CHOICE membership

NBN installation and the elderly


Did you pass these, I will call them frustrations, onto the TIO and ACCC? They need more of this feedback so that these faults are highlighted in any reviewing of services they do.

It just isn’t good enough that these things are occurring, it’s not like these businesses are so backward they can’t get it right (well they tell us they are great so they should be held to that standard).


Grahroll - good advice. I’m not sure they will accept my version it is not all first hand.

Telstra advised my sister-in-law that they will only turn the message off on the direct authority of the customer. This can be done in store with enough ID points or over the phone by the customer. So we have a 90yr old speaking over the phone and going through the ID and confirmation process. I gather this included Telstra setting out to confirm my mother-in-law understands that her phone service is imminently to be turned off as part of the NBN roll out (Oct this year more correctly). Part way through the call while trying to hear and comprehend (hearing aid user) she ran out of patience and hung up on Telstra without completing the full contact procedure.

There is an overwhelming need for every thing (for the phone) to stay just as it always has been. It will not change shape, key layout, or move location in the room. And importantly it will always just work, even in a blackout and with out any need to check coloured lights on a modem (that she cannot see clearly due to vision impairment).

To Telstra’s credit the recorded disrupting message has been turned off irrespective of Telstra completing the customer acknowledgements. Bonus deserved for the service person on the other end. Another polite Telstra in store rep also advised us not to panic about the change over to the NBN, that we could leave it until near to the end of the switching period. Also that the phone only option does not need to be on a long term contract, it can be month to month. Some things can change when you are 90!

From previous discussions with Telstra and from some of the Choice on line topics we know that there is a phone only option that will deliver 90% of an outcome. Even if Telstra were to give her a mobile “free” for the other times I doubt she would ever be able to use it unless the key pad was the size of an old Telstra wall phone. And like many older persons assigning a second authority to a family member is akin to saying you might as well be dead because you cannot mange your own affairs. We have only just now achieved this!

It would be great if Telstra were to provide a modem with a built in backup battery, mobile sim fall over and large LED panel to the old and all of those with a degree of disability at the standard current phone rate. I wonder how the fully vision impaired manage? Some phones talk back to you with with each key press.

Choice is welcome to take these points to the TIO, ACCC, and respective Federal Ministers for Communications and also the Aged. Perhaps if the TIO and ACCC would like to visit my mother-in-law she could assist them to fill out a form. I live in a different state, and was visiting when this all started. I can’t relate all of this first hand.

I’d suggest that the Nbn Co and Telstra etc preference and market to the 80% of us who want and can cope with the changes. I wait apprehensively for the next change with commercial TV dropping free to air for streaming only services and the phone calls to say the “Bold and the Beautiful” has disappeared.

For us some very fundamental issues are raised here.
How should business and government deal with consumers who have different needs due to age or conditions?

Should it include special consideration of how they market or present products, how they communicate with those groups and how they deliver and support those services?

And as I suggested may also require special products that have little mainstream appeal. Not enough is done currently?

Telstra etc have our dates of birth for ID purposes. Many of the older in our country have different life experiences and perceptions, to those in the younger generations to whom lack of change/challenge is akin to boredom. It’s not evident that these differences are universally understood or respected at corporate level, although there are numerous examples of customer service staff who will try their best despite having one hand behind their back.


The problem really began when dearest Malcolm sprang his diabolical MTM on us. ex PM Rudd’s plan was superior for many reasons not least this issue for your Mother in Law. Obviously you know the differences but the FTTP supplied a phone service that could as part of fitting in the premises be battery backed up at no cost, if there was a certified need, from the onset eg medical, age, disability. If you got one of the other two types of service, Satellite or Fixed Wifi, you could keep your copper based phone service or a household could choose to pay a bit extra to have it installed if they didn’t meet the criteria for the free fitting.

The MTM was a bungled mess with the LNP lurching from one disaster to the next as they told us what this ship wreck would do. At the onset the battery back up issue was highlighted for FTTN, HFC, FTTB (Fibre to the Basement) and also when FTTC was hatched. This was not properly addressed and has still not had a fit for purpose and/or adequate fix put in place.

