Archive for Switchoff

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

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.

Telstra willing to waive existing contracts when moving to the NBN

break-contract

For those who have been following my investigation into whether suppliers can hold you to an existing contract when transitioning to the NBN – i.e. force you to take their NBN service. I had a significant result today.

In a nutshell a potential client had a Telstra BizEssentials package, which was an ADSL internet and fixed line bundle, on a 2 year contract, signed in April 2013, which extended way past the 23 May 2014 cut off date. Telstra had informed him that while they could supply an NBN package encompassing the phone and internet, the phone line could not be used for fax, EFTPOS and alarms systems. To allow these to work an additional ISDN line would have to be installed at extra cost.

This amounts to a significant change to the service supplied under a contract and by law, Telstra must allow the client to escape from the contract. I was expecting to have to argue with Telstra regarding this, but no, a call to their call centre, followed up with an email and a few hours later they came back saying they had removed the contract from the service. That was easy!

So now the client is free to choose whatever supplier they wish to transition them to the NBN (including of course staying with Telstra).

So it appears that Telstra are very aware of their contract obligations and have decided not to stand in the way.

NBN Installs delayed to March due to “remediation” required

deadlines

We have just received word that the NBN Installs for three of our clients (Delquip, Mountain View Inn & ATX Sales) in Deloraine have been delayed in 3rd March – due to “remediation required”. This typically means that there is an issue with the Aurora Power Pole that is being used to deliver the NBN Fibre connection.

This is getting dangerously close to the time when we need to have completed transitioning clients across to the NBN – 3rd May (nothing can be changed in the last 20 days before switchoff on the 23rd May).

We need NBNCo to prioritise the towns (like Deloraine) that are facing the switchoff deadline and to prioritise businesses, since they take longer to migrate.

I have written the following email to the Federal Member Eric Hutchinson:-

Dear Eric,

We have just heard that NBNCo have delayed three NBN Business installs in Deloraine until 3rd March 2014 due to their connections requiring "remediation".

As you are probably aware the copper telephone is being disconnected in Deloraine on 23 May 2014 requiring all subscribers (including businesses) to transition across to the NBN by that time. In practice the actual deadline is the 3rd May, since nothing can be changed (like moving numbers) in the last 20 days (Telstra "Order Stability").

We are a small telecommunications company, based in Launceston, specialising in moving small businesses across to the NBN. Moving a business (with their EFTPOS, Fax, Alarms, phone systems etc) is a very complicated process - taking many months to achieve particularly when you include the required testing and troubleshooting to perform a smooth transition (without downtime).

I realise that there is nothing can be done about the deadline - I have already been in touch with Malcolm Turnbull's office about this. However there is something you can do about NBNCo, given that this a government enterprise.

My request is that you approach Malcolm Turnbull and ask him to direct NBNCo to:-

1) Prioritise the towns that are affected by the 23 May switchoff: namely Deloraine, St Helens and George Town (not in your electorate).
2) Prioritise businesses over residential since they will take
considerably longer to transition than residential (who often only need the internet, not phones etc)
3) Impress on Aurora that they need to get their act together if the fibre is delivered via a power pole to quickly fix any issues.

I am happy to discuss all this with you on the phone at any of the numbers below.

Many thanks,

Damian
--
Launtel - We're at your call
Tel: 1800LAUNTEL (1800528683)
Mob: 0418217582
Fax: 1300784109

Govt confirms deadline will not be delayed

Malcolm Turnbull webshot

Just before Christmas I received this letter from Malcolm Turnbull’s office. I had asked via Barry Jarvis (the mayor of Dorset Council, Scottsdale) what information the Government had about the switch off and what options there were to delay the deadline. While the letter talks about getting NBNCo’s act together, the deadline is not changeable – it is out of their hands due to the definitive agreement signed between NBNCo and Telstra.

So unfortunately it looks like there is nothing that can be done to delay the deadline.

NBN Rural Woes

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ON Sunday, December 22, the NBN cable was off the hydro pole and on the top off a barbed wire  fence in the blackberries on Tasman Highway 2 1/2 kilometres from St Helens towards Scottsdale.

I notified Aurora as I thought it might have been the three-phase power cable.

It was terrific in its response and actions but said it was the NBN cable and the NBN had been notified.

I spoke to a Visionstream person who also said that NBN had been notified on three occasions about this, but it took until 3.45pm on Friday, December 27, for the repair crew to come and lift the cable out of the blackberries and barbed wire fence.

The NBN cable is still only about four metres off the ground between the poles.

My concerns on so-called remote locations like St Helens with the NBN has now been confirmed with this fiasco – if live stock had been in the paddock, as we all know, they would have chewed it to pieces, and potentially put small businesses out of business.

When the copper is turned off nobody can trade without a live connection as we are all unfortunately committed to computers.

NBN obviously doesn’t give a high priority to repairs and maintenance so how can we operate with the cables strung between poles in a remote location and in a fire-prone area?

– Michael Tucker of St Helens Newsagency, Examiner 3rd Jan 2014

You can find the original opinion piece here

What Michael doesn’t say is that following the May 2014 permanent switch off of the copper network the telephones would also be inoperable should the fibre cable be cut. This is of great concern – particularly for businesses.

Given that the cut off date seems to completely immovable it is important that we:

  • Keep lobbying the government and NBNCo to secure these cables – Michael Tucker noted in my meeting with him before Christmas that following the 1967 Bushfires it was mandated that telephone lines be carried underground due to their importance – the same should be true of the fibre.
  • Businesses consider carefully the impact that loss of internet and phones would have on their business and consider putting in place some backup options (using the 3G mobile network).