back to article Telstra 'snot boxes' challenge Turnbull's FTTN plan

Rain has been a problem for my fixed line for years. There have been other exciting ventures in broadband fail over the years, such as when a contractor set fire to a large Telstra pit and cut off 20 homes for three weeks, but rain has been the constant niggle. It most recently came to a head last weekend – March 1 – when …


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  1. Kevin Maciunas

    Replacing the copper..

    ...really is essential and can't be easily dodged.

    I live not-in-the-city but within 20km of the centre. We have (at the time) nice copper - much thicker wires than those used in suburbian wiring (so we maybe can get decent data rates... mine is 8Mbit/Sec!!). BUT - we have the lovely gel filled cables.

    So after every heavy rain - we suffer. The service pit opposite my house fills with delightful orange clay loaded water. The phone ceases to work. The calls go in. The service techs come out, drain the pit, dry the cable joints and attempt to do something with the wet gel.

    Sadly for us, NBNco vehicles were seen surveying the pits just before the last election but we're now 'off the map'. FTTN is not going to do anything for us, any attempt to re-use the cable infrastructure is doomed - crap cable, collapsed ducting and pits that fill with water... I'd guess this is a common issue. Sigh.

  2. Scoular

    Australia is now on course to get a very poor form of not really broadband at a cost which is even more unknown than the technically far superior NBN FTTP solution. All because of a political move made by a (now) PM who understands nothing about any science or technology. The old copper network is way past its use by date and for anyone with a clue not worth trying to maintain when going NBN is a much better solution. At least the old copper has scrap value.

  3. Matto in AUS

    It's not an uncommon story

    Glad you could get it fixed though.

    My personal story:

    Had ADSL1 - $50/month for a 5Mbps service. Upload was pathetic - about 100kbps. I couldn't work from home reliably, and skype/Lync/facetime video calls were simply not a usable option. Every time it rains (which happens a fair bit in FNQ) the phone would go all static-y, and the internet would drop out. You'd log a job, Telstra tech would come out and leave a "I've checked the network and there's no problem, it must be inside your house, call me to arrange an at-your-cost appointment to check your house wiring" card. Service would magically be fixed though.

    Recently I upgraded to ADSL2. The good news is that my upload has gone to 300k, which makes video work a usable, if choppy, option. The downside though is that my download speed has reduced to about 3.5-4Mbps, and the modem now loses line sync every 15 minutes or so.

    My attenuation is showing up on the modem as just on 60db, so I guess I should be happy that I get a service at all. But at the end of the day I'm still paying (now) $80/month for a service that is slower than what I had and terribly unreliable. Neither my ISP (it's simply a Telstra wholesale port, no-one has any DSLAMS up here) nor Telstra have any interest in fixing the underlying network. Sure, we're in a regional town but it's still a large centre and we'd be lucky to be 7kms from the dead centre of town. The estate was built in the mid-70's.

    To add insult to injury, I'm just outside the Telstra 4G coverage maps as well - it would probably work with a big external antenna, but I'm not sure I can stomach the cost of both the install, and the ongoing.

    As an IT Pro working for a nation-wide, Bris-based company I'm the #1 advocate for being able to use tech tools to work remotely. From our branch office up here in the far north, I'm able to operate remotely, join video meetings with the rest of the team around the country or world, and generally function as a worthwhile addition to the team. When you talk about attracting and retaining key talent, work-life balance and moving away from the previous city-centric approach to assembling teams, this stuff all becomes very valuable. If only I had a reliable internet connection at home...



    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not an uncommon story

      "You'd log a job, Telstra tech would come out and leave a "I've checked the network and there's no problem, it must be inside your house, call me to arrange an at-your-cost appointment to check your house wiring" card"

      I had this problem shortly after a tech had replaced an in-house socket. The old "we can't see a fault from here" (no shit) response. If we come out and find it's an issue your end we'll charge you $170. I told them to stick their phone line up their arse and don't have one any more. Fortunately we have a cable broadband connection (unfortunately from them) to use as it's well known the ADSL is shite in our area and we're in Brisbane.

    2. Fluffy Bunny

      Re: It's not an uncommon story

      Looks like you need to pony up the cash to get a nice fiber connection. As a professional, you should be able to afford it, too. Just keep your hand out of my pocket.

      1. zemm

        Re: It's not an uncommon story

        We were quoted at over $2000 per month on a 36 month contract to get 2Mbps fibre (Yes, TWO MEGABITS) with a quota (IIRC 200GB/month). On the Gold Coast, 2011, where there was already fibre in the street (our phone lines got cut once and the tech showed me the cables in the pit while he was repairing them), but not within the then-planned NBN 3-year plan. Our office was a few doors down from a Telstra call centre, so not out in the sticks. I'd hate to think how much a 10+ Mbps service would have cost! I was working for a small-ish business at the time and there was no way it could afford that. (It didn't even last the 36 months anyway: can I blame Telstra's congested ADSL?)

