent, such as from state and local governments.

    One of these appears to be the consent to run a drop cable either underground or overground onto single or multi-unit premises. What this appears to allow is for the labour-intensive bit of work to be done, bringing the fibre onto the premises - and then perhaps capping the conduit or whatever so that the NTU could be installed at a later point. Consent could be refused, but would not be required.

    This would make a lot of sense, and (if I've interpreted it correctly) is perhaps a good half-way compromise. After all, it would take only a single technician very little time to actually hook up the NTU box if the fibre was there ready and waiting - not the far more intensive efforts to run lines onto a property, where you would probably have a whole work crew going.

    There's also the provision to set up equipment in a basement or comms room located on a multi-unit site, in preparation for connection to individual premises. This would get around at least some of the body corporate issues - but would still allow people to refuse access to individual units, if they wished. Or, as an alteernative fix or solution, they could set up a VDSL type arrangement (the Fibre to the Basement arrangement which Turnbull has been championing) running over in-house copper to each unit - and which has always been contemplated by NBN Co as an option (if you look carefully in their materials).

    The only article I've seen commenting on it is in the Canberra Times:
  • It would be very similar to what happens now. Foxtel/Optus would install the service and then the service would go live.

    Any landlord who refuses this connection will find that:
    a) their property will be harder to rent
    b)it will rent for less if it does rent

    Sure, you might not want it in your home, but a lot of renters will!

    I would suggest leaving the political dogma aside and research the nbn.
  • There’s no way in hell my landlord would agree to getting something like that installed… It’s time to make these NBN connections opt-out, we’ll never progress past 1900’s technology if we let the people still living in that century run our lives