Rather than continue the blame game and leave more Aussies trapped in broadband limbo, NBN has finally admitted that it's failing and needs to do better.
There's been an alarming lack of accountability across the board as systemic connection faults have dogged NBN's HFC cable rollout over the last year. Australians have been left without broadband or phone connections for months as NBN, internet retailers and the government have all passed the buck while refusing to concede they were at fault.
Australians left in broadband limbo often found their long-running connection faults miraculously repaired within days of contacting Fairfax Media. Repairs were regularly fast-tracked to avoid dealing with the bigger underlying issues – from network faults and shoddy installations to appalling customer service and crippling regulation.
The process of merging the metro-centric cable pay TV networks into the "multi-technology mix" was always going to be challenging, with NBN eventually forced to concede that the Optus cable network was not worth saving. It still forged ahead with the plan to overhaul the Telstra cable network, to serve around three million homes rather than offering them fibre to the premises.
Initially the cable rollout was plagued by technical issues such as "false activations" – caused by misconfigured broadband modems – and faults at the NBN Point of Interconnect (PoI), typically located at the nearest telephone exchange.
To make matters worse, red tape like the Catch-22 Cease Sale regulations prevented these homes returning to their old broadband connection while they waited for NBN faults to be repaired. NBN and the government stubbornly refused to concede that Cease Sale was part of the problem, leaving these homes in limbo.
Wedded to the rollout timetable of its political masters, NBN has put more and more homes in the too-hard basket this year – content to leave those Australians behind whilst forging ahead with its grand plan.
Only in the last few months has NBN stopped sweeping all these issues under the carpet and begun to concede that the rollout has fundamental flaws which need to be addressed.
For starters it recently committed to tackling NBN migration issues including handballing customer complaints, delaying installations and rescheduling appointments.
NBN is also changing its Ready For Service policies to reduce the likelihood of people suffering through long-running connection issues. Rather than simply declaring entire suburbs Ready For Service, when some homes clearly required more work, it introduced a Ready To Connect status which applies to individual homes – helping break the Cease Sale deadlock.
The downside of being declared Not Yet Ready To Connect is that you need to wait longer to get on the NBN – something which NBN's critics were quick to jump on as another failure.
Waiting longer to be connected is certainly frustrating, but the upside of being declared Not Yet Ready To Connect is that you finally know exactly where you stand. You don't need to waste months trying in vain to connect while NBN, your retailer and the government regulators give you the runaround and even flat out lie to you about what's happening with your connection.
Now NBN has gone one step further by putting a freeze on all new HFC cable orders across the country until it can "raise the quality of service for end users," says NBN chief Bill Morrow – which makes a change from pointing the finger at retailers.
Addressing both connection and performance issues, the freeze will push back the entire HFC rollout at least six months but NBN insists it will still meet the 2020 deadline.
While it's another frustrating delay - it's actually a win for Australian broadband users.
Anyone who's been trapped in NBN's broadband limbo will tell you that you're far better off staying on your old broadband connection for a while longer than spending those months arguing with NBN, your retailer, the ACCC, the ACMA, the TIO and the office of Communications Minister Mitch Fifield as to why you have no broadband and why no-one can fix it – unless you go to the media.