Fibre speeds “amazing”, but Bernardi slams “hopeless” NBN installers


news Conservative Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has labelled the performance of his his new National Broadband Network fibre connection as “quite amazing”, but has slammed the NBN company for a bungled installation which required repeated visits to get the connection running.

Last week the South Australian Senator posted a statement on his site noting that his home had recently been connected to the National Broadband Network. It appears that Senator Bernardi has been connected to the Fibre to the Premises aspect of the NBN’s rollout.

“I consider myself very fortunate to be in an area where the early rollout was implemented as it is a very good service,” Bernardi wrote. “With a family who always seem to be online for homework, entertainment and other assorted internet demands, the speed and bandwidth available from the NBN are quite amazing.”

However, the Senator heavily criticised the practical aspects of getting his premises connected to the NBN’s fast fibre.

“What wasn’t so amazing was the process of having it connected,” he wrote. “It demonstrated to me just how inefficient (hopeless is actually a better word) government funded projects actually can be. I have no doubt there is some complexity to the installation of fibre optic cable and the assorted technology connections, but my experience with the NBN installation was a monumental tribute to waste.”

Bernardi said that by his count, there had been no less than five inidvidual visits to his house by different personnel to get the NBN’s fibre connected, meaning that a member of his family had to be at the house on multiple occasions to facilitate the connection.

“When the cable and assorted boxes were finally installed, we were told it was ready to go and contacted Telstra to organise connection and transfer our account,” the Senator wrote. “At this point we were told we had to plug the connection cables in ourselves or wait two months for a technician to be available.”

“Being someone who has been described as ‘useless’ when it comes to technology, I tried to follow the instructions but couldn’t make it work. We informed Telstra of this multiple times to ensure our existing phone and internet service was maintained. The support team in Bangladesh assured us it would remain connected until the issues were rectified.”

Unfortunately, Bernardi wrote, that wasn’t the case.

“Our existing services were cut off despite the assurances, with no way of having them reconnected until the problems were rectified,” he wrote.

“With the prospect of a two month wait for a technician to arrive, I chose to contact a private operator who came the following day. He spent two hours trying to get the system to work with no success. We then called Telstra technical support as a last resort. After nearly 30 minutes on the telephone it was determined that there was a connection fault with the NBN fibre optic cable which would require another party to rectify. They were available for an appointment a couple of days later.”

“They arrived, fixed the problem and we now have fast and reliable internet for which I am grateful, but my experience has reinforced my concerns about government waste and bureaucracy.”

Bernardi said he knew the NBN wasn’t technically a government service as it operated as an independent company. However, he said it, it was budgeted to use billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money — and the company had recently revealed billions of dollars in cost blow-outs.

“Having seen the process first-hand, I have seen the inefficiency for myself,” Bernardi wrote.

“The NBN is a massive project, concocted by a former government with next to no due diligence. In fact it was conceived on the back of a coaster whilst flying in the Prime Minister’s jet. Now we are paying for it. Based on my experience with the inefficient process, that cost is much more than it need be. But isn’t that the way of so many government funded projects?”

There’s a few things to note here.

Firstly, it’s important to note that Bernardi acknowledged the speed of the NBN was “amazing”. For one of Australia’s most conservative politicians to make this concession regarding the NBN is quite a step — often the Coalition has been quite critical of the NBN’s speeds, labelling them unnecessary. However, Bernardi praised the service. This indicates the potential that full fibre rollouts have to influence MPs’ thinking when they experience the potential of the technology.

It seems obvious that Bernardi wasn’t quite happy with the quality of his home’s previous broadband connection and is more than happy with his new NBN speeds.

Secondly, I note that Bernardi’s poor experience with the NBN company’s connection protocols is not unusual. I don’t support his move to link this to the NBN company’s nature as a government initiative, but it is objectively true that the company is struggling to get its connection process to function as expected. I’ve heard many stories along these lines, and the NBN company needs to continue to pull up its socks on this issue.

