The chief executive of the company building Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) has conceded “with regret” that complaints about the rollout are at “a high volume”.
NBN Co on Tuesday released its full-year results for the 2017 fiscal year, and the publicly owned company said the network now reached 5.7 million homes and business nationwide.
In the 12 months to June 30, the company’s chief executive Bill Morrow said NBN Co had doubled the number of premises ready for service.
But Mr Morrow said the number of customer complaints that had accompanied the rollout remained too high.
“Unfortunately there are about 10 to 20 per cent of people that do not have the kind of experience we want them to have,” he said.
“We probably are three to six months away from having it completely fixed, but this is important to us and we will get it sorted.
“People want it very fast, and when they put in the order they expect it to be delivered on time.
“They expect when they stay home from work someone is going to show up and actually install it right that first time.
“For 10 to 20 per cent of those people that hasn’t happened. We need to fix that, and we will.”
While the Australian government remains NBN Co’s sole shareholder, the company faces pressure to eventually make enough money to start repaying the cost of building the network in the first place.
Mr Morrow said NBN Co was on track to eventually make a financial return.
When asked whether it would need ongoing financial support from the budget, he said it was spending within its means.
“We think all of this is going to come together. As it was originally conceived, it should be OK,” he said.
“We will stay within the $49 billion peak funding envelope, and we will produce the internal rate of return that the government is expecting us to.”
But independent adviser Paul Budde said the model would not work in the long term, and it was already showing signs of strain.
“I think the business model will have to change – there is no other way around it – because it is absolutely unaffordable at the moment to turn it into a commercial success,” he said.
“Look around the world, there is no commercial organisation that is building a national broadband network based on commercial terms.
“The countries that have national broadband networks have done that with heavily subsidised government funding.”
‘We all pay taxes, so shouldn’t we have decent internet?’
Consumer advocacy organisation Choice have been surveying Australians about internet speeds.
Their spokesman Tom Godfrey said many consumers felt that they were not getting the NBN promised to them.
“One of the biggest challenges is you get quoted theoretical speeds, so you think you’re going to sign up and get great internet speeds, but in actual fact you sign up and the speeds you’re getting aren’t that great,” he said.
In the last financial year, the Telecommunications Ombudsman saw customer complaints about slow data speeds and dropouts increase by 148 per cent.
Will, a student at the University of Technology Sydney, said his NBN connection had not lived up to his expectations.
“Roughly around business hours it’s 42 megabytes per second, however when it gets to about 12 o’clock or 1, it basically drops down to about 15,” he said.
“Just overall video quality decreases, and it just takes ages to load things.
“I just think, what’s our taxpayer money going to? We all pay taxes, we all should have good internet, shouldn’t we?”
Coffs Harbour retiree Pauline said the NBN package she purchased through Telstra was underwhelming.
“Our experience has been that the speed is not as fast as I expect it to be – it’s not a lot faster than ADSL, so it’s not what they promised,” she said.
British student Jordan, who is currently studying in Sydney, said Australian internet speeds were not what he had expected.
“It’s ridiculous, Australia is one of the top Western countries, but there are countries like Mexico that have a higher speed internet connection,” he said.