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Fix broadband rollout problems of face consequences, NBN and telcos warned -

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LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The NBN was meant to be the nation's next big digital revolution but the rollout has been plagued with tales of tangled wires, slow speeds, and drop-outs.

Frustratingly, consumers often find themselves unable to resolve problems quickly.

There's now a push in Canberra for telcos and NBN Co to fix the customer run around or face financial penalties. James Oaten reports.

JAMES OATEN, REPORTER: Clyde Juriansz is very patient.

How many times have you made this phone call to Optus?


JAMES OATEN: He needs to be because he's getting the run around as he tries to fix his NBN.

OPTUS AUTOMATED PHONE OPERATOR: For a home or business telephone press 3. Did you know that the issue with your service may be resolved by switching your modem off for 30 seconds and then switching it back on?

JAMES OATEN: Clyde's drama began more than two months ago when his internet dropped out.

CLYDE JURIANSZ: Well, the technician came out and he very quickly identified the problem, which I'll show you and you can see quite clearly. He said, "Here it is. Your line has been severed."

JAMES OATEN: The technician thought a garbage truck had probably knocked out the line. After Optus failed to fix the problem, he decided to call NBN Co directly.

So this is what I came home to after about six weeks. At first I was quite excited because I saw that there's a new wire had been established. But then when I came out and saw that the wire had been just wrapped around this utility box.

CLYDE JURIANSZ: So after six weeks of nagging the fix-it job has been a new wire that's been wrapped around your box and the old severed wire is dangling stuck to your wall?

JAMES OATEN: That's exactly right.

It seems like such an obvious fix.

CLYDE JURIANSZ: Yeah. It's fairly simple that this end of the wire here needs to go into that end of the utility box and then we're done.

JAMES OATEN: As the NBN is rolled out to more properties at a faster rate than ever before, the number of complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman or TIO is piling up.

STEPHEN JONES, LABOR MP: In the last six months alone there's been a 54 per cent increase in the number of complaints about internet services to the TIO.

JAMES OATEN: Stephen Jones is a member of the Federal Parliament's NBN Joint Standing Committee and he hears plenty of stories of disgruntled consumers.

STEPHEN JONES: The NBN itself seems to be incapable of dealing with these basic consumer complaints and the continuous handballing, the NBN tennis game between the retail service providers and the NBN itself about who is to blame and how the problem is going to get fixed. The customers are pulling their hair out and they're saying, "We don't care who's fault it is, we want our bloody service."

JAMES OATEN: How are you doing? Henry has been suffering NBN outages for more than eight months.

HENRY DRESYK: Here's the computer.

JAMES OATEN: No internet?

HENRY DRESYK: No. It's been like this for a month. Best part of a month.

JAMES OATEN: Henry got the NBN so he could Skype his grandchildren who live in New Zealand. I suppose it's nice when you're on Skype to see your grandkids?

HENRY DRESYK: They're moving. They're talking. They're reacting like you are to my question, to your question. And you can see all that and that's the beauty about the Skype. It's disappointing Optus don't see this as a problem to send a technician under their control to come out and look at it. They promise you that these things are going to happen. But they fail to deliver.

JAMES OATEN: After waiting for a month, Henry's latest outage was finally fixed yesterday. Optus has offered him compensation and told 7.30 it apologises to Mr Dresyk.

UNA LAWRENCE, COMMS CONSUMER ACTION NETWORK: Our view is that the focus to date has really been on getting the infrastructure rolled out. The consumer safeguards part of it has been kind of slightly pushed to the side, but now NBN is really reaching scale and the impact of the absence of the consumer's safeguards is really starting to be felt.

PHILIPPA PERRY, NBN AUSTRALIA: We don't want there to be a blame game and we don't want customers to get caught in the middle of retail service providers and NBN. That is happening in some instances and it's not acceptable, we need to improve that. We absolutely agree, we need to improve that. We agree.

JAMES OATEN: Clyde has taken his complaint to the industry watchdog.

RECORDED TELEPHONE MESSAGE: Hello. This is Judy Jones. Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

JAMES OATEN: He's still not getting a result and is reaching the end of his tether. OK, so another phone call, another 10 minutes and what did we learn?

CLYDE JURIANSZ: None the wiser really. We'll keep our fingers crossed on this one and hope somebody is going to work out what's going on with this.

JAMES OATEN: Did they give you any confidence that they are aware of the problem and how to fix it?

CLYDE JURIANSZ: No. We don't have any confidence about that. That's part of the reason why I'm talking to you.

STEPHEN JONES: The NBN itself is not a part of the TIO arrangements, they should be. The NBN should be held accountable for the problems that it is itself creating when customers can't get an internet service.

JAMES OATEN: Stephen Jones is now pushing for financial penalties on telcos or NBN Co if they fail to deliver. There's a push to establish clearer lines of responsibility and financial penalties for telcos and NBN Co when they fail to deliver. Is this a fair proposition?

PHILIPPA PERRY, NBN AUSTRALIA: I think as a whole we can improve as an industry. In terms of the specifics about how that happens I'll leave that up to I guess the regulators. The majority of times we are getting it right. We're getting it right first time 9 out of 10 times and the vast majority of people are happy with their service. But given the scale of the rollout at the moment you obviously would be hearing about a number of complaints that are coming to the fore.

JAMES OATEN: Clyde went 72 days without NBN. After 7.30 contacted both Optus and NBN Co, his service was finally restored this morning.

CLYDE JURIANSZ: The internet is access and communication is like a utility, it's like gas, water and power. You need to be connected.