Lastly, I would note that Bernardi’s comments on the NBN can also be interpreted as a coded attack on Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, one of the most progressive members of the Liberal Party and an ideological opposite of Bernardi in the Liberal Party party room. Bernardi’s not a huge fan of Turnbull, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was using this attack on the NBN as a proxy for a jab at Turnbull.

Of course, ultimately many NBN supporters would view this post by Bernardi as a typical Coalition attack on the NBN.

However, I personally view it as broadly positive for the project. Bernardi explicitly acknowledged the benefits of the NBN’s fibre technology, and correctly identified the NBN company’s issues in getting customers connected. If you dismiss much of the rest of his comments as ideologically positioned in terms of his general philosophical view on the need to avoid government waste and intervention in the private sector, then much of his post makes common sense.

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


    • Too true tbh.
      Tried to order a Large bundle almost three weeks ago with Telstra, and have so far wasted two days wasting a day at home without getting connected, as well as a number of phone calls trying to get my order right (I was initially provisioned a “S” bundle after I clearly said “L” on the phone, the service rep even confirmed it to me as the “large bundle!”)

      If Optus HFC congestion wasn’t so bad I would’ve given up already smh.

  1. Surprise, it’s a terrible waste right up until you are connected to the ‘original’ NBN connection; then it’s actually pretty okay. It’s hardly surprising that once you get an improved service, that actually supports a broader usage pattern, that you’ll like it more than a previous outcome.

    The connection process is terribly busted, though. But we already know that. People are in some cases being disconnected from copper, before NBNco can get them connected to the network.

    Which is perhaps what is bound to happen when you fixate on cost and deployment methodology, demonise an existing technology that is already fit-for-purpose, rather than focusing on making sure it’s built at all, on time, and that the process to on-board customers is made more bullet proof.

    • I was about to make a snarky comment on if they actually bothered to say… keep working on the original plan they could have placed their resources on streamlining roll outs instead of wasting more manpower/time on creating a brand new roll out scheme..

      Then I realised I misread your last paragraph =P

  2. The thing that really puzzles me – why multiple visits? Surely it’s more efficient for NBNCo to have one visit where they connect everything up, power it, and test it? Even if they have to have two guys there to do the work, surely it’d be cheaper than a minimum of two to three separate visits? And why the heck are they walking away from an installation without even testing that it works?

    Artificial demarcation between different parts of the task seems to be causing a *lot* of issues with premises installation for fibre.

    • Because it’s standard passing the buck routines…

      NBN owns the lines so they have to check the physical connections. The RSP provides the service and needs to check the line connection. If something fails on either end unless you have someone on the phone who not only knows how to troubleshoot and actually *care* enough to help you will be set in a wonderful world of it’s NBN’s fault… no it’s RSP’s fault..

      As for the connection.. in *theory* all it *should* take is one guy doing the NTD install to get it up and running. The problem is that the roll out process wasn’t exactly standardised and was left to the contracted companies to organise the “procedures”. Hence you have occasions where the Outside box is done weeks before for an area and then a person installs NTD to attach and activate. And then you have folks where it’s done simultaneously, and so forth..

    • Outside box has to be installed (you don’t have to be home if you don’t care where it ends up and there is suitable access to property).

      Inside NTD then needs to be installed this requires you to contact ISP and order a service which will then generate another site visit.

      Assuming nothing is wrong you only need the two visits (also standard problem of missed appointments). Issue is there’s no real fault tolerance in this model as there’s no real pertinent tests to be done until the last stage is in and you find out there is an issue somewhere as you have no internet.

      When a problem arises the current contractor is likely not qualified to actually debug past the basic’s so it has to go up the chain of command … queue more visits and delays.

      Boils down to knowing in hindsight the contractor model was a terrible idea too as each party just cares about their part and typically there’s plenty of NIMBY going when it comes to things being broken. (Prospect SA is a good example there’s been horrendous issues out there apparently and its mostly inside the core network).