Certainly your Mother in Law can get a system that will approach what she has now with her copper line with what the FTTN will do but it needs at least one fix that will need to be paid for by her or family. This is putting in place battery backup and that could mean one or two UPS systems depending on if she gets a phone that has built in battery backup or not as the modem will certainly need it. But my question for the Federal Government is why are they not doing it in these cases were needs for operating telephone systems are known.

In writing or emailing to the TIO, ACCC, and APRA just get your Mother in Law to send you a letter stating that you are contacting them on her behalf. Attach a certified copy to each submission, the letter can mention all 3 agencies so saves having to have a letter for each one.


On topic but slightly different is the installation and setup procedure. I live in a country town and the standard NBN connection procedure here is to have a modem delivered and you do it yourself. This is both Telstra and iinet, the two I am familiar with.
Plugging it in and getting an internet connection is fairly easy, but getting your voip phone to work is NOT. I have helped 4 or 5 people (not all elderly) to do it, and having to get them to find that email among 10 or 11 they got which has their netphone details and password to enter is usually the first hurdle. How were they supposed to know they needed a password for a phone? Let alone navigate through the modem setup to get connected. Sure, the support people were generally friendly, but why on earth should getting your phone connection BACK take a long wait and a complicated set of instructions?
Then there is the whole “where will the phone be”. Issue mentioned previously which is quite critical for some of the older ones.
This should have been better thought out when they decided the landlines were being phased out.


There is evidence they thought about the ongoing trends in the reduction in landlines and the increase in mobiles in the capital cities and similar metro areas where governments are elected or turfed out. ‘West of the Blue Mountains? Fake news!’

The elderly and the technologically challenged come under the heading of acceptable collateral damage as I see government ‘thinking about’ it. It was not as if the problem was not put up.


Well I also think that when Mr Turnbull proposed the MTM NBN it was a knee jerk reaction to the Rudd NBN. Under Rudd’s plan if you had FTTP there was the option and an easy option to get battery back up as part of the package, if you had fixed Wireless or Satellite you had a hard promise you could keep your copper line.

Mr Turnbull’s copied that part and didn’t think about how to do it for FTTN & HFC. This resulted in the heavy majority of ex FTTP now other ways of connecting consumers being left with what we have now, an unsatisfactory outcome. As they started to build the FTTN & HFC network they were told about this power issue so in many Nodes batteries were installed but still it doesn’t address power outages at home or at Micro Nodes (they are small units with no battery backup). FTTC came along and removes the need for batteries at the Node (saves the Govt money) but still requires power at the home to feed the DPu unit in the pit.

So unlike the old telephone system where the supplier provided both the connection AND power, now the onus is on the home owner to come up with expensive and novel ways to keep power on what is an Essential Service, just imagine our Urban water supplier saying “Yes we have your water in the pipelines but you must supply the pump and power to pump it out and we will charge you for that privilege”.


I am looking forward to getting rid of the poorly thought out, slow, expensive MTM; and returning to the original plan of 97% FTTP and 3% satellite.

And then people who need battery backup for FTTP can have it within their own premises.



Great to be forewarned.

The situation you describe suggests we need to know more. So if you go phone only?

I have quite a few neighbours who either have no internet service or are oblivious to the fact that the Foxtel etc service they have is tied to an ISP and a user ID. Telstra does well on ignorance?

A self install will rely on them getting support over the phone (mobile service if they have one) and the nice person at the other end in India or the Phillippines etc being able to give them the necessary ID & PW over the phone. What if your friendly neighbour is going phone only, has no PC or internet etc? There is no way they could self install?


I’m not sure how it would work with phone only, but I assume you would need a mobile phone to get the instructions. The most recent Telstra connections here seem to have come with a technician in tow, so maybe they are more aware of the issue now.
But honestly, I am pleased to be able to get enough bandwidth to run a business at last (when the power is still on). I feel like a starving person given dry bread. It fixes the hunger but satisfaction is still low.


