One in six NBN HFC households cannot order a service: Rowland

The total number of premises classified as being 'service class zero' was 132,691 across the HFC network, 106,352 on FttN and FttB, and 7,899 on FttP as of the end of June, NBN has revealed.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Almost 250,000 premises were stuck in "service class zero" limbo as of the end of June, the National Broadband Network (NBN) company has revealed.

In response to a Senate Estimates Question on Notice, NBN said hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) connections make up the bulk of the service class zero collection, which comprises premises that cannot connect despite the rest of their region being able to order NBN services.

Across HFC, 132,691 premises are classified as such. Fibre-to-the-node (FttN) and fibre-to-the-basement (FttB) premises stuck in service class zero numbered 106,352 as of June, while fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) customers numbered 7,899.

Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland pointed out that as the most recent NBN corporate plan showed, there were 800,000 HFC premises ready for service at that time -- "which indicates one in six HFC households cannot order an NBN service", she added.

Labor had in June criticised NBN CEO Bill Morrow's responses to previous Senate Estimates questions on service class zero.

"We let the retailers know which homes are not ready for service," Morrow had said, adding that as the wholesaler, NBN does not contact the consumer directly.

Consumers could also check their forecast connectivity timeframe by using NBN's online address checker, he said.

While it could take up to two years for such service class zero premises to be connected, it is a 6.5-month wait on average, Morrow said.

"It could be a year, it could be two years; the point is that not every home is going to get done overnight, but all homes will be done by the year 2020," Morrow told Senate Estimates at the time.

"It's really unfortunate that if somebody has a complex area, that requires this to be toward the end of the build. It is what it is, but again everybody will get taken care of by the year 2020."

Shadow Communications Minister Stephen Jones said NBN should notify customers when their premises have technical obstacles preventing them from being connected, however.

"In Senate Estimates last night, NBN CEO Mr Bill Morrow said that NBN doesn't tell customers about this but relies on customers using their website's address checker. As a result, nobody is taking responsibility for being honest with these customers and telling them that they are in a different situation that requires detailed work," Jones said in June.

"These customers, known to NBN as 'service class zero', are growing in number, and this month there are around 200,000 premises left behind."

NBN maintains that all premises will be connected by 2020, apart from the approximately 100,000 new premises that will be built between 2020 and 2021.

NBN's new base case shows that 1.9 million, or 17 percent of premises, will be covered by FttP; 4.6 million by FttN and FttB; 1 million by fibre to the curb (FttC); 3.1 million, or 27 percent, by HFC; 600,000 by fixed-wireless; and 400,000 by satellite.

NBN is predicting that 8.7 million premises will be ready for service in FY18, with 4.4 million activated by the end of the FY18 financial year.

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