Poor NBN connections cost small business thousands

Not planning a business's transition to the NBN could be costly, the NSW Business Chamber says.

Not planning a business's transition to the NBN could be costly, the NSW Business Chamber says.

Delays and disruptions in the rollout of the NBN are costing NSW businesses, on average, more than $9000 according to a survey by the NSW Business Chamber.

More than 850 businesses from across NSW took part in the survey, the first time the NSW Business Chamber has asked its members about this specific issue.

NBNCo currently advises the NBN is scheduled to hit Tenterfield’s CBD between April and June next year, and the chamber has some advice for local businesses in the lead-up to the facility becoming available.

”It’s a sorry state of affairs when our members are spending their hard earned money to upgrade their internet connection only to be left high and dry without internet for weeks at a time,” NSW Business Chamber regional manager Joe Townsend said.

“Presently only Armidale and Quirindi are connected directly to the NBN, and as the other regional centres begin to connect over the next 12 months much more needs to be done to improve the experience and level of service provided to businesses connecting to the NBN.”

Even where members have been able to connect to the NBN, slow speeds and poor levels of customer service by both wholesale and retail telecommunication providers have been consistently reported, with nearly half the respondents unlikely to recommend the NBN to another business. 

“The chamber’s NBN and telecommunications survey found that due to disruptions, investment in new equipment and lost business, on average connecting to the NBN was costing businesses up to $9000,” Mr Townsend said.

“These costs are unsurprising given 39 per cent of NSW businesses also reported having to wait more than four weeks to have their NBN service up and running, which is simply unacceptable.

“It’s critical that all businesses do their due diligence before making the big switch to the NBN. That’s why we’ve developed a five point guide for businesses to consider before making the change.”

Reliability also remains a key concern for businesses post connection, with 48 per cent of New England North West businesses responding to the survey saying their NBN service was unreliable. Other findings in the survey indicate that both fixed and mobile phone services remain an area of frustration for many businesses.

“Businesses across the New England North West have rated mobile communications as their second most frustrating telecommunications service. When compared with the state average of 10.7 per cent, the New England North West are NSW’s most frustrated region with reliable, and affordable mobile communication at 18 per cent, where Sydney is 7.3 per cent),” Mr Townsend said.

He said telecommunications can be a great leveller for regional and rural communities providing businesses with fast and reliable internet connections that can help create jobs, improve growth and attract investment.

”While we are seeing significant new investment in telecommunications, improvements to the quality of customer service and communication to telecommunications customers would help ensure a far better experience for business owners.

NSW Business Chamber's five tips to smooth the NBN connection process

Find the right Retail Service Provider (RSP) for you and your business. Research which RSP (e.g. Telstra, Optus, TPG) can best accommodate your business and its operations. Take a stocktake of what services and equipment your business needs to run and how they will run and operate on the NBN. Discuss how to minimise the disruptions to your business and make the process of migrating to the NBN as easy as possible.

You have to sign up.... eventually. Once NBN Co has announced that your area is ready for service you will have 18 months to move your service to the NBN network (and your current service is permanently disconnected). Take this time to carefully consider your options and don't feel rushed to sign anything before you're ready. You can talk to your current service provider for more information regarding disconnection dates.

You need permission first. If you are planning to migrate to the NBN and you are not the owner of your business premise you will need to get permission from the owner for the installation of NBN equipment. Make sure you do this before you decide to contact and arrange to be connected to the NBN via your RSP of choice.

Protect your business. When migrating to the NBN it’s a good idea to keep your current connection active (e.g. ADSL, Cable). Once your current service is disconnected it cannot be reactivated. When migrating to the NBN, installation delays or service faults can happen and it’s a good idea to have a back-up. Without a contingency in place your business could be left without internet for extended periods of time and facing expensive mobile data charges.

Check your equipment is NBN ready. Your existing equipment and devices such as fax machines, security alarms and Eftpos/Credit card machines may not work on the NBN and will need to be tested by the provider of the equipment (e.g. your bank or security company) beforehand. Your equipment provider is responsible for testing and ensuring their services work on the NBN. If you have any questions regarding how your equipment will operate on the NBN get in touch with the provider of your equipment to ensure it's NBN ready.

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