When NBN installs go wrong: A nightmare tale


blog Turn the lights down low and prepare to be frightened by just how bad the National Broadband Network install process can be. Self-described “IT guy, husband and father”, Andrew Devenish-Meares, has penned an extensive blog post on the horrors of trying to get your NBN connection running even when you’re in one of the early fibre roll-out zones. It looks as though this process has the potential to be worse than ADSL — yup, you had better believe it. Devenish-Mear writes (we recommend you click here for the full post):

“We recently relocated from Wollongong back to my home town of Armidale, home of the first mainland NBN site. Having sold our property down south we set about purchasing here, and got a property in the trial area. After some discussion we decided that we wouldn’t bother getting a copper phone line and DSL Internet, we’d just get the NBN.

That was the mistake.

… This morning I have cancelled the order with Internode, and we have ordered a phone service and DSL with Telstra. If we hadn’t just moved, and actually had an active service this would be more annoying than anything. But we don’t have an existing service, so it’s a major inconvenience. The whole experience has been frustrating, with a lack of communication, misleading information and frustration.”

I don’t think Andrew’s experience will be the norm, as the NBN ramps up to full speed rollout, but it certainly indicates that at this early stage, neither retail ISPs such as iiNode or NBN Co itself have fully got their processes in place and working. That’s not really a surprise, but it is a reminder to the NBN team to get their stuff sorted. If there are a few dozen more experiences like this posted online, that becomes a trend. And it’s a trend which the Coalition would love to get their hands on.

Image credit: Edvard Munch, The Scream


  1. So reading through the full post, how much of the issue is Internode, and how much is NBN Co? The slant of the headline suggests its fully NBN’s mistake, but when I read it I’m looking at it being the ISP for the far majority.

    They offer a deadline thats either knowingly or unknowingly optimistic and given the “it occasionally takes longer” caveat I’m thinking knowingly…

    Was the appointment with an Internode tech for the install, or NBN Co? Story isnt clear, but its Internode’s responsibility to ensure the appointment is met. It would have been the techo’s first of the day, so they would have known early if it wasnt going to happen.

    I’m just reading the story, and seeing Internode being culpable for a lot of the issues raised. Even if they were relying on NBN Co for parts of the process, THEY gave guarantees. THEY were responsible for meeting those guarantees, not NBN Co. Any issues caused by NBN Co would be between NBN Co and Internode.

    In short, Internode appears to have promised what THEY couldnt deliver.

    • Actually, you’re wrong. I’ve had -exactly- the same issue, many many people here in North lakes have, and it pretty much boils down to this:

      Nbnco Installation Contractors are overbooking. And then, up to 12 hours before, cancelling the booking. or just not showing up at all. And then rebooking months into the future. The ISP has no control over this, at all. They make an appointment with NBNco, NBNCo then advises them when the next available appointment is. The ISPs have absolutely no control whatsoever.

      And North lakes is not alone in this. There are many stories appearing online now, as the NBN rolls out, of installation horror stories. And I anticipate it will get worse. Sadly, nbn will not allow ISPs to actually install hte hardware themselves. So Until NBNCo gets their shizz together, its gonna get much worse.

  2. Excellent.

    It’s good to know about NBNCo’s stuff ups as well as the good things about their implementation. It’s rumoured that the culture inside of NBNCo is very standard and process oriented, “fix the problem once, not the symptom many times” type of thing.

    If that’s true, then reports like these can only be a good thing for both the RSP’s and NBNCo to pull their socks up and get things running smoothly.

  3. Definitely not a good look.

    But it should be pointed out that this sort of thing happens with HFC cable installs, Foxtel installs, even copper phone line installs. It’s not specific to NBN Co.

      • But Renai, it isn’t NBNCo. necessarily who is directly to blame here (although they must take the blame by proxy anyway)- if the contractor is dodgy, there’s nothing NBNCo. can do for that install. Until the contractor proves they’re dodgy by doing something like this, NBNCo. can only keep trying to make and keep appointments. If it ISN’T the contractor…..well, I can’t actually see how it couldn’t be, unless NBNCo. didn’t pass on the appointment information or double booked somehow? But then surely the contractor would’ve picked up on it?

