CHOICE membership

NBN installation and the elderly


What we (collective we) have been saying about this mess that they call telecommunications and the NBN is reflected in this article, Not Fit For Purpose. In my cynicism about this I think if they pay compensation they probably will use the CSG amount to calculate it. Always easy to say sorry when the person is dead, I just look to the spokesperson’s response “We recognise Mrs Roberts faced an unacceptable delay”…yep she is dead can’t get more unacceptable than that.


I live in a retirement village that is in the process of changing over to the NBN (FTTN). As I have some technical expertise I have been helping out with the installations. The process can be very confusing for non technical people. To do a thorough job one needs to understand the telecoms wiring in each unit, with the right changes it is possible to get multiple wired phone sockets connected to the NBN modem. If everything works it is good, but getting the remote processes corrected if something goes wrong can take for ever on the phone, sometimes multiple calls over weeks.No one has ownership. Most call centres are overseas and can be hard to understand for an older person with less than perfect hearing. It is not uncommon for the user to be given a temporary phone number for supposedly a few days until their original number is available using the voip service. I also have a couple of residents who refuse to give their personal information out so the only means of support is for them to visit the local phone shop assuming the RSP has a local shop. In reviewing available plans I notice that some RSPs are now quoting 5-12Mbps for a tier1 service and 5-25Mbps for a tier2 service. This is unacceptable, if the RSP doesn’t buy enough aggregate bandwidth to provide at least 20Mbps on a tier2 service they should not offer it. I agree with the other writers who state the obvious, FTTP would have been a far superior system, but that is politics!


As a follow up, on the 16 August the NBN was connected in conjunction with Telstra at the same time. All worked well and we tested the Vital Call button. Our efforts and numerous phone calls to NBN and Telstra did little to subdue the fear of a loss of service of the Vital Call button for my father in law. We approached the NBN and Telstra people in person in Wagga and did not leave until we had all the answers we asked and a guarantee that the two services would be there at the same time. We also learned that Vital Call can supply a temporary service module which works on a mobile network if needed.
Thanks Choice for all your advice and support. Never give up questioning everything.


Hi Brendan,

We are just going through the NBN saga with my mother in-law who is chasing down 90. Being in our 60’s Choice’s advice and the other comments/advice here is great for us, but not her.

It REALLY is NOT much HELP for someone in their more senior years. I’d suggest that many older Australians simply want things to stay the same. They don’t use mobile phones or computers or smart TV’s. Being connected is having a large hand piece on a chord that you talk into after it rings or you talk into after pushing the first large button to talk with daughter no 1 or the one next to it it talk with me.

The NBN has bombarded our dear mum with all sorts of letters that have left her fearful of the future of being cut off unless she uses the internet! Now Telstra know she has seniors needs from how they bill her! Why not the NBN Co?

All NBN Co needed to do was to send her a simple letter. One that said for her next birthday they would be replacing her phone line with a new phone line as the old one was worn out. They would ensure her phone stayed on and if needed change the plug on the end. Other than that Telstra would bill her just he same as always and it would cost her nothing. Sort of like a 90th birthday present.

Presently she appears to be hoping she is not around to deal with the NBN. It’s too much to ask to join the NBN and choose a new provider from all the great new plans they have. How insensitive and lacking in understanding. Not only can’t the NBN get the technology right - they have chosen to stuff up their customer relationships. Sorry NBN CO. We are not your customers are we? Your customers are the Telco’s who have no choice in who they use!

The rest of the NBN outcomes including loss of service in power outages, need to undertand technology a little to realise the NBN modem will need frequent resetting/power, and when it breaks you will need a mobile phone as well to get help or log a service call!

Just leave older Aussies etc on copper. It might just be a few more birthdays - but it’s worth it.


Thanks @mark_m, we appreciate you sharing this unique perspective. I’ll be sure to raise your comments for discussion at CHOICE and all the best sorting it all out for your mother- in-law.


Quite agree. Problem is many today and not just the elderly who no longer watch the news as fed up with it, because just full of nothing much these days but violence, lack of justice and common sense.
So there are and will be many who dont know their phone line wont be there one day when NBN get around to doing their street.
Shame on us as a society.
And good for you that you cared enough to sort it out for them.


