LEON COMPTON, JOURNALIST: The internet and to the NBN more generally has been a much discussed topic on this program and around Tasmania over the last decade or so. People are incredibly frustrated by the promises of the NBN and then the service that was ultimately delivered. It turns out that many internet service providers are just flat out misleading the community about the sorts of services that they’re promising to deliver and then the reality of what you pay for when it gets there. They’re promising speeds that you might get at 3am on a Tuesday morning but at no other time. What should we do about it? To the NBN in Tasmania more generally, Stephen Jones is the Labor Member for Whitlam and a Shadow Minister responsible for the National Broadband Network and Stephen Jones is in Tasmania today having a look around for his party. Stephen Jones good morning to you.
STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS: Good morning. Good to be with you.
COMPTON:And thanks for talking with us this morning. The ACCC have come out and said they’re giving internet service providers three months to stop lying about the services being delivered to customers. Is that a tough enough approach for the way things are being handled.
JONES:A welcome response, long overdue, but it’s not going to resolve all of the issues. As we see it, three clear areas of complaint. First technology problems, and this isn’t going to be fixed by what the ACCC has announced overnight. This is essentially the issue of the network simply not being up to the job, the old copper network in particular that is being relied on in Fibre to the Node (FTTN) areas simply can’t do the job. I’m up here in Launceston today. I’ll be talking to people out at Legano where they’ve got FTTN technology that still can’t work. They were promised that the technological solution, being micronodes being installed along their street was going to have their service fixed - it still hasn’t. So while the ACCC response is welcome for consumer complaints it’s not going to fix that. In the area that you talked about in your intro where ISP’s, that’s the phone companies are selling products that they simply can’t deliver, now this has to stop, and I think the ACCC’s guideline that it announced yesterday will go a long way to fixing that. You simply shouldn’t be paying for a high end product if you’re getting less than 10 megabits per second and sadly far too many customers are doing that.
COMPTON:The question becomes what will your party do if re-elected, at the election. It feels it could be next week the way federal politics is going but more likely it will be in a couple of years time. What will your party do that is different in terms of the delivery of the NBN in Tasmania?
JONES: There’s three areas we need to address. Firstly the technology problems, there needs to be an upgrade plan that is a plan to fix all of those thousands of households that have been put on technology which is not up to the task, mainly that’s FTTN areas but it’s also people who have been put on satellite technology where there is another more viable technology to deliver broadband speed. That’ll be the first part. The second part means ensuring that we follow through with tough anti-competitive provisions such as those announced by the ACCC overnight, ensuring that the phone companies aren’t selling products they simply cannot or will not deliver. So that’s the second part. But the third point Leon hasn’t been addressed by any of this. It gets to the issue that time and time again customers are coming to me about. They call it the NBN ping-pong. They say I’ve got this problem, I’ve gone to my phone company, my phone company says no it’s not our problem it’s a problem with the NBN network. They go to the NBN network, the NBN refuses to deal with them; they feel like they’re heads just spinning; they just want their damn phones and damned internet to work and nobody is taking responsibility. So we need a tough consumer complaints mechanism where the NBN is responsible and will deal with problems in its network whether it’s in the phone company’s part of the network or its service delivery they are dealing with it as well.
COMPTON:Stephen Jones, to pull you up there that has been a problem since you were in government, the NBN pong-pong. Why didn’t you fix it at the time?
JONES: Actually it hasn’t.
COMPTON: We’ve been talking talk back on this issue for a very long time and NBN ping-pong has been an issue here across the entire time.
JONES: Let me take the issue square on. I dispute the proposition that it was in existence since we were in government. There was only a small amount of the NBN network rolled out when we were in government. Consumer complaints, whether it was or wasn’t, let’s move on to what needs to be done. What needs to be done, is an overhaul of the Communications Industry Ombudsman, the whole complaint resolution processes to ensure the NBN is held accountable for its problems and deals with them, that the phone companies are accountable for their problems and deals with them and that customers aren’t bounced between one and the other. It should not be beyond our capacity to deal with these things. Can I just give you one fact Leon which will put it all into perspective. The Telecommunications industry receives four times the complaints that the banking industry does.
COMPTON: Are there calls for a royal commission?
JONES: If the telco industry doesn’t get it’s house in order it will find itself in the same situation.
COMPTON: Stephen Jones, good to talk with you this morning, thanks for coming in to our Launceston studio. The Shadow Minister responsible for the NBN. I should mention if you are dealing with a ping-pong issue it seems that if you want to call us and talk about it on air, that NBN Co are very quick at picking up the issues as they’re raised on mornings. If you’d like to drop us a note, if they’re issues you’re battling, love to hear from you this morning…..