NBN permanently cuts off landlines

On 23 May NBN Co. will be switching off copper wire services in towns across Australia.

NBN permanently cuts off landlines

On 23 May 2014 NBN Co. will be switching off copper wire services in a number of suburbs, towns and rural centres in Australia. This is the first in a list of scheduled copper decommissions. The decommissions only occur after the new fibre optic network has been in place in an area for at least 18 months. But there is growing concern that many Australians do not realise that, when the final switch is made to the fibre optic network and the copper service is switched off, they will also lose their telephone lines if they haven’t made the switch to the NBN.

When the NBN is installed in an area, households are not automatically connected. They have to call up their service provider and make a deliberate switch, a fact not all Australians are aware of. Many are also unaware that the new NBN cables will not just carry internet services - they will also be used to operate telephone lines going forward.

According to consumer groups it is regional and elderly residents who will be the most affected by this switch-off. Many rural towns in Tasmania will have their copper wire service switched off on 23 May and, if they haven’t signed up to make the switch by 23 April, NBN Co. cannot guarantee that their phone services won’t be cut off. Digital Tasmania told an NBN senate committee hearing in Perth earlier this month that only about half of premises which could be connected to the NBN service in Tasmania had done so.

A spokesperson from NBN Co. has said that next month’s copper switch off applies to 19,000 homes and businesses around the country which currently have an active copper connection.

Some of the suburbs which will be affected are:

  • Deloraine in Tasmania
  • Armidale in New South Wales
  • Brunswick in Victoria
  • Townsville in Queensland
  • Willunga in South Australia

To find out if you are likely to lose your copper service next month, visit the NBN Switch-off website

Craig Perkins, the Mayor of Meander Valley Council, which includes Deloraine, one of the affected suburbs, is concerned that not all the residents in his area understand the switch-over.

“The NBN has been promoted - and rightly so - as a technology system for internet access and downloads; it's all about speed; it's about downloads.

So, people who don't have access or don't use the internet, and particularly when you're talking about older people in the community, quite possibly don't understand that, when they get a letter from NBN Co. it's just not necessarily about internet, it's also about their telephone services.”

The services which will be switched off include:

  • Telstra landline phone services (except some Telstra Velocity lines)
  • Landlines phone services from all other phone companies, where the service is provided over Telstra's copper phone lines
  • All ADSL, ADSL2 and ADSL2+ internet services from all providers
  • Telstra BigPond cable internet services
  • Optus cable internet and cable phone services (switch-off date yet to be determined)

If you are not sure how your phone or internet is provided, the best way to find out is to contact your service provider.

Read a transcript of the full interview with Craig Perkins

Opinion: Disaster waiting to happen

Hearing about this latest NBN debacle is like watching a car accident, where a man walks out into the middle of the road, has a minor heart attack, collapses, and the driver racing towards him turns to his passenger and says, “Don’t worry, he’ll get out of the way in time.” (In case it wasn’t clear, homeowners are the hapless sod about to be run over and NBN Co. is in the driver’s seat. The passenger is the incredulous public laughing nervously because of course he’s going to slow down, right? Right?)

Digital Tasmania has already made public the fact that only half of those who could connect to the NBN in Tasmania have done so. That means half haven’t and, even if they all sign up in a flurry before 23 April (which they won’t), we all know how well Telstra and Optus deal with sudden high demand. The system collapses. So what happens to all those Tasmanians who can’t, won’t, or don’t even know they need to switch to the NBN?

Come 23 May they lose their internet connection. They also lose their landline services. So we’ve got elderly Tasmanian residents living in relative isolation who no longer have a line to the outside world. They may have a mobile phone, but what if it only works when they go into town? Getting coverage in rural areas can be tricky at the best of times. So they’re completely cut off. With that many people the chances of someone getting sick or having a fall is a very real possibility, and they’ll have no way to call for help. Or, on the other end, you’ve got grown-up children who suddenly find they can’t contact their parents to check-in. They don’t know that their parent’s phone line has been shut down, so they go into a panic and race up to make sure their mum or dad is okay.

If NBN Co. goes ahead and switches off the copper cables on 23 May there will be unnecessary panic and possibly some very real emergency situations which could have been avoided as a result. It has been made clear to NBN Co. that information about the need to switch over to the NBN, or the fact that it will affect phone lines, is not reaching residents. Too many people are still far too unaware.

NBN Co. knows these facts. It knows that people are going to be left with no phone service if they go ahead with the switch-off. It’s impossible to expect that every single person can be contacted, but the number of residents who appear to be unaware of the situation is still far too high. This is a potential car-wreck of a situation, but one which we’ve been given plenty of notice about. If the switch-off does go ahead, there’s no way NBN Co. will be able to say it didn’t know the disaster was coming. And, unfortunately, it’s Australia’s most vulnerable residents who will get hurt.

What do you think? Has NBN Co. done a good enough job of informing residents about the switch-off? Or is it up to residents to inform themselves? Should the switch-off be postponed in order to ensure the safety of those in remote areas, or have there been far too many delays with the NBN already?


