This week, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the regulator responsible for telco complaints (amongst other things) released its annual complaints report. While the news for NBN is good – the overall volume of complaints is down – there’s still room for improvement.

For 2018-19, complaints about the NBN fell to 193 complaints per 10,000 services, against some 369 complaints per 10,000 services for non-NBN fixed broadband connections.

There have also been significant improvements – it would seem – in certain NBN technology modes. FTTC connections, for example, saw some 744 per 10k this time last year, vs just 282 per 10k in June this year.

On this “per 10,000 services” measure, FTTC remained the most complained about access method, and while you might think that FTTN would be up there, it’s in fact well down the list:

  • Fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC): 475
  • Hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC): 324
  • Fibre-to-the-building (FTTB): 250
  • Fibre-to-the-node (FTTN): 182
  • Fixed wireless: 148
  • Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP): 144
  • Satellite: 54

NBN complaints were further broken down into four main categories – speed, connection, general faults, and other. In a surprising finding, speed was a factor in just under 10% of complaints each quarter. By far, the largest specific complaint group was faults.

All these figures are just those without context. However, if you think about it, for every 10,000 FTTC connections, almost 500 people have had sufficient an issue to raise a complaint about it – that’s 5%. Perhaps that’s not a huge number, but it kind of feels like it is.

Maybe my own experience with FTTC colours that – we’ve had no issues with it at all!

I’m also surprised that the number of FTTN complaints aren’t higher, given what we hear colloquially about the quality of those connections in terms of speed, faults, and other issues.

In other news, it appears the NBN Co is using enterprise fibre options as a backdoor means to extend its fibre network for consumer benefit too, according to IT News.

At Senate Estimates last week, NBN Co executives told senators that its push into the enterprise market – directly engaging with large corporate customers to offer fibre connectivity – was a means to finance further deployment of fibre out into regions. The flow-on effect? There’d be more fibre going forward to service customers and improve existing connections.

Seems logical.

“When we deploy fibre – primarily it’s a fibre discussion – to these large branch networks that are spread across the country, on the back of a commercially attractive proposition for us, we’re pulling fibre deeper and deeper into towns and regional areas all across the nation,” chief customer officer for business Paul Tyler said.

“On the back of that fibre that we pull deeper and deeper into the network, that then unlocks the opportunity for other businesses that are all along the path to take advantage of that fibre.

“The anchor tenancies that these large enterprises have afforded us … [are] generating great social outcomes in terms of the ability for other businesses to get access to it.”

What kinds of enterprise customers has NBN Co been courting? Well, think of how many Woolworths, Coles and Australia Post outlets are around the place, not just in the suburbs of our major cities, but also in regional centres and so on.

If you’ve got all those stores connected on an NBN Fibre link, then all of a sudden you’ve got great big connectivity hooked up into centres that mightn’t have had it before, and that can be used to benefit customers says the NBN.

Not only that, but NBN forecasts that the revenue from providing these services can also be used to cross subsidise consumer connections in those areas, where otherwise they may not be able to assist.

It’s a couple of interesting arguments, and if consumers ultimately benefit from it, then it’s not a bad deal. However, it’s just as easy to reconcile the move with a cash grab:

Tyler said that enterprise and government customers were attractive in part because NBN Co “requires a payback of any investment within the first five years of its operation.”

NBN has to return a profit, so why not directly seek out more profitable customers? Perhaps it’s just both – enhanced profit, but it does actually provide a benefit to other consumer users as well.

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    Chris. Do you understand what the FTTC complaints are about? Would be interesting to know? I had had it for 6 months. And other than allowing once recently to 50kbps (fixed by an NBN end point rest) my connection has been rock solid too.