  3. > Bernardi said that by his count, there had been no less than five inidvidual visits

    Clippy: I think your trying to spell Individual?

  4. Hey look I had this experience therefore everyone must have that kind of experience and this is where the fault lies. Your argument is an anecdotal fallacy.

    Actually Senator, the people on the ground are employees of existing companies that have been awarded contracts to connect premises. These people have, as a minimum, 3 degrees of freedom from employment of the government. What you are seeing first hand is what private sector businesses actually run like.

  5. Typical bad attitude from an entitled conservative politician.

    People usually move into homes with everything already built and connected. Water, gas, electricity, phone etc. They never think about the work that went into building that home and connecting the various utilities. When that work is in action for them to see they are offended because they believe they are entitled to not be inconvenienced by others doing their job. It should just happen like magic. Bernardi idiotic story doesn’t tell me the NBN installers are “hopless” what it tells me is that the effort required to build FttP is worth it after all.

    • Actually Hubert, most of the “visits” he seems to be railing against seem to be from companies that are actually “free market” enterprise ones.

      And after seeing his website, I can understand why he was happy to get taxpayer subsidised fibre…I think it must have been designed by a Uni student…really graphics heavy “new age” Internet stuff…

  6. For one of Australia’s most conservative politicians

    I’ve gotta be honest here, I intensely dislike people like CB being described as “Conservative”, it’s a false label, CB is a Hard-Right Radical … dont believe me, visit his site:

    His “Traditional Values” claims are nothing more than a smoke screen.


  7. Yeah I gotta say this isn’t really an NBN issue. I mean sure some elements may exasperate it, but it really is a common issue.

    I moved into a new house 7 years ago. No pit out the front so had to get one installed. Took about 2 months. The pit itself took a couple of weeks, but I didn’t have to be home for it, so one day it was just there.

    The connection to the house on the other hand. Had to get a trench dug, then the guy got sent to the wrong address, twice, once he finally turned up and wired it up it was up within a couple of days. IInet handled it all, but they had to hand it off to Telstra contractors to do the pit and installation. The details I gave IInet were correct. Somewhere either they or Telstra changed the address to a different suburb. Then after I pointed out their mistake the first time, the info didn’t feed back to the contractor doing the work, and he again went to the wrong location, in fact he rang me to tell me they had stuffed it again as he was on the road. No idea whose fault it was, but IInet refunded me the cost whilst I was out of action. (I had kept my account active so I wouldn’t lose my VOIP number).

    And I agree, CB is hard right, not conservative, and it really wouldn’t surprise me if this wasn’t an effort to discredit MT in light of the piss poor PM performance.

  8. “When the cable and assorted boxes were finally installed, we were told it was ready to go and contacted Telstra to organise connection and transfer our account,” the Senator wrote. “At this point we were told we had to plug the connection cables in ourselves or wait two months for a technician to be available.”

    I saw his problem as soon as I got to this paragraph. The man is an idiot if he thinks this was an nbn(tm) issue…

    • depends which cables I guess. If was just putting a cat5 into the NTD that would go to the router then yes that isn’t NBN issue.

      Fairs fair though the volume of visits you have to be home for though is larger than it could be or should be. Not only that but boxes can end up in some really bad places if you aren’t around to say ‘put it a little further down there please’ ie shortest distance and bam done no matter how bad for practicality of the home … have a tin roof and your doubly screwed as the NTD is literally only placed on the other side of the wall (hence if that’s the middle of your lounge room wall which you use for viewing projectored movies … oh well).

      There’s a bunch of good guys out there working, and if you do a bit of leg work with pull strings and conduit they are more than accommodating to get it where you really want it. However there’s a bunch of very average ones too that just don’t seem to care and if you get one in any of the various stages your connections in for troubles.