        And there's no way that that $72k+ could be justified. Even if the business paid $5k installation - Malcolm Turnbull has said that paying to get fibre installed would have been cheaper than this - current NBN 100Mbps plans are around $100/month. $72k vs $8k for the same time period, for 20-50x faster? Realistically it would be even cheaper if "everyone" in an area connects at the same time, since the installation crews would do them all in a row, and the infrastructure is installed together.

        The original NBN basically used the subsequent monthly fees to pay for the initial "free" installation. The quote above would have cost over $10k for the installation if there was no contract. The thing with the real NBN is there was no way it couldn't break even (eventually) as you'd have a connection for 50+ years, even if you changed retail providers every year.

  4. The Blacksmith

    Thank the Deity Australia is a Desert

    After the last decent rainfall the local exchange suffered a "major outage" - both phone lines dead, internet dead. 2 weeks later we're told it's fixed - only problem is, it isn't. More calls and two days later a tech turns up. Traces the cables and finds an open joint in one of the lovely road side pill boxes. Internet speeds are currently 2703/434 according to the modem, and 41ms/2.01Mb/.25Mb according to speedtest.

    We were never on the NBN Fibre footprint being 35Km from Sydney CBD and I'm not expecting things to get better anytime (well, ever really) because we're in a safe luddite (sorry Coalition) seat.

    Interestingly, since Telstra said the fault was fixed they don't pay compensation for the time of the second "fault". I'm probably going to the ombudsman about that.

  5. Paulw11

    In a detached dwelling (and in a unit where the is no MDF) Telstra is responsible up to the first socket, so if you are happy with the current location of the phone socket you do not have to get a cabler to install anything. If you want a second socket or if you request Telstra to install a Network Terninating Device (beige box) on the side of your house then you need to hire a registered cabler or pay Telstra fee-for-service to complete that work.

    The installation of an NTD is optional and despite what some Telstra subcontractors may tell you, the grey Telstra box on the side of many houses is not the network boundary and Telstras responsobility does not end there.

  6. bert_fe

    Sad day for the plebs!

    I do not know why all you lefties complain. Just live in a 'nice' suburb and all your internet speed needs will be catered for. I live in Eltham near Melbourne and have the privilege of having both Optus and Telstra cable passing my house. My connection is 30Mbits/sec. We 'nice' people deserve all this and far more! All you plebs can wait!. Here is my speed.


    1. zemm

      Re: Sad day for the plebs!

      Can you get a static IP address on your "nice" cable? That's actually stopping me from moving from 7Mbps ADSL2 to HFC.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Malcolm Turnbull's repeated assertion that FTTN is the only way

    Just to be clear, can you point me to one of the places where he has written / is quoted as saying that FTTN is the "only" way?

    To be fair in return, I'll point you to one of the places where Beazley said that the FTTN was going to be used for Industry, Education, and Tele-medicine, although I'm not sure which catagory you fall into.

  8. dan1980

    Look on the plus side . . .

    Anyone who has had much to do with ADSL(2) installations in Sydney and Melbourne* has similar stories and would be quite frustrated with the current FTTN plan because we know first-hand how terrible so much of the copper infrastructure is.

    Under the FTTP plan, the known problem of homes connected with old, unreliable, limiting copper would have been solved by replacing it replaced with new, reliable, fast fibre. Sounds expensive to me.

    Under Malcolm/Tony/Rupert's FTTN plan, the solution is, I am happy to report, far more efficient and definitely cheaper: ignore those homes and move on to suburbs where it'll be easier. Solved!

    * - Not so sure about Brisvegas but I presume Perth is better as much of it is newer.

    1. Winkypop Silver badge

      Re: Look on the plus side . . .


      Oh no it isn't better, new or not.

      We live in an isolated city surrounded by ocean and desert.

      The Internet infrastructure is appalling just outside of the CBD.

      I'm very lucky in my street, I have ADSL2+.

      Many have dial-up and are stuck on pair gained lines.

      10 year old estate.

      We had pair gain until I complained and persisted to the point of getting our address re-wired from the nearby pillar.

      Turnbull's plan is just BULL.

  9. P. Lee


    That's my normal speed in the Melbourne's Eastern suburbs and that's after Telstra rewired from my socket out to the road.

    Rain knocks me offline completely, as do high-temperatures.

    Rain, shine - there's always an excuse.

  10. dol

    Even more scary than politicians talking out of their backside, is the issue of Asbestos in the pits. According to the Telstra fact sheet( ) The PMG box in your picture contains asbestos, which is a little more alarming than snot or dog cocks. Interesting to see what the cost of remediation will be.

