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Thousands Of People Are Complaining About Their NBN Service

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has recorded a 200% increase in complaints about the National Broadband Network.

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The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has revealed thousands of people have complained about the quality of service on the national broadband network (NBN), or have lodged complaints about the installation of the service in their home.

The release of the six-monthly complaint figures from the TIO comes ahead of a speech by outgoing NBN CEO Bill Morrow at the National Press Club on Tuesday.

According to the TIO's report, for the period of July to December last year, there were 22,827 complaints related to the NBN, a 203.9% increase compared to the same period in 2016.

Of these complaints, 14,055 were related to the quality of service on the NBN, and 8,757 complaints were related to the installation of the NBN.

There were 2.4 million people with service on the NBN in July 2017, and this increased to 3.4 million by December 2017.

NBN's chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb said fewer than 1% of people on the NBN have lodged complaints, and that most of those were related to internet service providers, rather than the NBN. He said only 5% of NBN complaints were related to the NBN itself.

"NBN Co acknowledges there is still more work to be done, particularly at this critical stage of the rollout as we balance prioritising customer experience without taking our foot off the construction pedal," he said.

“We have made significant improvements to our processes and systems to minimise complaints."

NBN has been working to try to reduce the number of issues people have both with signing up to the NBN and with the quality of their NBN service.

NBN has also recently been restructuring the pricing plan it sells to internet service providers to make it cheaper to buy more capacity. This is to try to to ensure that there is enough bandwidth for customers during peak periods.

According to NBN's latest consumer experience report, this shift has led to a drop in congestion on the NBN during peak periods.

NBN Co

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been chasing internet service providers who offer speeds on NBN plans they aren't able to deliver.

But NBN still faces issues with the technology choices mandated by the Turnbull government. Only 24% of those users on fibre-to-the-node (FttN) services (where existing phone lines are reused for the NBN) will be able to get 100 megabits-per-second speeds when the network is completed in 2020.

NBN also recently announced that 440,000 homes that were set to get the more inferior FttN or cable connection to the NBN will now get fibre-to-the-kerb. This means they will get higher speeds because more fibre is being used in the connection instead of the copper phone lines.

NBN construction.
Adam Hollingworth for NBN

NBN construction.

In extracts of his speech provided to journalists on Monday afternoon ahead of Tuesday's address, Morrow reveals research comparing the growth of jobs and businesses in areas that have the NBN versus those areas without the NBN.

"In percentage terms, these results are stunning," Morrow will say in his speech. "The number of self-employed women in NBN regions grew at an average 2.3% every year, compared to just 0.1% annual average growth in female entrepreneurs in non-NBN areas.

"If this trend continues, up to 52,200 additional Australian women will be self-employed by the end of the rollout."

According to NBN-commissioned research by strategy advisory company AlphaBeta, the NBN generated an additional $1.2 billion of economic activity in 2017, and by the end of the rollout, this will be $10.4 billion per year. This will represent an extra 0.07% in GDP, AlphaBeta estimated.

Morrow claims that by the end of the NBN rollout, the network will have created an additional 31,000 jobs.

There were a total of 84,914 complaints to the TIO in the six months across broadband, mobile, and other telecommunications services, representing a 28.7% increase in complaints compared to the same time period in 2016.

Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Josh Taylor at josh.taylor@buzzfeed.com.

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