Archive for Damian Ivereigh

23 May copper switchoff deadline will not be postponed

how-to-survive-disconnect-anxiety-humor--6afb296f01

There are some situations where you will be excluded from the disconnection process (for example NBNCo are unable to connect you), you should discuss this with your provider.

If you are running a business, you should read my blog post on preparing yourself for the copper switchoff

Copper Switchoff – preparing your business

emergency-preparedness

If you live in the fibre areas of Deloraine, George Town or St Helens – the copper based fixed telephone and internet is due to be switched off next Friday (May 23rd). If you want to avoid this disconnection it is important to contact a service provider (who need not be your current provider) and make sure you have an NBN order in place before next Friday.

If you have an order in place or the NBNCo is unable to accept an order to service your address (the technical term is service class 0), you will not be disconnected. It is also important that you inform your provider if you need your telephone line for any sort of emergency purposes – for example you have a medical alert device, you have a lift phone or you are elderly. NBNCo are particularly concerned that they don’t put people’s lives at risk in this process.

Phone lines and addresses: It is expected that in order to prepare the list of lines to disconnect, Telstra will essentially be comparing the list of addresses (from NBNCo) not to be disconnected. However we are expecting this to create issues when the address for a telephone line is wrong, as Telstra will not see the telephone line in its list of “not to be disconnected” addresses. We currently have a situation where a business in St Helens had moved just a block down the road, somehow their main number was still listed at their old address. After consultation with NBNCo, we believe the best way forward is to place an NBN order at their old address, which we will just cancel once we have fully migrated the client. If you want to check your addresses, feel free to give me a call.

Choosing a provider: If you have left this to the last minute then you probably won’t have had time a reasonable time to consider which provider to use, before putting in an NBN order. You have to consider things like contracts, prices and whether you trust them to migrate you without downtime. If you are in this position and you want more time to decide, my company, Launtel is offering a service to just get an NBN order into the system to stop anything being disconnected – if you then want to use a different provider you can simply place a new order with them.

Backup plans: Unfortunately despite all the above, we are concerned there may still be situations where you could be disconnected by mistake. NBNCo and Telstra have said they will have emergency plans to reconnect lines (within hours I have heard) should this occur. However since this is the first time anyone has been through this, we are not sure how this will pan out in practice. My strong recommendation is you consider how you will operate your business should you have no fixed telephone lines and internet – don’t forget about EFTPOS and your security alarm. Things to consider:

  • Make sure your staff all have mobiles to make calls with.
  • Get a mobile internet connection.
  • Put a mobile number on your website.
  • Get a mobile EFTPOS unit.

If you want help with this, feel free to give me a call at Launtel or on my mobile: 0418 217 582

HICAPS drops the NBN ball

1367819290402

It appears that

I originally called them back in November last year to discover what they are doing – at the time they were working on a 3G device. I called them again today to find out progress. It appears that they now do have a 3G device that will process regular EFTPOS and Medicare transactions, however some private health funds are still not processing via these new terminals. My understanding is that HICAPS are therefore not allowing any private health fund payment processing for the moment.

My understanding is that the techs at HICAPS are attempting to operate the existing terminals over the VoIP ATA converter units – as we all know this will not work reliably. I attempted to point this out to the helpline at HICAPS, but was met with the veritable brick wall of “we’re working on it”. She did however give me an email address to write into: providerservices@hicaps.com.au

Frankly I do not believe this is acceptable – they have had many months (actually 18 months) to work on this. Many merchant providers now have NBN ready broadband terminals, why can’t HICAPS?

What should you do if you have a HICAPS terminal and you are being switched off on May 23rd?

  1. Call HICAPS and make them aware that you are not happy about this.
  2. Get a new 3G HICAPS terminal making sure you can run both your old and new one at the same time.
  3. Ask them what the recommended method of lodging private health care claims without a telephone line.
  4. Ignore any claims that the terminals will work over the NBN provided “phone” line – they won’t, or won’t work reliably.

You might want to look into getting an ISDN line. These will not be switched off on May 23rd. They are relatively expensive compared to a normal phone line, but they will solve the problem.

