NBN receives 576 complaints monthly about FttX trenching

Almost 20 people each day complain about NBN digging up driveways and nature strips when installing its FttX network.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The National Broadband Network (NBN) company has revealed that it receives an average of 576 complaints every month about digging across driveways and nature strips while installing its high-speed network.

"An average of 576 complaints a month are received about our build-related trenching on nature strips and across driveways," NBN reported in response to a Senate Estimates Question on Notice.

"Half of these complaints were during the digging work, so remediation had not been completed post the NBN works as yet.

"This is a part of our regular complaints process and is not directed back to the RSP."

The digging process occurs via either trenching or horizontal boring, with the latter utilised in order to minimise digging through driveways, NBN added in response to another Question on Notice.

"The NBN is able to meet all required standards and regulations in regards to use of a directional horizontal boring machine. A combination of horizontal boring and trenching is likely to be required, dependent on the specific circumstances," it said.

"In most instances, horizontal boring will be undertaken to avoid trenching through driveways. It is not intended to install mains power on private property, reducing any risk to privately owned and cared for driveways or gardens."

NBN also noted that its fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network is less disruptive in terms of digging up personal property than fibre to the premises would have been.

"In addition, the mains power distances are short, significantly reducing the distances for trenching and horizontal boring as compared to the fibre-to-the-premise[s] build," the company said.

In February, the Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) reported that complaints about the NBN were up again for the December 2015 quarter, with a 40.1 percent jump in complaints year on year.

For the October to December quarter, 2,176 new NBN-related complaints were registered, with complaints regarding delays in connecting to the NBN increasing by 23.5 percent year on year.

Complaints about unusable NBN services rose by 42.6 percent quarter on quarter for internet services, up to 184 complaints; and by 47.9 percent quarter on quarter for landline services, to 210 complaints.

These complaints had a high rate of being resolved, however, according to Acting Ombudsman Diane Carmody.

"The majority of complaints about unusable NBN services happened during the first few weeks of consumers transferring their services from copper to the NBN, and 90 percent were resolved after the TIO referred them back to the telco," Carmody explained.

The TIO also noted that the 40.1 percent increase in all NBN complaints was far lower than the 128.3 percent growth in premises connected to the NBN over the same period, a comment also made back when same issue arose at the end of last year.

"While NBN is working hard to provide [a] positive customer experience for everyone, we acknowledge we don't always get it right," an NBN spokesperson told ZDNet at the time.

"The number of complaints per 100 connections is going down if you consider the rapid rise in connections over the past year. Connections to the NBN network, when compared to the same period in 2014, grew 128.3 percent or 413,661 new active homes and businesses, outstripping complaint numbers substantially."

Earlier in February, NBN had said its choice of FttN technology was not the cause of customer complaints.

NBN CEO Bill Morrow told Senate Estimates that the problems encountered thus far during the network rollout were simply due to teething issues inherent in deploying a new product, although he added that the company would be investigating a case where one user had a pit installed in their driveway.

Updated 1.35pm AEST 22 April 2016: Headline clarified to state that complaints are across all fixed-line technologies used in the NBN.

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