NBN Co readying for copper wire switch-off

Hobart [AAP]

NBN Co is confident its first copper wire switch-offs will go to plan, despite admitting connections need to be done better.

Fifteen pioneering regions will lose their old phone connections from next week, meaning they will be without a land line if they haven’t booked a National Broadband Network switch-over with their provider.

NBN Co says only the booking is necessary by May 23 and those customers’ connection will continue on copper until the new system is installed.

‘This is the first time we’ve done this, it’s a wholesale upgrade to national infrastructure in Australia, so we are treating this very carefully, particularly for the vulnerable,’ NBN Co’s chief customer officer John Simon told reporters near Hobart.

Mr Simon said most of the affected premises had arranged their connection, which is free for the basic land line service.

He said concerns such as whether medical alarms for the elderly would still work were being addressed and more resources were being poured into making installation easier.

Six of the affected regions are in Tasmania, where the rollout of the $40 billion project has been plagued by problems.

Asbestos concerns stopped it last year before payment issues culminated in contractors threatening legal action against the company rolling out the scheme, Visionstream.

Customers have complained of waiting for months for technicians who didn’t turn up.

The original plan had 200,000 Tasmanian premises connected by 2015 but around 36,000 had been passed by April this year.

The problems caused the state’s IT industry body, TasICT, to describe the rollout as ‘shambolic’ in a submission to parliament.

Mr Simon said the number of premises passed would double in Tasmania over the next 12 months.

‘Clearly it’s not where we want to be,’ he said.

‘Clearly we’re learning from the process.

‘We’re not happy with the current status and we’re changing it.’

A corporate plan to be released midyear would reveal what the remainder of the rollout will look like, Mr Simon said.

Orders placed by May 23 could take a week to three months to be completed in Tasmania as the copper network dating back more than 100 years is gradually replaced.


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