Frankly the prognosis is not good here. Our best hope is that HICAPS take this problem seriously.

Damian

Launceston NBN Survival Information Night – 6 March

We are holding our first NBN Survival Information Night in Launceston at the Best Western Plus, Earl Street, Launceston. While the disconnection date for the parts of Launceston that are affected is not until the end of the year. There are so many businesses that are affected we will have to get started early!

button

Telstra to announce ISDN replacement product on NBN

isdn-bri-card

I have heard informally from two sources within Telstra that they are expecting to announce a replacement ISDN product within the next few months, along with an 18 month switchoff timeline for ISDN. So what does this mean? If you are considering changing over to ISDN to escape the NBN Switchoff, this may not be such a good idea.

What is ISDN?

There is a Wikipedia article on it, but it is rather technical. For most businesses ISDN is just a different technology for bringing telephone lines into their premises. It is most often connected to an actual phone system, not just a regular phone. What is important is that ISDN lines are currently not included in the standard switchoff timetable.

There are actually two different ISDN products: ISDN2 (also known as BRI) and ISDN10/20/30 (also known as PRI). While they share some technological similarities, they are delivered in totally different ways. I am not clear at this stage which ISDN type they are replacing, however I would expect that it would be ISDN2, but it may be both types.

The reason ISDN has come to prominence around the NBN is that it is currently not included in the list of services that will be switched off around 18 months after the Fibre NBN is switched on in an area. Some providers, notable Telstra, have been suggesting that people change over to ISDN (which requires upgrading or replacing their telephone systems – usually at significant cost) to sidestep the switchoff. Telstra have also been using a ISDN product (they call a “data-only line”) to allow clients to use their existing EFTPOS, Alarms and Fax systems without modification.

What is the effect if/when this is announced?

Until it is announced it is unclear what the full effects will be. However the first effect is that ISDN will go into Cease Sale within the NBN Fibre rollout, meaning that clients will no longer be able to order a standard ISDN product, they must order this replacement product. It is also expected that any existing ISDN services will enter the timeline for disconnection – expected to be 18 months after the announcement.

Now the important thing to understand is that this is a replacement product. In other words, the goal will be to allow clients to unplug their phone system from their existing ISDN lines and plug them into a new box that is connected to the NBN. However as with the standard telephone line replacement we can expect some issues:

  1. Quality: This is unknown at this point. Due to the way ISDN works (it is a digital product), it is likely to not have some of the issues of the standard telephone replacement product (namely echo and poor sound quality). However they could have some similar issues such as dropping calls and intermittently not working.
  2. Changeover issues: The new product will almost certainly have similar management issues during the changeover – namely losing your services for a period of time and not working as expected. You will likely have to spend money with your telephone system company so that they can help manage this, they may have to change settings within your phone system.

What if I am about to switchover to ISDN?

If you already have ISDN services, then unless you have another compelling reason to upgrade your phone system, you may as well stay on ISDN at least until the situation becomes clear.

However if you are considering changing to ISDN to escape the switchoff, then you might want to reconsider doing this, particularly if you have to spend significant amounts of money on this (on upgrading your phone system to support ISDN for example). There is a risk that your money spent will be wasted, and at least you will have to go through another switchover process 18 months or so down the track. It might make more sense to spend this money upgrading or replacing your phone system so that it natively supports the NBN way of sending voice – namely VoIP.

What is also unclear is whether Telstra will offer this product at wholesale to other providers. Unlike standard telephone lines, Telstra have never been required (by law) to offer ISDN services to their wholesale partners. When you use another provider (such as iPrimus, Commander, AAPT along with my company, Launtel), they then buy these services from Telstra Wholesale.

If Telstra decide not offer the service at Wholesale or only to certain providers – and this is likely, because they can reasonably argue that other providers should be creating their own NBN products, then you might find yourself severely limited in your choice of what provider to get your ISDN from. If you don’t like the ISDN replacement product (or price), you may find yourself having to upgrade or replace your phone system a second time.

It would be prudent for businesses to understand the future risks of going down the ISDN path, given that we know it will be an obsolete product.

