Echo chamber fixes little

November 22, 2017

Today we have another worrying story of problems with local internet and phone services. The News has been running a series of stories in the past few weeks highlighting readers’ experiences with services supplied through the National Broadband Network.

Some have related a positive experience with improved internet speeds and a smooth connection process.

However, most have responded to our inquiries with a negative experience.

These people have told us of slower speeds, lengthy periods of disconnection and a confusing process of problem solving, usually involving being bounced between an internet service provider and the NBN.

These experiences, however frustrating, have involved a mix of private customers and small business operators.

Today’s front page story is altogether more disturbing.

The failure of internet and phone services for a protracted period to Shepparton’s largest veterinary service has presented a logistical nightmare for vets and has increased the potential for trauma and suffering to animals and their owners — domestic and farming.

In talking to readers about the internet problems, The News has concluded that entering the circle of responsibility is akin to walking into a hall of mirrors: The internet service provider will say it is a delivery problem and the NBN will say it is a service problem.

The situation is made worse with some of the smaller service providers proving difficult to contact, particularly with media inquiries for answers to problems.

Nationally, complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman surged during the past financial year to 27000 — a 160 per cent increase on the previous year.

Many involve service drop-outs or poor connections and low speeds.

A News reader survey of local NBN customers, which drew more than 100 responses, painted a similar picture.

Individual complaints and explanations differed in terms of technical delivery, service plans, fibre to the node or to the property.

But the overwhelming observation we are left with is that most customers are bamboozled by the sheer complexity of the process and the terminology in the service plans they have signed.

Many had no idea what their internet speed was, or whether their internet service provider or NBN connection was capable of delivering the service they had paid for.

While all this is frustrating and time-consuming for ordinary customers, when it comes to solving internet problems in essential services, an echo chamber is not good enough.

Real problem-solving in real time must surely be a bottom-line requirement. This time it was veterinary services — next time it could be a hospital.

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