      How many folk here complain about when it rains … similar deal realistically it ought to be the exception and not the rule.

      • The issue he is referring to is Wholesale Vs Retail. The actual issue he has is with the retail provider, not NBNCo (now nbn(tm)).

        His moaning is totally misdirected, as is his political bent…but I guess that’s to be expected, him being one of Tones “I’m no Bill Gates” inner circle…

    • If you have a look on their web site at what our friends Telstra are doing you will find that they supply the WiFi router to you and then you have to connect it. The router will then automatically complete the connection. For a price they will very kindly send out a tech to connect you up. However I think that other companies are doing exactly the same. I know from experience that is what iiNet do.

  9. i have to say while my first NBN install proceeded on the first visit; my second install took three appointments and on the last the contractors ACTUALLY showed up and did the install.

    it is a fantastic service though; i really dont want to ever go back to copper service.

    When Malcolm was making noises about ‘fixing’ nbn before the election this was the sort of thing i hoped he would do – deal with the contractor mess and make the rollout much more timely. instead he has made MORE of a mess for contractors to deal with (i shudder to think how many appointments and truck rolls a FTTN connection will require) and made a mess changing the access technology.

    there was a time i liked MT; but his ruination of what was a fixable problem into a complete and utter clusterfk has tarnished him forever for me. if this is a subtle sledge at MT by Cory – radical Right as he is – im not about to cry any tears over it; Malcolm can wear everything he has earned for himself over this. Had MT confined himself to avoiding waste and improving the processes we would be 2 years further down the track with a FTTP network and he would be looking saintly – but he chose to go on with the political decision for FTTN and he only has himself and His Masters Voice to blame (Tonys directive to demolish the nbn).

  10. I really don’t think this is a story about NBN’s incompetence. It is a story – and one that is all too common – about Telstra’s incompetence. I’m on the fibre NBN and my experience could not have been better. Tech came at the time that had been designated; fitted box where I wanted it; pulled fibre from outside and I was up and running in about an hour. It could not have been easier. I knew exactly what I was getting; what I needed to do; what speed tiers were available….everything. But here’s the rub. I’m with iinet! In fact, I had a small inital problem – the speed was too slow (I’d ordered 50/20 and was getting 12/1). However, I could not fault the – English speaking and intelligible – South African call centre guys who had the problem fixed in a couple of hours. Now compare this with my neighbour, who – much against my advice – went with Telstra. Wasn’t told about speed tiers (“what do you mean, it can go faster?”); wasn’t informed about what would be fitted; techs only gave a day (no time) of appointment (and were late!) and when nothing worked after they’d gone, he threw his hands in the air trying to even get an intelligible – let alone intelligent – conversation with some guys ‘somewhere in Asia’. In desperation he came to me, and I had him up and running in a few minutes. He would have probably been without service for a week or more had he waited for some intelligent action from Telstra!! So there’s the rub – and this is the firm that NBN Co have basically sold out to. God help us all……….

    • +1

      I would say mine is a fairly typical experience with getting the NBN connected.

      The fiber pulled through Telstra conduit from the curb fine, but PCD was placed on the outside wall a bit crooked so I got them to come back and square everything up including the outside conduit.

      When RFS arrived I rang up the same day and was given the following week (7 days) as a connection date between 8-12 (got several sms and emails double checking someone would be present). It was also for the port of the old phone number.

      Tech came at 8:30am after already patching the line in the FDH.

      All finished and green optical light by 10:30am. All active and going including phone port by 5:30pm that day (which was a Friday).

      Speed test was ping 4, 95/38.

  11. Cory Bernardi only has his own scumbag lying Government to blame and that lying scumbag incompetent communications minister Malcolm TurD Bull! The sooner we get rid of him and scumbag Phoney Tony Adolf abbutt and the Lying Nazi Party the sooner the NBN will finish and with full fibre! I’m Still on an slow rotting 1mb ADSL connection coz of these scumbags and still not even on NBN roll out map a Disgrace! under Labor my area would now have Fibre and not still be on slow ADSL rotting copper!