  11. Freman

    Politicians make me angry

    Still fighting the rage that rises every time I consider that the FTTP NBN would have started installing in my area starting this month.... meanwhile... it's raining... it's pouring... my internet is dying... - has been for the last 3 days now...

    1. Fluffy Bunny

      Re: Politicians make me angry

      Let's be honest. Your schedule was just made up to make the NBN look good. You would in fact have been told about the 1 year delay right around now. In a year, you'd get the next notification about another years delay.

      But I'll give you a smiley face because you're such an optimist.

  12. AbeSapian

    5 Mbs

    Out here, in the ass end of the universe, I'd kill for your 5 Mbs speed.

  13. Fluffy Bunny

    Proper system maintenance should be done

    What you're really trying to tell us is that Telstra isn't doing proper system maintenance. They were hoping for a get out of jail free card from the Governement in the form of big replacement contracts from the NBN Co.

    I don't have a problem with you getting a nice speed upgrade to 20, 50 or 100 MBS even. Just keep your hand out of my pocket when you're doing it.

    1. quedunk

      Re: Proper system maintenance should be done

      yeah, heaven forbid the government provide infrastructure for everyone.

      next you'll be saying:

      "oh, your water pressure allows for just a dribbling tap, you better pay to fix that infrastructure"

      "oh, you want electricity that doesnt brown out under load, you better pay to fix that infrastructure"

      ... just apply the same sentiment to any infrastructure that YOU dont need.

      sounds a bit selfish.

      i dont use the bus, but i sure dont resent the service being available.

    2. zemm

      Re: Proper system maintenance should be done

      " Just keep your hand out of my pocket when you're doing it."

      Original NBN plan kept all hands out of your pocket. I don't understand this argument, since it was funded through loans that would have been paid back - with profit. Money that would only come from people actively using the network. Don't connect and it would cost you nothing, not even from taxes.

      Are you also accusing me of taking "your" money when I got my home loan (albeit at ~1/100,000 the scale) to stop renting and purchase a property?

  14. rtfmoz

    I cant' discuss this topic anymore. It fills me with anger that people voted in the Coalition and they are destroying the only project that would have brought this country a new lease of life in the 21st century. Whenever I hear a complaint I just say, did you vote for them? You made your bed,... now you lie in it. Bloody Idiots.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      There is of course the very real possibility that we voted in the coalition because the ALP are a bunch of corrupt union shitkickers for whom gaol time is a very real possibility (incl. the former PM Ms. Gillard who is heavily implicated) and that there are more important things on the Australian economy agenda than the broadband network.

      That aside, Conroy is a moron and not a very nice person either.

  15. zemm

    I have to say that I also have been impressed by the promptness of Telstra's techs fixing faults. Not impressed that the line has to be completely (or almost-completely) dead before they'll do anything though.

    I've had to report my line being down twice over the last six years. Both times it was actually fixed on a holiday (once a Saturday and once on a public holiday, Queens birthday IIRC). The first time it was actually just the voice that dropped out: ADSL2+ continued to work and I could report the fault via VoIP. The second time the ADSL2+ kept dropping out every couple of minutes and you could barely hear the other person on the end of the line through the scratchy sounds. They did tests and couldn't fault it but couldn't deny the noises on the line. The tech even called and said "it sounds perfect" - no, they had diverted the line to a mobile. He plugged his own handset in at the pole and confirmed the fault was upstream, then he switched us to another line and everything came back. I do worry how many spare lines there are!

    Thinking back, every house I've lived in during my adult life has had issues with the phone line at one point or another. Whether "too far" from the exchange to get ADSL (when next door neighbours on both sides had it already) or simple water damage. I'm not sure if FTTP would be better in this regard, but it couldn't really be worse!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ADSL tropical misery

    I work for an small IT company in Darwin, much of our job involves spending hours on hold to Telstra about our customers ADSL issues.

    If you phone them they push all the blame back on to the Customer. It happens like this They spend an hour on hold get told to reset the modem, yes reset, nor reboot, usually clearing the config and username and password. After this fails to get them back on line Telstra say its the modem, even if it isn't.

    They can tell the sync speed from the exchange end, and they can see if your username is hitting the radius server. However they won't check that untill you on a second level, repeated call at minimum. They can tell the historical sync speeds and the fact that before your line died it was deteriorating, again you have to get up to very senior level before that comes out.

    After a while they have no choice but to call me.

    If they are lucky they have a modem I can retrieve the password out of, or they pay me for an hour blagging it out of Telstra. If they are really unlucky I've given away, lent out or mislaid my red dust encrusted old analogue phone. Test one: Does the line even work? Often the answer is "no" - oh and its the modem according to Telstra.

    Effectively If you don't have a spare modem, and the nous to set it up (and your adsl username and password), with which to test your line you'll get nowhere.