Legal issues regarding Telstra position on contracts and the NBN

Michael Patterson (Telstra’s General Manager for Tasmania) and I have been exchanging emails regarding the position for customers who currently have a contract with Telstra and are faced with compulsory disconnection of copper phone and internet services due to the NBN rollout. In particular whether Telstra can use the threat of Early Termination Fees (ETFs) to force clients to transition to an NBN service provided by Telstra and indeed take out a new contract.

Here is my reply to his email:

Hi Michael,

Thanks for coming back to me. You have clarified the position regarding ETFs if services are disconnected on the Disconnection Date (i.e. you won’t charge them). As promised I will publish your letter on the website (http://nbnsurvival.info) along with this reply.

What concerns me is that while you have said you are committed to supporting your small businesses customers as they transition to the NBN, the unwritten proviso in this is that you are only willing to do this if your customers take on the NBN service with you and sign whatever new contract you require.

At the end of the day, you (Telstra) have announced to your customers that you are disconnecting their existing contracted service before the end of the contract, in other words you have given notice that you will be breaking the contract, not the customer. Don’t forget most customers would be only too happy to keep their existing copper services, you are just not allowing them to do this due to your agreement with NBNCo and the ACCC (which the customer is not a party to).

I note that you are making your customers a new offer to replace their services, but as we all know there are several deficiencies in this new product (alarms, EFTPOS, fax etc do not work properly over the phone service you provide), along with the very real risk of significant downtime during the transition. I do not believe you can force customers to take this replacement service. See the Unfair Terms in the TCP Code 4.5.3d

It is completely unreasonable to require a customer to take on a new contract for their NBN service to escape the ETF on the old one. This also contravenes the TCP code (see unfair terms – 4.5.3c). I do not believe you could even force a customer to take on a new contract that has the same end date as the old one (which would be a more reasonable position).

To require customers to keep their services with you right up until the Disconnection Date in order to escape the ETF is also not reasonable. Given that you have announced you are breaking the contract, businesses have to do whatever they deem fit to preserve their services (plan the transition, port numbers etc).

A much more reasonable position from Telstra, is that a client is required to continue to pay for their contracted service until the Disconnection Date, but allow them to actually disconnect before that time (so they can port numbers for example). I doubt even this would be enforceable in law given that you are creating significant costs (management, new equipment etc) for businesses by breaking the contract in the first place. Indeed your customers are required in law to take reasonable steps to limit their costs (which you could be liable for) due to your announced contract breach (for example by reducing their downtime costs by porting numbers before the Disconnection Date).

I am not a lawyer, but I do make it my business to understand the law around telecommunications. I believe the various consumer laws and the TCP code are very clear on this. However I am open to hearing from you that I have got something wrong.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Damian

Michael Patterson (Telstra) responds regarding contracts and the NBN

Blue-Telstra-Logo

Yesterday I received an email from Michael Patterson following my coffee with him two weeks ago. He had promised to give me a business briefing on Telstra’s position regarding contracts, however he pretty much just restated the original position without any legal explanation. He did however clarify the situation around Early Termination Fees should a service be compulsorily disconnected on the Disconnection Date (the date that all the copper services in an area are due to be disconnected) – they wouldn’t charge one.

Here is his email:

Hi Damian

I am writing to respond to your comments about transitioning our small business customers to the NBN.

We’re committed to ensuring that our small business customers are supported as they prepare to move to the NBN. We encourage our customers to contact us directly with any questions or concerns about how the NBN will impact the services they have with us, because every customer scenario is different.

There are a variety of Telstra on the NBN business plans and solutions available for small businesses moving off copper and we’re working with our customers to ensure they are well informed about their options. Customers who decide to cancel their contract within its term and before the Disconnection Date of their copper services are subject to early termination charges. In most cases, we will waive these early termination charges for customers transitioning to an NBN service with us. We are required to disconnect customers who have not migrated to the NBN by the Disconnection Date of their copper services if they don’t have a valid NBN order in progress with us. And, in this instance, on disconnection no early termination charges will be charged.