    • They have been verging on a Fascist regime considering the number of so called policies they have been implementing that only serve to degrade our freedoms as Australian Citizens.

  12. Hasn’t NBN been under LNP management for two years now? A tad ludicrous to still be blaming previous management.

    And, as others have said, this is a once in a lifetime hassle to upgrade infrastructure that the occupants will now enjoy for decades to come. Most of the country wishes it were as “lucky” has his family is.


    • Yes.

      The Coalition is running with the NBN now.

      It has nothing to do with Labor any more.

      The Coalition chose to adopt it, no one forced them.

  13. Senator Bernardi needs to be informed that it’s not just government run organisations that struggle with new technology rollouts.

    When I first had ADSL installed, it was a rather new thing. It took Telstra 12 weeks, and 4 visits to get it to work. And they owned all the infrastructure, and were only dealing with themselves. The NBN is rather more complicated as it requires multiple parties to co-ordinate.

  14. Short version
    Cory Bernardi: I love my fibre NBN, even though Malcolm’s beloved Telstra mucked me around connecting me to the excellent FTTP infrastructure.

  15. They’ve had two whole years to address the performance issues within the rollout itself.
    They need to stop blaming the former government and start putting the blame where it lies.
    The people who are managing the project *currently*.

    And lets not blame NBN and the Australian Government (former and present) for all of Senator Bernardi’s troubles.
    It’s obvious that Telstra had a hand in this failure as it disconnected his previous service without having fixed all the issues at hand leaving him without a working service.
    I hope he asked for compensation from Telstra for cutting off his service.

  16. I’ve had a fixed wireless NBN connection for nearly 2 years and I love it. My connection experience also was tortuous. The NBN installation itself went perfectly. The problems seemed to arise either within Telstra or from the interactions between NBN and the private retail service providers (including Telstra).

    I delayed my connection for several months after the service was officially available while waiting for any retailer other than Telstra to become available. The smaller RSPs seemed to have great difficulty knowing when they would be able to connect to NBN my area. Eventually I went with Telstra and then the weirdness began – missed and delayed appointments, compulsory site visit to plug in a cat5 cable, special non-documented discount offers, complicated inflexible bundling of other services, failed account creation, over-charging setup fees and many hours waiting in phone queues. For 2 months I had a functioning NBN connection without an account or billing from Telstra.

    I don’t doubt there are inefficiencies in the NBN rollout, but from this customers perspective the inefficiencies didn’t begin until the private companies got involved.

  17. WOW , who would have thought that a Senator within our Government would have been Lucky enough to have Fibre connected to his house , while the rest of the Peasants / Scum roll around in the bottom pits on a scummy 3 mb/s Unreliable Adsl 2+ Connection . Lucky him ….. some of the real stuff …..

  18. Bernardi appears to be a couple of bricks short of a wall, he saying his fibre is fantastic then slams Labor for starting it (designed on the back of a napkin blab blab blab, Einstein did his maths on the back of used envelopes) then he slams the Coalition NBN but its the contractors and Telstra. So far he has insulted very one past, present and future, as a matter of fact he is an insult to our intelligence.

    • Excepting Telstra , the ones responsible for most of his problems.
      Do note the team now running NBN is largely ex Telstra, even an executive who was responsible for the copper networks I believe.
      And we wonder why it is going topsy turvey

  19. Is there any information as to what speed Mr. Bernadi has connected at? Given he is fortunate enough to have optic fibre connected, has he also the moral fibre to only access the NBN at the speeds his party has determined sufficient for us all for the next decade? Rhetorical question given it’s a politician (from any party), but should still be asked. Given the limitations of the MTM, a 12mbps cap would be appropriate, rather than the full up to 25mbps which few on fttn will attain. Still a superior connection that his entire family should be happy with.

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