NBN Co scrambles to connect as copper cut-off nears

With NBN’s D-day set to take place in 15 communities across the nation on May 23, the race is on to ensure no home is left behind.

NBN Co is scrambling to get up to 750 homes and businesses to sign up to the National Broadband Network so they are not cut off from fixed-line services when the first mass disconnection of Telstra’s 100-year-old copper lines starts in less than three weeks.

The Australian has confirmed that of the 19,000 premises in areas that have had an active copper line and will be switched over to the NBN on May 23, about 2150 are not yet connected to the NBN.

Of these, about 1400 have orders in the system — which means that 750 premises are left, although some “wireless-only homes” are expected.

The NBN’s D-day will take place in 15 communities across the nation, including Willunga in South Australia, Brunswick in Victoria, Townsville in Queensland and Deloraine in Tasmania, which were among the first areas to get super-fast broadband.

Under the $11 billion deal between Telstra and NBN Co, the telco’s copper lines are to be disconnected 18 months after fibre is deployed to an area, meaning that landline phones and ADSL internet are switched off.

Telstra has been warning customers whose home phones or internet services will be disconnected that they should sign up to an NBN plan.

“We recommend you sign up to an NBN plan well ahead of the disconnection date to avoid the last-minute rush and to avoid any service disruption,’’ the company says on its website.

NBN Co chief operating officer Greg Adcock — himself a 20-year Telstra veteran — said there could be “unknown unknowns” in the disconnection.

Mr Adcock told a Senate committee hearing in Sydney on Monday that there was a ramp-up in doorknocking efforts in the final few weeks leading up to May 23.

There had been a “huge effort” and “we are as confident as we can be going forward’’, he said.

Under the “managed disconnections” process, people will not be disconnected if they have placed an order by May 23. Those who have not moved to the NBN will be able to call Telstra’s customer service and make emergency calls for a 20-day period.

NBN Co’s head of products and services, John Simon, who is running the disconnection process, told The Australian some people in the community believed that disconnection “was not going to go ahead”.

“It is going to go ahead, this is the beginning,” Mr Simon said.

Sarah Anthony, a mother of two who lives in Willunga, is nervous about the impact of Telstra’s copper network being switched off and connections being moved on to the NBN.

Ms Anthony, who runs a physiotherapy clinic in the main street with husband, Tom, said Telstra had been rigorous in ensuring people knew about the May 23 switchover.

The family and its business will stay with the carrier after signing up for a new service with the NBN. But there was some concern that the clinic’s HICAPS (an electronic health claims and payments service) and Eftpos machines would not work with the changeover, despite assurances from Telstra and HICAPS.

She said there were still people in the town organising to take up a new service on the NBN.

“I think it has made some people quite nervous,” Ms Anthony said.

Telstra said residential customers in Willunga had been contacted up to 20 times, so people were “well-prepared”.

The Australian confirmed the latest figures after evidence at the hearings that “in the vicinity” of 16,500 premises had been connected or placed an order, with a focus on signing up the 2500 premises at risk of being cut off.

Separately, yesterday the chairman of the Coalition’s cost-benefit review of the NBN, former Victorian Treasury official Michael Vertigan, told the Senate committee he would deliver a report in mid-June.

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