Confusion continues as small businesses struggle with NBN switch

Darren Williams, Peter Lynch, Dean Farrow and Teresa Ooi at Big Splash Media are among six members of staff using one phone and without the internet due to delays in getting connected to the NBN. Photo: Brook_Mitchell
Darren Williams, Peter Lynch, Dean Farrow and Teresa Ooi at Big Splash Media are among six members of staff using one phone and without the internet due to delays in getting connected to the NBN. Photo: Brook_Mitchell

A Sydney-based small business has been left sharing one phone among six staff members after struggling to get connected to the national broadband network.

Big Splash Media managing director Peter Lynch's small multimedia business is currently without internet or a landline, leaving staff to rely on a neighbouring business' Wi-Fi connection, amid confusion about who is responsible for the delay. 

He shifted his company into its new Pitt Street offices on November 17, but has been unsuccessfully trying to line up his NBN connection for weeks in preparation for the move.

The temporary solution provided by Telstra was a pre-paid handset, where landline calls would be redirected. This phone is now being shared by his staff.

"We would be losing a lot of money if we weren't being helped out [by our neighbour]," he said.

"Nobody at Telstra or the NBN is taking any notice of the fact that this severely impacts businesses like mine."

Big Splash has dealt with three different Telstra complaints managers and is unsure whether the issue is with the NBN or Telstra, and when it will be rectified.

"Nobody at Telstra or the NBN is taking any notice of the fact that this severely impacts businesses like mine."

Big Splash Media managing director Peter Lynch

An NBN spokeswoman said it had not received an application for Mr Lynch's Pitt Street address.

A Telstra spokesman told Fairfax Media he spoke to Mr Lynch's office on Thursday to apologise.

"Unfortunately there was an issue in processing the order on our end that prevented the service from moving," he said.

"We have raised a new order to get the customer connected as soon as possible.

"We have also arranged for their phone lines to be diverted to a mobile and will pass on a credit for data used on a wireless broadband device while they are without an internet connection."

In the past financial year there were 27,000 complaints made to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman – a 79 per cent increase on the year before. 

About 11,000 complaints related to delays in connection.

While a jump in complaints was expected due to more people moving onto the NBN, the increase was bigger than anticipated.

And it seems part of the problem is confusion over who is responsible when issues arise, with consumers sometimes believing they should go directly to the NBN.

NBN Co chief Bill Morrow recently expressed concerns about customer confusion, saying some incorrectly believed the NBN was their direct provider.

When Jilly Clout was left with no connection for a week in November at her Mosman home, from which she runs a communications company, she had "no idea whether it's Telstra or NBN" at fault.

An NBN spokeswoman said in the first instance, consumers should always direct complaints to their retailer, which could then log a fault with the NBN to be checked as required.

In Ms Clout's case, an NBN technician fixed a fault on the line, and a Telstra worker then fixed her modem, as anything inside the home is outside the NBN's remit.

A Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman spokeswoman said residential consumers and small businesses should try to resolve their complaints with their phone or internet provider first, and take them to the ombudsman if they remained unresolved.

A spokesman for the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network said it was "particularly concerned for small businesses who rely on connectivity and even short periods without services can be very costly to their businesses".

The story, One phone between six people: Confusion as small businesses struggle with NBN switch, first appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald.