As I get batted back and forth between NBN Co and NBN service provider, I am thinking about the bigger question of the accountability pathways when government services are contracted out.
Here’s the story (apologies for the length!): Many months ago an NBN subcontractor came to our street and made the properties serviceable for NBN HFC - i.e. a cable was laid down to street and a box attached to each house - except for ours. I asked the sub-contractor why we were left out - he said “you’re not in my schedule to connect as you have Telstra cable” … but the problem is, we don’t have Telstra cable, we have Optus cable. I explained this to the contractor but he said he doesn’t prepare the schedules and can’t change them.
I contacted NBN Co and explained the problem. They told me additional work was required to make our property serviceable for NBN and it would be completed by April 2020. What was the additional work? They couldn’t tell me as they don’t organise this, Telstra does. They could not tell me who to contact in Telstra and suggested I contact my NBN Service provider.
I received mail from Optus with a warning that NBN to my property was imminent and I should sign up quickly so my internet Service is not disconnected. I contacted Optus. They insisted that my property was due to be connected by June 2019 according to NBN Co. I said that NBN Co had advised me differently. They said to contact NBN Co.
I contacted NBN Co and they denied that they had ever to told me that additional work was required and said that in fact my property is already “serviceable for NBN connection”. Except that it isn’t. Nothing has changed since the first sub-contractor rolled down our street and connected everyone else. I explained the problem. NBN co said to contact the service provider to arrange a connection - the service provider will then come to connect, see that the property is not serviceable for NBN, contact NBN who will then send out a serviceman to confirm the property is not serviceable for NBN and if it’s not, direct a sub-contractor to make the connection! Can’t NBN Co just arrange to send a sub-contractor to finish the work at our premises? Apparently not.
I am sure we will eventually get connected to NBN but my concern is that there seems to be no mechanism in the system to report errors to anybody who has any responsibility to correct them. No-one seems at all concerned to follow up on a phantom connection which I presume has been paid for with taxpayer money, and instead NBN Co will spend many more hours and $$$ on our premises when the initial subcontractor should have been able to call someone to correct the error in his schedule and do the work required to our home.
No wonder NBN costs have blown out! And I wonder how many other examples there are of supply of government services where this sort of inefficiency has occurred because of the long chain of subcontractors and sub-subcontractors. Am I being overly pedantic to think that taxpayers money should be distributed with more accountability than this?