You can contact me with any questions.

Regards,

Michael Patterson  Area General Manager
Tasmania  |  Telstra Country Wide  |  Telstra

Here is my response.

St Helens Information Night – 5 Feb

Following the success of our previous information night (the feedback was overwhelmingly positive) on the 15 January, Nick Crawford has asked us to run another one for those who were unable to make it. So…

We are holding an information night entitled: NBN Business Survival Guide at 6pm on 5 February at Tidal Water Resort. There are only 30 spots, which Nick reckons will be quickly filled.

Eventbrite - St Helens NBN Transition Business Survival Strategies

Larger issues on the contract situation

ripupcontract

I have previously posted about the situation regarding existing contracts particularly around the Telstra contracts, who being the largest player hold the majority of the contracts. Telstra are in a unique position here, because they own and run the existing copper network. It is Telstra who has agreed to dismantle the copper network and is being paid compensation to do this.

It is important to quickly cover what a contract is. A contract is (in this case) an agreement between two parties for one to provide a service (the provider) and the other (the client) to pay for it for a fixed period of time. Under standard contract law, if either side wants to break the agreement it needs to compensate the other for any losses incurred due to this breach. In the telecommunications world given that usually it is the client who wants to break the agreement (by ending it early), this compensation is in the form of an Early Termination Fee (ETF). However the provider can also break the agreement by ceasing to provide the service detailed in the contract. This is the situation with the NBN transition.

The transition is being forced upon you (the client). You have not requested this change. You are most likely incurring significant business costs (in terms of new equipment, administration, probably downtime) due to this. Under contract law you are actually entitled to claim these costs against the provider since they (not you) are breaking the contract.

So for the provider to turn round and attempt to force you to take on their replacement service on the NBN by threatening you with an ETF is completely ridiculous (unconscionable would be the legal term). As an absolute minimum they need to release you from your contract without an ETF.

Many providers (including Telstra) have thrown their hands up in the air and said that this is all out of their control, almost like it was an Act of God. However this is patently untrue. It is not as if the transition timetable was not known well in advance (several years). If the providers had thought about this, they should have not allowed contracts to run past the disconnection date. However, most likely, it was just too hard to work out who was affected by which disconnection date and so they just ignored the dates and continued business as usual with multi year contracts.

However Telstra in particular has even less excuse. They chose to accept the shutdown of their copper network in their agreement with the NBNCo. They chose to accept the compensation offered to them for this. So they definitely cannot stand up and say this is out of their control, they (with NBNCo) set the timetable. It was totally in their control.

One important thing to remember is that these agreements are almost always what are called Standard Form Agreements – which are agreements where one side (the provider) offers the agreement for the client to agree to on a take-it-or-leave-it basis (there is no opportunity for the client to negotiate the terms). Under consumer laws (which cover small businesses too) these agreements cannot have any “unfair” terms – ones that disadvantage one side (well they can, it’s just that they are not enforceable).

So when you talk to your provider about your options regarding the transition and they say you have to do or not do something because it is written into the contract, if you believe this is unfair (remember they are forcing this on you) – talk to the TIO. The TIO have the power to effectively look past the words of the agreement and get a sensible result.

EFTPOS Provider Tyro worth a look

logo0

Following the feedback I received on the information night in St Helens, it was clear that EFTPOS is by far the biggest issue affecting businesses transitioning to the NBN due to its instant effects on sales if it is not working.

Eric Bennett from Tidal Waters, St Helens put me on to a relatively new entrant into the EFTPOS Merchant Provider market: Tyro. Like all new entrants into a market, they appear to have very innovative products. One feature of their standalone EFTPOS terminal, the Xentissimo, is that it works over WiFi. That means that it has all the good features of broadband (speed, low cost, reliability, works on the NBN), but is also mobile (within the WiFi range of your shop). This means that it is easy to hand to clients and avoids having to run cables from your back office to the front counter.

Eric tells me has been using them for several years and is very happy with them. So if your current merchant provider is not stepping up to the plate with an offering that works for you – I suggest you check them out.

Here is a full comparison of EFTPOS offerings.