Will never happen as the cost for FTTP was/still is prohibitive. The MTM was adopted as it is cheaper than FTTP as it uses in part existing installed infrastructure. There is readily available information that indicates that the FTTP as per the original plan would have cost in the order of $74B, while the MTM will cost between $46-54B (potential saving of $20-28B). The savings are significant numbers especially when the interest alone (based on today’s bond coupon rate) would be about $650 million (note: this interest rate does not include the pay down of the NBN debt).

From some reports, the NBN in either forms (FTTP/MTM) would never be profitable and would be a burden on current and future taxpayers. The more expensive the government’s solution, the higher the future financial burden. The higher the burden, it means more taxpayer’s (or future borrowed) monies paying for the broadband infrastructure which could be spent on other important social policies (education, health, road/rail infrastructure etc).

To give an idea of the cost of retrofitting FTTP in a MTM environment, this recent news article indicates that a couple in Victoria was quoted between $800K-1.2M for about a 100m connection. While this is possible not representative of all connection costs, it gives an idea of the scale of the cost burden to future generations should there be a policy change.


And therein lies THE central evil in neocon mantra. It’s all about money, all about profits, all about balance sheets. It’s never about vision, about nation-building, about trans-generational public good. It’s always about expense, never about investment.

I loathe such blinkered antisocial narrow-minded philosophies. Cliched though it is, i shall repeat it; had that thinking prevailed in earlier generations, there’d never have been harbour bridges, snowy hydros, railways, space industries, trans-ocean subsea cables, public education yada yada.

Fraudband is a gigantic opportunity lost. Bugger genuine population decentralisation, bugger viable remote eHealth, eBusiness, eEducation et al. High UL as well as DL speeds, with reliable low latency, all days & nights, largely geography-blind, would have facilitated that. Instead, we have fraudband, all for shortterm political warmongering. It sickens me.


I suppose we could all wish the government could print more money to pay for the NBN, without incurring any additional debt. Unfortunately money does not grow on trees and as a taxpayer, I would like to see investment in things which don’t burden future generations (namely, give a return on investment). Usually government decisions in relation to infrastructure projects are based on a return on the investment (productivity, financial, environmental etc) …it has been a principle of such decisions since federation.

I would prefer the government make good decisions like those which provide a return on the investment, rather than those which we will all pay for and reduce funds to other social and government services. Would I like the FTTP over funding to health so I can have a heart operation to prolong my life. I know what I would chose.

The term ‘National Building’ is catchy spin by line developed to make the cost sound more palatable.


Where & when did i state / claim / assert that tosh?

Stop wasting money on fossil fool subsidies, military spending, school chaplains, private school subsidies, negative gearing, capital gains tax exemptions, corporate tax dodging, et al. Spend the money on wide public good, incl. public education, public hospitals, GPs, public transport, non-fraudband nbn…

It ain’t rocket-science. Just requires prioritising people & environment not companies. Just requires realising that it’s a country not just a ledger-book.


Has it? The railway went through my district in 1915 on the way from Sydney to the north coast, was it costed out and was the decision made only after it proved to have a positive ROI? I don’t know.

Are there any historians out there who can tell us the financial basis of government funding of such major infrastructure projects in the past? What about the phone system back when it was the PMG (Postmaster General)? Did they check if it would ever break even or just do it because it had to happen.

My feeling (and it is only that) is that back in the days of nation building leaders were much more likely to take the attitude of build it and they will come, or we can’t afford to be left behind the rest of the world so we better do it. I would really like to see some solid data about this if it exists.


As an older person surrounded by even older people I just want a black box I can plug into the wall that works. One that is a single box that is all in one the NBN end of line unit, the modem and the VOIP phone all self setting and remotely managed with an idiot proof fall over so I can call out to support any time and tell them to fix it. The old IiNet BoB’s came closest but still had set up issues. At least Westnet offered remote configuration.

It’s not because I can’t handle more complex technology. It’s that my partner and my sister-in-law and mum have neither the life experiences nor desire to accept one more complication to life. Anyone who has driven a really old car with manual ignition and spark advance etc will know how easy modern cars are to start, stop and drive in comparison. But the telephone is going the other way. Is the modem on? Is the line active? Is there a sync light? What does the orange light mean? Do you have another hand set you might try? If it’s not a line fault the service call will cost you $200!

