Telstra has revealed current and prospective NBN customers are cancelling technician appointments or blocking site entry over COVID-19 concerns.
The telco provided more detail of changes to its field work practices and the impact of COVID-19 on disconnections of legacy ADSL services in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.
Telstra publicly advised on March 21 that it had “decided to temporarily pause the mandatory disconnections of customers from fixed networks under the NBN rollout” to reduce the potential for service disruption during the pandemic crisis.
Such freezes have regulatory repercussions, and those have now been laid out.
In particular, Telstra is uncertain when it might be able to resume disconnections, and has indicated it may be some time before “the scale and timeframes affected” are clear.
In the interim, Telstra’s filing does provide an indication of how it - and other retail service providers - are altering business-as-usual processes because of the pandemic.
“Telstra has implemented precautionary practices that will prevent our field staff from entering premises in the event an end-user is ‘self-isolating’ due to COVID-19,” the telco advised.
“Further, we are receiving advice that end-users themselves are cancelling appointments or preventing field staff from entering their premises, due to their own understandable concerns for COVID-19.
“We have also received feedback from RSPs (including Telstra Retail) advising the COVID-19 situation is having significant effects upon the way their labour force needs to be managed, including working from home arrangements and travel restrictions that have impacts both domestically and internationally (e.g. customer contact centres in the Philippines and India).
“In these circumstances, RSPs have advised they would prefer to be able divert their resources toward supporting their customers on existing services (either on the NBN or legacy network) rather than also have to manage the impacts associated with managed disconnections.”
NBN Co's own FAQs on COVID-19 suggest it has a similar arrangement to Telstra with regards to its own field staff.
NBN Co said it had "introduced an additional control whereby technicians are now required to implement a new ‘Call on approach’ procedure, verifying whether there is any reason to suspect risk of exposure to COVID-19 at the premises", and to reschedule if the residents are "in isolation".
The network builder said technicians had also been told to "minimise close contact when on premises and exercise additional wipe downs of all equipment and touch points", and that they had been supplied with "additional hygiene products, including alcohol based hand rub or hand soap, alcohol based wipes and making face masks and disposable gloves."
COVID-19 related disconnection delays affect “all premises with remaining active legacy services at a national level where the rollout region has either recently passed its disconnection date (and disconnection has not yet occurred) or the disconnection date is approaching in the near future.”
Telstra already had some existing delays on legacy copper disconnections in bushfire ravaged areas.
Disconnection of these areas had been pushed out to July this year, however with COVID-19 they are now further delayed.