The Australian consumer watchdog has approved Telstra’s new NBN Migration Plan, ensuring that users receiving a fibre-to-the-curb connection to the NBN won’t be left without the internet during this transition.
The approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissioner (ACCC) paves the way for the rollout of the fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) as access technology for National Broadband Network (NBN) connections.
The variations to the Migration Plan were made after stakeholders raised a series of concerns that the transition time would result in consumers being disconnected from phone and internet services before they are given a working NBN connection.
The Migration Plan outlines the steps Telstra will take to migrate voice and broadband services from the existing copper and hybrid fibre coaxial networks to the NBN as the network is rolled out around the country.
Telstra submitted a proposed variation to the plan in October last year to facilitate the rollout of fibre-to-the-curb as an access technology for the NBN. This aims to overcome the potential of consumers being disconnected entirely from their phones and internet while this transition is taking place, ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
“The proposed connection processes could have resulted in people being left without a phone or internet service before their FTTC service was operating,” Sims said.
“NBN Co has now agreed to change connection processes and undertake data testing to ensure fibre-to-the-curb services are operating prior to disconnection of existing services.
“The ACCC welcomes these improvements, which should provide a safeguard against consumers being disconnected before they have access to a working NBN service.”
The ACCC had previously received a number of submissions receiving concerns that customers would be left disconnected when switching to fibre-to-the-curb, including from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).
“ACCAN’s main concern stems from consumers being responsible for initiating the Network Connection Device and the number of complexities that may arise in doing this, and the lack of confirmation that the migration has resulted in a working fibre-to-the-curb service,” the ACCC said.
“According to ACCAN, ultimately this may leave some consumers disconnected.”
Optus put in a submission to the ACCC, claiming that under the old plan, a premise could be determined to be “FTTC-connected 10 calendar days after an order is accepted by NBN Co even if there is no detection of data on the line”.
The ACCC also confirmed that fibre-to-the-curb customers will now have up to 18 months to switch their services over to the NBN before the internet and phone services are disconnected by the providers.
The use of fibre-to-the-curb technology facilitates “greater use of existing copper lines” to connect users to the NBN and “avoids the need to dig new lead-in conduits to premises”, the ACCC said.
The ACCC’s approval now means that Telstra can start to migrate end customers to the NBN via fibre-to-the-curb access technology.
The ACCC’s approval process is limited to assessing whether Telstra’s plan complies with the Migration Plan Principles, which were issued by the Australian government in 2015.
The competition and consumer watchdog has been very active in the NBN space, with a series of rulings and the launch of an inquiry.
Late last year, the ACCC launched an inquiry into NBN wholesale service standards following complaints over the NBN increasing by 150 percent. Complaints, mostly related to faults in the services delivered by the NBN, reached more than 27,000 in the last year.
The inquiry will be considering whether the current NBN wholeservice standard levels are appropriate, and if further regulation is required to ensure a good customer experience for users of the NBN.
Late last year, the ACCC also entered into a court-enforceable undertaking with Optus to ensure it would offer refunds to nearly 9000 customers impacted by misleading advertising of potential speeds of the NBN.
It also entered into a similar agreement with Telstra in November, with over 40,000 customers potentially refunded.