Hi, I live in a retirement village and have some technical network skills so am assisting residents with the NBN conversions. The skills and information provided by NBN technicians varies greatly. Some just say that the modem “has” to go in a particular place and the only phone or phone base station must be in the same location. Others have an understanding of the wiring and make suitable wiring changes to accommodate the residents requirements. This in some cases goes beyond their legal responsibilities. Most residents want the same phones in the same physical locations. I’m happy if the NBN technicians can get a phone working and the internet working, then we can manage wiring changes to support multiple phones after that. The hard part comes when something doesn’t work as expected, it requires hanging on to a support line, usually to an overseas call centre for long periods of time. Many elderly people have difficulty understanding the accents or simply refuse to try so I end up doing this for them. It is more helpful if the RSP has a support chat line, this eliminates a lot of the misunderstandings. There is very little continuity, if multiple phone calls are required the whole thing starts all over again. Most support centres work to unyielding scripts and can’t manage anything outside of this. Occasionally I get one that has some technical skills and this makes it easier. The marketing by some RSPs is quite aggressive and only helps to alienate or confuse the user. As an aside, some RSPs, to cover themselves regarding misleading speeds, are advertising Tier1 as 5-12Mbps download and tier2 as 5-25Mbps download. Why the heck would one sign up for a tier 2 service that couldn’t provide better than tier1 speeds?


I had my first down time for over 5 years or more with my new NBN.
Ringing in got a overseas call center as Gtillett observed can happen.

Shame on Telstra - because this is a complicated technical area needing good plain English speakers to help get it back on line. And because I lost my land line as no NBN - and I am supposed to get emergency calls but no line as medically in need etc I used my PAY go Mobile with only $18 dollars left.

And experienced the go by the rule working through etc with a female whose accent was very strong, I dont usually have a problem but I did with this woman - wont say Lady as she wasn’t one. Rude without any provocation on my part, just asked nicely, could we cut to the chase as running out of money and I had already done the usual = unplugged and re-plugged the modem etc waited for it to re-boot which took a while with this Telstra one, so obviously not my end.
Anyway did run out of mobile - and she rang me back. But still didn’t get any definitive answer as to why down. She gave up and said cant help me farther.
So had to just power down and next day - it was back up and running, still no idea what happened.

To be honest if I had known Telstra had changed their support over to Asia, I may well have sorted out another ISP who used Aussie call centers. If they exist!
I did hear though that Telstra, like many other companies have call centers here still, as well as overseas and you can ask to be put through to an Aussie call center if you prefer or have a problem with language.


I fume when I am on hold on a mobile, especially with PAYG ripoff costs for 1300 numbers. When I finally get a human I immediately state I am on a mobile and would they ring me back straight away. I have not had a refusal yet. The better agents will volunteer to do that when you advise you are on a mobile.


Looks as if mobiles are the go to solution for many problems. When your NBN stops working it will be the only way you can call for help or service! It could as suggested be a very expensive call.

One aspect of the NBN that needs more prominence is the change to or loss of customer service guarantee. I recently revised my broadband plan and was informed I needed to wave my rights to quality of service and repair times. The federal government required these to be assured for the old copper line services. There was also an attached entitlement ot compensation under the old system. I was told I needed to waiver this as we all now have mobiles hence no reliance on the NBN service. The ISP would not update my service if I did not agree to the waver. IE The ISP said they had no control over their ability to supply the service - fixed or hardware connection. This part belongs to the NBN Co with whom we don’t have a contract! Any update or comments? Has the federal government found a way around consumer law?


There is actually a topic on the CSG in this site the link is:


I hear you, mark.mlmaths.

My 84 year old father’s NBN story is turning into a 10-episode series complete with bloopers. I won’t go into all the details however after multiple calls, technicians turning up at random times (none of which coincided with appointment times I was given) etc etc he finally has a functioning telephone - rather critical for a person his age. However despite my requests he was given a (small) standard handset which has small buttons and display that he can’t see very well.

Have bought him another handset which I’m hoping I can install for him when I next visit (this is a 2.5 hour round trip).