        Contractors will always be the bane and/or saviour of trade-type installations. NBN world or not.

      • That’s just it, we (and him – by evidence that he didn’t have an NTU) aren’t in an NBN world yet.

        Sounds like he was around 6 weeks away from an NBN world (miscommunicated to him as 10 days).

        On a side note; I have heard anecdotes of 6 week+ delays getting ADSL hooked up. As long as you need a man out to your house/exchange to do something; expect 6 week delays. The NBN has the advantage that the upto 6 week delay more-or-less disappears (forever) once you have your NTU (which this guy wont have for another 24 months by the sounds of things).

        • In short, its a one off delay at the end of your areas rollout, dictated by when the owners decides to connect to the NBN.

          Good to know, I’ll be going through that in ~12 months.

        • “I have heard anecdotes of 6 week+ delays getting ADSL hooked up.”
          And now you can hear another. I moved house at the end of July, and my ADSL is finally being connected this Friday after it took Telstra until 17th Sept to connect the phone line.

          • Same with me. Moved into an existing house but it took Telstra six weeks just to update the database with my phone number. The actual ADSL2+ install was done in a matter of days after that.

      • Meh, where’s that written?

        For all we know, it’s a lazy/stupid/incompetent local contractor/installer who doesn’t bother to show up for work. Every organisation has one.

        • Appears it may have been a genuine mistake and miscommunication according to Scott. Would love more details and some assurance it will be learn from.

          Probably asking a bit too much though.

          • It could and should result in an investigation as to how technology could be fashioned to ensure there is an audit trail for all these types of communications so responsibility for stuff ups can be sheeted home to the person responsible. There are going to be millions of connection issues over the next ten years and beyond and we now have the hardware (tablets) to capture this data.

    • Oh, tell me about it.

      It took 12 weeks and three missed appointments (including me taking two days off work to, in the end, sit around and twiddle my thumbs) to get our Telstra cable connected.

      You can guarantee that when NBN rolls around to our neighbourhood, I’m going to get them to put in the NTU straight away, and I’m not going to disconnect the cable account until the NBN is live. :-)
      (Assuming the missus doesn’t decide to move to a new house outside the 3-year rollout footprint during that time, which is always a possibility)

  4. I’d never expect perfection of NBNCo. They’re a business. These need to be documented. And they need to be resolved, even if it is just resolving why it didn’t happen.

    Saying that, there’s some big unanswered questions here and it is very unclear who is to blame. There’s been several reports of contractors not showing up for appointments and bad installs by dodgy contractors. Is that this case? It fits, but there’s parts that don’t too.

    It is Internode’s job to organise with NBNCo. the install and they are, to a certain extent, held hostage by whatever contractor NBNCo provide to do the install. Is NBNCo. to blame in this because they promised something they couldn’t deliver? Or was it the contractor giving NBNCo. empty promises of appointment times?

    The BER was plagued by dodgy contractors and thereby bad media, even though it achieved its’ overall goals. NBNCo. need to be very careful or this is the way they will be perceived also, even if it IS in a minority of cases.

  5. Something else just came to mind. He moved to Armidale. Pretty much all of Armidale is connected. Wouldnt that connection be to the premise? If so, where did the delay come from?

    The fibre should be rolled out from the exchange all the way to the little box on the wall, shouldnt it? So it should only need that 1 hour of button clicking at the ISP level, and the right modem/router/cables in the home.

    Certainly not things that should need a specific technical expert at 8-12 in the morning, 4 weeks from now…

    What am I missing here?

    • @GongGav

      I thought so too, until I realised the person who owned the house before had never had an NTD put in. ONLY the fibre drop to the PCD on the outer wall was done. So NBNCo. have to come in and connect that to the NTD yet.

      • So, for the laymen, NTD (Network Termination Device) = little box on the wall.

        Last owner not connecting makes sense. I mentally make the assumption that every homeowner will have the ugly little thing by default. My fault of course.

        Thats what I was missing, cheers 7T.