Where are consumer rights in all this? It appears some of our rights are only likely to be preserved if we have a five year degree and license as a communications and cable technician? While the “millennial” will vote with their feet us older customers may just roll,over and die. Perhaps that’s what the NBN Co and LNP is hoping will save them.

On economic rational of the NBN owning a motor vehicle would also not be financially justifiable when compared to using only public transport.

On the same basis all main roads should be tolled directly to the vehicle using them and all hospitals must be fully funded by the user.

As a result personal income tax can then be less even for the well off.

There is such a system or a close facimile to it. It’s called the USofA.

The value of our NBN is not as a profit centre. The PMG and the state railways at best met operating costs. However if we had not built the railways or the phone network what then? Would most of us still be living like our fore bares in primitive huts subserveant to fudeal overlords? At least we would have no need to worry about the NBN!


I can sympathise with you. Traditionally technological development has been an improvement over what has existed in the past. This many not continue into the future and you are right in saying that the NBN is far more complicated to a technophobe than the old land line…which worked generally 24/7. With the NBN not blackout proof, one is expected to either install a costly, frequently replaced battery or also have a mobile…why have a NBN connection if one does not use the internet and has a phone that is potentially less reliable. Maybe one should ditch the NBN and just rely on a mobile?[quote=“mark.mlmaths, post:55, topic:14271”]
The value of our NBN is not as a profit centre.

The aim of the ALP and subsequentky the LNP was for the government to develop the NBN, as it would have been capital cost prohibitive for the private sector to do so and then would privatise/private company it (or part of it). This would occur after it was built and shown to be profitable. In reality, profitability/ROI is unlikely to ever occur.

The premise of the NBN was to be profitable and it something we all need. I am yet to be convinced that it is something we all need and there will not be other cheaper satisfactory alternatives in the future. I might be proven wrong or will it be a video or CD…short life technology which will be used for entertainment rather than overall productivity/prosperity.

As the NBN was initially set up to be commercial, this is the business model it should be asessed up on.

Roads, rail etc may not realise a direct profit, but the productivity improvements and savings as a result of this improvement can override what can be seen as costs. Most infrastructure falls into the improved productivity shoe…e.g. if a new road saved each user 15 minutes per day, and there are 30,000 who benefit, the daily productivity benefit would be 7500 hours. At an labour hourly rate of say $20 (for easy calculation), this would be a net daily benefit to the community of around $150 000 per day. Add in reduced vehicle running costs and also potentially reduced accidents, the dollar benefit can be enormous even though there is no direct financial return on the road.

The NBN will provide some productivity returns, but these still will not be covered by the capital and running costs. The government rather than saying it will be a financial proposition at its commencement should have been honest saying it will be a liability. Then the community as a whole could decide, through their vote, whether they support the NBN at potentially the expense of other services or infrastructure development. This never occurred as we were told more or less to trust the government.


It wasn’t 100 m it was 7 km running fibre to a single premises.

To add to the discussion

All new estates are required to be fitted with Fibre regardless of where they are, FTTN is being replaced by FTTC were contracts have not already been in place. HFC is getting similar treatment ie FTTC for new work not yet contracted.

With FTTC the fibre will be run within 120 m of your property and costs about $2,100 per house (roughly what the NBN says the FTTN costs at around $2,200 per house). It could be 10 m as it depends on the pit placements. In NZ they fit Fibre to the premises for around AU$2,500 per house and yes that is a smaller land mass but if we then take the US it is around AU$2,000 per premises with a similar land mass to ours. NBN also says it costs $2,504 to connect an new estate house with fibre to the NBN. Why can’t this fibre connection then be run as fibre all the way to nearly every house.

Yet our NBN quoted cost is $4,400 per house which uses some rather strawhouse statistics ie that our population is 3 people per sq km…well yes it is if you take into account our largely uninhabited desert and northern regions, like someone is going to run cable over every metre of Australia (that’s just laughable), while in reality most people live within much more dense concentrations ie Towns & Cities and alongside accessible and nationwide thoroughfares eg Highways & Main Roads.

