New protections will kick in from September 21 that are aimed at preventing customers that switch to an NBN service being left without functional internet for an extended period.
The service continuity standard is one of a batch of protections being worked on by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) at the direction of the government.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said in a statement that the authority’s own research showed that “about 16 per cent of households reported being left without their home internet and/or phone service for more than a week when moving to services provided over the NBN”.
“Being without a service for a week or more is almost unimaginable to most of us,” O’Loughlin said.
“The new standard requires telcos and NBN Co to not disconnect existing services until a new NBN-based service is working, where that is feasible.
“Where there is no working service it sets time frames around reconnecting customers to their old service or offering them an interim service while their new NBN-based service is fixed.”
Legacy services have to be reconnected in between five and 15 working days: five days for those in urban areas, and 10 days in other parts of Australia.
More leeway is given in circumstances where the customer has also switched providers at the same time as moving to the NBN, making reverting to a legacy service more difficult.
Where an interim service can be provided instead, this should be done within three to six working days, again depending on how remote the premises is.
The ACMA said the standard will come into effect on September 21 and be “immediately and directly enforceable”.
“For example, if a telco breaches an industry standard, the ACMA can commence court proceedings seeking remedies such as injunctions and civil penalties of up to $250,000,” it said.
The Communications Alliance - which represents the interests of telcos - said the ACMA had made important concessions to the operation of the new standard before making it public.
“In particular, we are pleased that the ACMA has recognised that it is not sensible to go down the path of re-connecting legacy services in circumstances where fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) or fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) experience initial connection issues,” CEO John Stanton said in a statement.
“This is because these connections use the same copper infrastructure that previously supported legacy services such as ADSL2 – making it impossible to restore the old service and fix the new one at the same time.”
Stanton said that other improvements to the standard due to industry input included “more realistic timeframes to reinstate legacy services where this proves necessary” and “refinements to the ways that providers can offer interim services to consumers”.
A second standard launched today will require NBN retail service providers to publish better information that allows customer to more easily delineate between different NBN plans.