‘I was fuming’: The service worse than NBN
MARK Roberts' broadband internet is so bad, he couldn't believe it when he was told he had fibre optic cable that connects directly to his home - the best set-up possible.
As one of the thousands of residents living in the new housing estate Banksia Grove near Perth, Mr Robert has a broadband connection that many Australians would kill for: Fibre-to-the-Premises.
But far from enjoying a fast, reliable connection, Mr Robert has instead been plagued with excruciatingly slow speeds and dropouts. And his issues have nothing to do with the NBN.
Mr Roberts' home is one of many that are being connected via private contractors like LBNCo, which are paid by developers to install fibre optic cables in new apartments and estates like Banksia Grove.
A spokesman for Banksia Grove Management told news.com.au that NBN was not available in the area at the time they were building and they decided against installing ADSL through Telstra partly because they thought broadband technology would be better.
"What we've got is a system that's second to none - it's probably a lot better than NBN as it's fibre optic to the home," he said. "All we get is praise from residents about how good it is."
But there is one issue that stops LBNCo users from fully benefiting from their superior connection: the lack of retail service providers.
Unlike the NBN, which has dozens of companies like Telstra, Optus and iiNet offering contracts to customers, LBNCo currently only has 13 providers and they don't include any of the major telcos. Instead residents chose from companies like FuzeNet, Exetel, Active Utilities and Leaptel.
Mr Roberts signed up for a $60-a-month contract with AusBBS that would give him speeds of up to 50 megabits per second.
But he told news.com.au that he has had numerous issues since he moved into his new home in December last year and has struggled to get these resolved.
It took more than three months to get his broadband set up and then another six months to figure out his router was causing continual dropouts.
While the connection has since improved, in the afternoons and on weekends he still struggles to get fast speeds.
"One Sunday I couldn't watch Netflix during my day off or use internet at all because my speed was lower than 5Mbps," he said.
"I have had no internet for pretty much an entire weekend - I was getting around 2Mbps. Where the hell is the rest of the 48Mbps?" he said.
Mr Roberts was shocked to hear he had fibre-to-the-premises as the issues he was experiencing were so bad.
"I wish it were fibre to the house, that would be fantastic, but it doesn't seem like that at the moment," he said.
"On weekends I'm lucky to get anywhere near 15Mpbs, sometimes we can't even watch Netflix - we can't even use one device in our home."
'PRETTY MUCH SCREWED'
The lack of competition on the LBNCo network has created a significant downside for customers, even though they have access to one of the most advanced technologies on the market.
Mr Roberts said he felt like he was "pretty much screwed" due to the lack of choice and has struggled to report his issues to AusBBS and get them resolved.
"I tried calling them Sunday but didn't hear back until about eight days later," Mr Roberts said.
"I was fuming when I didn't even get a single phone call a week after I made the original complaint."
Mr Roberts is not alone, with many people complaining on Facebook about waiting for days for a response from AusBBS.
Unhappy customers have few options and fear other providers will be even worse.
"When I have a look at other providers, no one's happy," Mr Roberts said. "Everyone has got the same amount of negative messages, so I've got nowhere to go.
"It's a kick in the guts when you don't have a choice really, and it's quite frustrating."
It's also unlikely Mr Roberts will be able to switch to NBN, as Banksia Grove's spokesman believes LBNCo owns the fibre and has exclusive use of it.
LBNCo chief commercial officer Rowan Morrison said the approximately 4000 homes at Banksia Grove had a superfast connection and Mr Roberts shouldn't be experiencing the same issues plaguing the NBN, which has seen ompanies such as Telstra, Singtel Optus and TGP Telecom compensate customers who were misled about the maximum speed they could achieve.
Mr Morrison said the capacity provided for Banskia Grove customers was sufficient and while speeds could be slowed during peak times if AusBBS did not purchase enough bandwidth, Mr Morrison said he didn't think this was the case.
"The LBNCo and the RSP (AusBBS) have more than enough capacity so customers aren't being contended in peak," he said.
"We are not getting complaints about speed in Banksia Grove, if there was an issue, every customer would be effected. This indicates to me it would appear to be a single user issue."
Mr Morrison said LBNCo had not received any request from AusBBS to look into issues at Mr Robert's home and no other outages or problems in the area had been received.
As for the lack of competition, Mr Morrison acknowledged there was only a small number of retail service providers selling products on LBNCo's network but couldn't do anything about this.
"We would welcome any RSP with open arms and what we would greatly desire is for companies like Optus and Telstra to sell services on our network, but they are choosing not to do so," he told news.com.au.
He doesn't know why - "you would think a customer is a customer" - but suggests they may not see the financial benefits of connecting to the smaller LBNCo network.
A spokeswoman from Optus said it did not offer services with non-NBN providers due to "commercial reasons".
Telstra said: "Our aim is to provide our broadband customers with a great network experience. We are doing this by focusing our attention on products offered over the NBN network and our existing copper and HFC networks".
A spokesman for AusBBS told news.com.au the company had given Mr Roberts a range of options and was waiting for his feedback.
"We are not able to disclose or discuss a customer's account without their consent, however can ensure that we go over and above to resolve customer complaints," he said.
"It's not always straightforward given we're working with a number of variables, including one or more infrastructure providers, various modems and other environmental factors.
"We understand that this process sometimes doesn't feel fast enough, however, we are dealing with a complex network set-up.
"Whenever there is a fault on our end, we work with the customer to resolve this immediately. In some cases, we will compensate the customer for speed issues based on the speed experienced versus speed purchased."
The spokesman also noted that customers are not locked into contracts, which means they can switch to another provider if AusBBS is not able to resolve the issue.
When asked whether it had received other complaints about LBNCo and AusBBS, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission said it did not comment on potential investigations or complaints received.
"The ACCC urges consumers to make any complaints they have about the performance of the broadband service to their internet service provider. If they do not receive a satisfactory response, they should consider submitting a complaint to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO)."
Have you had issues with your private broadband connection? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @charischang2