The $74 Billion trotted out by some Govt and NBN people is based on that $4,400 per house so let’s assume that it costs $3,000 (worst case) and instead that $74 Billion becomes $50 Billion and at the NZ costing it would be $42 Billion and if we take the similar land mass USA and apply their costing we have $33 Billion. The costs also continue to fall for Fibre as more efficiencies come into play because of Worldwide except Australia and some other 3rd World Countries uptake of it.

I also add that the real cost in Australia seems to be much lower with the then Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare in 2016 quoting from a leaked NBN document that said about a thinner fibre cable they were deploying “The trials found the thinner cables lowered the cost of fibre deployment by half, from around $1200 to $600, due to their ability to more easily go down ducts and therefore avoid civil works” …ok so not $4,400 not $2,500 but $1,200 if using the normal green cable or even $600 if using the thinner cable.

Then we also have the necessary remediation of all that failing copper to add to the cost of the MTM which are expected to be in the range of $26,000 per node (around $641 million in total) by 2019/2020 and then perhaps a decade later and each 10 years onward another complete refurbishment.

To add to all this Telstra and a number of other Telcos are laying their own Fibre networks to run in competition with the NBN and are doing it around Australia including new estates (which has been discussed previously such as Telstra’s domestic Velocity fibre service). The reality is that the NBN cost is not as cheap as it could be to connect to, it’s costs are inflated for the provision of fibre, and it is quickly becoming something they couldn’t sell even if they wanted to as other providers provide the fibre users demand.


Maybe our prices reflect a Straya tax, or maybe they bought all our fibre from Hardly Normal ?


None of the above?

And the NBN still can’t deliver a simple straight forward reliable outcome to anyone who needs a phone only at low cost.

Telstra will no doubt suggest otherwise! It’s solution still uses a modem that needs home owner knowledge and management along with the owner supply of a third device for battery backup.

Why the NBN Co is spending so much to provide a third world outcome is only of interest to the older ones amongst when we start paying for the NBN phone bill?

On why the costs appear so high relative to elsewhere our nation has a history of protective business structures and tiered distributorships. Ask Gerry Hervey if you need to know more.

For the NBN it probably also has much to do with the way the NBN Co has structured it’s delivery contracts. Between the head of NBN Co and the guy who screwed the NBN box on your house are multiple levels of management, contractors and sub-contractors. This is not unique to the NBN delivery. It’s characteristic of how we do business in Australia when we have large projects that also span a vast footprint.

Technology choices aside the NBN Co’s Implementation strategy is also open to criticism. As others have pointed out previously the NBN outcomes owe much to politically driven directions. How much more effective and less expensive it might have been given better thinking we can only speculate for now.

The task of fixing the backbone linking all the exchanges and key infrastructure around the nation could have been seen a single task and retained in public ownership like the national highways.

Delivery of the NBN to the major cities and centres could have been one objective with tight cost controls and strong profit outcomes. The delivery in regional areas could have been faciliatated more directly at each community level with direct consultation, an agreed Federal Govt minimum subsidy and option to top up based on either community funding or a strong business case supporting more govt funding. Each local exchange has a unique footprint and differing customer needs for broadband. Up to half my neighbours don’t even use email! They’d rather see the potholes fixed and Tele marketing banned.

We now have the one size NBN fits all outcome. It has likely made poor use of capital in major urban centres while many lesser regional areas are still on the waiting list!


On a positive note the NBN has finally arrived for our/my soon to be 90 mother in law.

A phone only option with Telstra. The install tech actually turned up per the agreed day and time, and with a little help from another family member success. The old Telstra dumb phone works fine, with no issues over the first few weeks of the new set up. It was lucky there was a spare power point near the phone for the FTTN service. The house is early 50’s.

There was an issue with getting the service to function which the install tech sorted. Even he had to go thru the automated voice recording system and get passed around after sitting on hold. It’s reassuring in one way to know that Telstra/NBN Co treats us all equally.