Aside from anything else, is it too much to ask that the service provider (in this case, Telstra) applies some basic common sense and automatically offers anyone over say 70 a handset suitable for the hearing and visually impaired? After all, they have his date of birth, and given it’s in 1933 it would seem reasonable to assume he needs it!!


I know quite a few seniors, into their 90’s who would be offended if anyone made an assumption about what they could not do. Most of them have smart phones and use them for more than myself, a comparative youngster.

OTOH, giving them a choice up front is the way to go.


Thought I was a little hasty in my wording there! Quite agree a choice would be appropriate- although I know of at least one senior who’d enjoy giving a bit of a razzing to some of these ‘service’ providers :slight_smile:


All forms of NBN (FTTP and satellite) and all forms of the fraudband (FTTN, HFC, etc) include VoIP. And if someone has only a landline phone service (PSTN) they will be forced to have NBN when their copper wires are disconnected at the local exchange at the end of the eighteen (18) month period in their area for “change-over to NBN”.
We have an elderly relative with a landline service, no internet connection, and who, despite repeated efforts, has no ability/talent for using a mobile phone. And she is on the Telstra priority assistance register because she needs the phone to be reliable in case of another anaphylactic shock episode (also has an epi pen).
All the family is worried as work for node cabinets is appearing in her area and the federal government talk of “doing something” in 2020 about replacing the guarantee of service for phone communications with something that applies to NBN communications will be far too late.


Telstra at this time with still have responsibility for Priority Assistance (which really only says that a fault will be repaired within 24 hours), it is no guarantee that service will be uninterrupted even on a PSTN service. Optus are currently pulling out of their PA type system.

From the NBN Co site ( "Telstra is required by the Australian Government to offer priority assistance services to people with a life-threatening medical condition. However, other phone or internet providers may also offer priority assistance (or similar arrangements) to their customers. More information is available from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

nbn has committed to support providers who give priority assistance services to customers with diagnosed life-threatening medical conditions. We will aim to provide the same connection and fault rectification times that customers registered for priority assistance currently receive."

Of course FTTN has the issue of power failure in your area, and as part of all Node installs they do now have Backup Batteries in them. So you can arrange some sort of Power backup in your relative’s home that will enable the use of their phone as long as the Node’s batteries last. This time of power at the Node is NOT guaranteed by NBN Co. and why they also insist on a mobile phone being available for emergencies.

Of what maybe of interest to you is that some newer DECT type phones have some backup power that allows them to work in the event of a power failure and then you would only need to find a power backup solution for the modem rather than for both the phone and the modem.

For your perusal:

on the above tick the “Operates during power outage” box to list the phones that work in a blackout.

NBN attached equipment

FTTN nodes which don’t have their own battery backup will cause the service to fail during a power outage.
FTTN nodes which have their own battery backup will keep working during a power outage, for as long as the battery lasts.
=> but NBN Co won’t tell you which FTTN node cabinet your old copper wires are connected to, so don’t hold out much chance of them telling you if it is a node cabinet with its own battery backup.

I haven’t read anywhere yet who is responsible for maintaining the backup batteries in the node cabinets which have them; nor what the maintenance schedule is like.

Obviously if you are fortunate enough to be connected to an FTTN node cabinet which has a backup battery (a properly maintained backup battery), you will still need your own backup power system for the modem in your home/office that your handset is connected to for VoIP service.


Our old Uniden WDECT 2345 base station has a corded handset built into it that works without power - which is why we bought it.
But as you have pointed out in these days of VoIP we need power for the ‘modem’ that the Uniden WDECT 2345 base station is plugged into.


No point in NBN Co or a reseller “insisting” that a person also have a mobile phone to use at home in case of emergencies when the sole person in that home “has no ability/talent for using a mobile phone”
hence the relevance of this point to “NBN installation and the elderly”


A twist on the NBN changeover from fixed phones. Telstra providing a service you did no ask for?

My nearly 90yrs young mum in law’s Telstra fixed phone started telling incoming callers this service is being disconnected instead of going straight through to her phone. She gets a similar message when she tried to call out. So she stopped using it. Still another 6 months left on copper before the NBN old phone drop dead date - no pun intended.

With some outside help she now has this messaging that she never requested from Telstra turned off - however it was not a simple phone call and two second request to process.