  6. Damn that sucks, poor guy :( I know when my wife doesn’t have her IView, things can get very ugly! :)

  7. I don’t know why the guy thought he could enter a contract prior to settlement – there would be no point in Internode/NBNCo scheduling work when settlement may not occur.

    The scheduling fail doesn’t sound too good, but it also suggests that buyers should request a discount in areas where NBNCo fibre has been laid but the connection to the property hasn’t been made – there’s more people to coordinate, so naturally more delays in getting a connection.

    • Settlements rarely fail to happen; they may be delayed beyond the agreed date but that is rare too. The death of a party can cause problems but hat is not a common event. Too many other things can hang off a settlement for them not to be a bankable event.

      Surely if the person seeking the benefit of the installation is prepared to pick up any costs if the settlement fails, the rules should permit the clocks to start ticking in a period which is otherwise dead time.

      • What about from when it goes unconditional? You need insurance on a house you are buying before it settles, so why not start the paperwork for things that take time? *grumble*

    • This could be an example where a property owner does not have the NBN supplied connection from the street to the house as part of the standard rollout in the street.
      “The previous owners hadn’t had the drop fibre installed from the street to the property. We had checked it out and knew that before we exchanged contracts. Yes, it did mean an extra step for our install, but I wouldn’t have thought it was too big a deal, after all they’re still installing fibre around town.”

      Did this previous owner stop the drop line connection?

  8. Really I see this more as an understaffed NBN contractor issue. Ultimately its the contractors that need to lift their game or NBNco needs to manage workflows more efficiently.

  9. The simple explanation is a lack of communication between NBN Co, our contractors and the ISP.

    It shouldn’t have happened and we’re examining the lessons of what went wrong.

    • Hey everyone, FYI Scott is the digital communications manager at NBN Co and an all-round great guy — a mate of mine. If you have questions about the sign-up process (or indeed anything to do with NBN Co), feel free to pose them to him here or at @ScottRhodie — I’m sure he’ll answer them. Or of course there’s always NBN Co’s official Twitter account at @nbnco.

    • Nice to see NBNCo wants to learn from issues like this.

      I’m on the Gold Coast and (hopefully) we should have the rollout rolling in “within a year”. Is there anything I can do to help things go smoothly, or even speed things up, when that time comes around?

  10. The guy is just a whinger, with little IT skills. If the wife can call him at work while waiting for the contractor to turn up then they have mobile reception so this IT guy should have put up an temporary network using a (prepaid) 3G wireless connection until the NBN install is done. No use fighting a system that is still being put in place, you end up just annoying everyone and high blood pressure.

    I moved to rural Tasmania last year in November and was told 2-3 months for my NBNCo Satellite connection which left me with no 3G, no wireless. no mobile reception. I would drive down the road a few km to get reception and pick up my mail and do banking etc every few days, and visit friends for some web browsing time. But no use complaining, so I didn’t. And in return I got a call after one month and told the contractor would like to book an appointment the following week, so my satellite connection was done before Christmas.

    • If you RTFA Internode came to the party and gave him a free NodeMobile 3G connection while he was waiting. (They wouldn’t give us free 3G when we were getting Internode ADSL at work where Telstra took four extra weeks of “transpositioning”, but they did give us free express post on it). For us NodeMobile was faster than NodeADSL. Go figure. (But way more expensive) (Blame Telstra for that one too)

      So Internode was doing everything in their power to help him, then he shunned them and went with a competitor. The least he could have done was sign up with Internode ADSL!

  11. I can see here what the problem was. Obviously he wanted to download the Internet to his computer. Aside from buying a couple of extra hard drives, what he should have done is call a plumber, to get bigger pipes installed.

    (Just following your lead :)

  12. And for every bad install ….. How many good installs are there ?

    ….. but of course no-one ever writes a blog post about good installs – do they :)

    Anyway I hope NBNCo and Internode learn from this experience.

    • @Belinda

      Definitely. There’s been many thousands that have obviously been good. But it is an unfortunate rule of customer service:

      A Satisfied customer will tell 3 other people
      A Dissatisfied customer tells 10

      NBNCo. just have to learn from this.

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