    A mate got me to help out with her Internet - after hours of phone calls to Telstra, she called me I picked up the line she'd been using to call telstra and the noise was dreadful. Telstra support could barley hear her over dreadful telephone line and are helping her to reprogramming her Router!

    Fibre was so ideal for Darwin, we have lousy power, cuts and spikes. My all my office's phones phantom ring on lighning strikes. "the Cloud" has lightning bolts raining out of it. This time of year the rain will make Noah Swear and don't get me started on the bugs.

    Now we have to put up with unmaintained copper - cos if you were Telstra and the NBN was coming you'd really have spent the last few years investing in the old wires.

    And avoid Naked DSL because Testra Engineers told me "we just plug in till we find a quiet pair and assume its free."

  17. Virag0

    So lucky...

    We got our NBN order in before the election. We are now totally on an FTTH connection for voice & data. The install of the termination was done to 10 townhouses in our block but so far we seem to be the only ones taking up. Prior we had ADSL2+ costing $130 a month plus a telstra phone & line rental

    for about another $40 a month. This is now a single account for $95 a month including voice & data.

    We run a VOIP phone with the old number migrated across. The old ADSL was lucky to get 5mbps

    out of an advertised "up to" 24mbps. Our new FTTH gets 70/30mbps during peak periods and

    about 90/35mbps offpeak out of an advertised 100/40mbps. The equipment installed included

    the terminator outside. When they turned up to do the internal setup, they wanted to go right

    through the wall where our TV was on the other side. Instead we requested the link to go upstairs

    in our home office. There was an issue with cable length associated with this, as it is Single Mode

    fibre, But they worked it out and an ONT fibre to ether box and a little UPS plugged into the mains

    to keep it up. The cost of this equipment I was told was about $2500 including installation

    but it only cost me $50 setup fee via the ISP who arranged the NBN guys to turn up. Excellent


    There are downsides to this. We still need a UPS to keep the gigabit switch and

    the phone up, as we drive the VOIP off that. The switch we use hangs up sometimes and has

    to be restarted or it will not keep VOIP registration going. The ISP we use is non interventionist

    and resells bandwidth from big suppliers so tech support depends your own initiative. But the

    service is excellent and we are planning to launch a set of small enterprises on it eventually.


  18. RobHib

    Older than that.

    My guess is sometime in the 1970s, and I said so, and he looked somewhat downcast.

    As the PMG was officially defunct after 1975, the chances are that the pit is a damned side older--the PMG having been officially inaugurated in 1901 with Australian federation.

    From the look of that photograph, I'd reckon that it was constructed in the 1950s-'60s (I recall that style being installed from when I was a kid). If the lead encased cables have been replaced with plastic sheathed ones, then this could have occurred anytime from the late 1960's onward.

  19. James 100

    FTTN wiring

    FTTN/FTTC is just ADSL with more frequencies and fancier coding - squeezing a bit more bandwidth out of the same wire. No need to replace copper that works with ADSL, just connect a different filter/splitter at the first socket and replace the modem.

    Now, if you have a lousy line, yes, it'll still be lousy - and if it's bad enough to need replacing anyway, or you're building a new development and putting in fresh wire anyway, FTTH/FTTP makes perfect sense.

    Here in the UK, we're going FTTC (fibre to the cabinet, FTTN in NBN-speak) almost everywhere, with FTTP limited to some new sites and an expensive option for those who really, really want it enough to pay through the nose for it. (Personally, I'd love to make the jump to actual fibre - but when I get 80/20 down plain old copper with FTTC, it's too hard to justify the expense for now.)

    Faults are still a pain though: I had *SIX* engineer visits recently, before BT admitted there was actually a core network fault - and then auto-closed the trouble ticket. Then tried to arrange a seventh visit before agreeing to re-open the ticket until the problem was actually fixed. Thank goodness for having a tenacious enough ISP to fight BT for as long as it takes to get the issue fixed properly!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't this just show that fibre is going to be costly?

    Your neighbour's connection was working wasn't it? If you have to pull those connections for all the working premises, aren't the costs going to be way higher than just leaving the copper that works? Of course, when you have to replace the last mile because of an issue like this, you replace it with fibre. It's not that hard to do this piecemeal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't this just show that fibre is going to be costly?

      But then your local cabinet has to cater for both copper AND fibre. If you're doing that then you might as well go fibre end to end rather than mess about with the expense and complexity of maintaining two different technologies and two different end to end communication methods.

  21. Jon B

    Meanwhile in New Zealand

    At least here in NZ we seem to be going in the right direction. FTTN was in place for most urban areas about 5 years ago, and VDSL is available for those nearest the cabinet. I get 14Mb/s ADSL2+ on an unremarkable suburban street, and the fibre guys were digging around last month so 50/20 or 100/50 fibre broadband is on its way too, for the same price as ADSL. There are some funding issues with the fibre program but it should mostly all get done before 2020 at least.

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