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    fish head
    10th Apr 2014
    This is a disgrace ! You're darn tooting there has been very little said about the switch affecting landlines.It's all been Internet and speed for computer connections.Like most city dwelling oldsters with minimal internet use, I curled my lip at the increased costs mentioned never dreaming that we are all going to be forced onto the new system eventually with no comeback. This is theft by stealth. Are the prices for landline use going to go through the roof too? No wonder there has been little rush to signup for a more expensive service.
    10th Apr 2014
    This is the first I have known about this situation. I don't have a landline by choice but my very elderly neighbour does and she as no mobile phone. I will inform her and her family. Thanks for the update.
    10th Apr 2014
    Remind them not to vote labor ever
    11th Apr 2014
    pete stop blaming Labor
    10th Apr 2014
    Unfortunately I guess this is called progress. There is little or no consideration of the elderly when it comes to new technology. I dread the thought what would happen if I depart this mortal coil before my wife does. She has no Mobile, is totally confused when asked to use her pin with her credit card, has no idea about internet banking, indeed computers leave her cold. She can't understand that newfangled stuff. Since we gave up the account with with a cheque book has no idea how to pay bills. At least I manage reasonably well with all this, but it seems to get harder.
    11th Apr 2014
    Oldie 80, this is effecting many of us,...........and yes to do with progress and definately............. no consideration given to senior of our country.........I hate mobil phones,............ I prefer Land............ line and if you live in a regional area.................WE nEED lAND lINE AS MANY AREAS DONT HAVE THE SINGLE........we cant afford these mobile coastly nore can we afford to buy these latest gaget their using.....
    10th Apr 2014
    Something else also seems to stink here.

    Thinking of those people who only want a phone line and no internet made me go and do a bit of investigating.

    Looking at IInet as an example they provide what is called "Fibre Phone" This is where a normal phone can be plugged into a normal phone port on the NBN box. It costs $19.95 per month. Then It said that for this you need to have a NBN Fibre plan. This works out to be $70 per month which includes the Fibre phone option.

    Currently I pay with IINet 29.95 for a landline phone. Plus the usual call rates. My phone bill rarely goes above $45. This effectively means that someone who does not want internet access has it forced on them and pays for it even if they do not want it. In this case it would be an extra $25 month.
    10th Apr 2014
    Personally, as a senior myself, I find it hard to feel sympathy for other seniors who refuse to keep up with technology and then complain loudly when this attitude bites them in the bum. It has been known for years that the copper would be switched off 18 months after the NBN rollout in a specific area. If people choose to ignore notices mailed to them, they should blame themselves and no one else.
    11th Apr 2014
    ozimarco, OK I understand what your saying due to many have hearing problems mobils is not the way to go..........None many of us retired pensioners cant even afford to have these latest gagets...........let alone try and work how they work
    10th Apr 2014
    Where and when was the announcement of this planned service- severing first made? Was this the original intention of the NBN proposal that was put forward by Kevin Rudd? Am I correct in assuming that the uprooting of the copper cable network was part of the initial plan for setting up the NBN? Or is this something else that Gunner Abbott is gunner do to the poor, poor pensioners? There's always something new to frighten, horrify and shock us oldies! Or is that the "Youngies" was of getting our attention?
    10th Apr 2014
    Wally you cannot blame Mr Abbott for this one. The NBN was a Labor project. Remember the criticism of the Libs when they wanted to slow down the hastiness of the project saying not everyone needs the you beaut superhighway?

    I agree with other contributors here, the shutting down of telephone lines has not been made clear. All the publicity has been about business and some education applications and other things around internet access and functionality.

    Why has NBN not worked closer with Telstra & Optus to contact customers? NBN would not be privy to this information. Have there been television ads in the affected areas as there was for the change from analogue to digital TV?

    I don't know because my area is not on NBN and is not even on the map yet!

    10th Apr 2014
    I suppose that like all labor cock ups this is similar to bushies being promised sat connection but somehow Labor forgot to buy enough places ?????
    Coalition fixing up once again.
    Polly Esther
    10th Apr 2014
    Yep! Sadly, it sounds so very true Pete. And you're right KSS Mr Abbott aint to blame for this right cock up.
    10th Apr 2014
    Lets just hold on a minute.
    We are discussing here how some people are being affected by the swapover to fibre and its effect on some people not realizing they may lose their phone connection. This is a PR issue not the fault of how the NBN is being installed and implemented. The current mob have been in power for 9 months. To me this seems plenty of time for them to make sure all affected were aware of any consequences. I certainly do not remember any TV ads make people aware.
    10th Apr 2014
    No it's labor back of the envelope 70 billion waste of taxpayers money.
    10th Apr 2014
    This is a beat-up - if you look at this page on the NBN site you will see that people on a limited income, those with special needs etc are to be taken care of.
    I agree there should be a mailout plan, particularly through Centreline, so that people are made aware of the need to switch. If it is determined that there are too many people to be processed for NBN then the date for switch-off can be extended - it is only a date after all
    10th Apr 2014
    I am hoping that all this panick talk is founded on some facts that we can check. I for one see no reason fopr 75% of Internet users to have this EXPENSIVE NBN. We were never asked by any referendum but slowly shovelled it down our throat. We should all demand that those who want it can pay for it themselves, and the rest of us silent majority stick to the existing system,. Telstra or whoever makes these changes will no doubt bungle things as they have in the past. For once I can honestly say I see no reason for NBN especially in these tuff times- to change to a system that (i) has already big problems (ii) majority don/t need nor want it-especially once they discover the costs to their monthly charges (iii) we were NEVER told the full story by the fast talkin' slick movin' dishonest previous Labor government. A Union leader that tells us all about modern telco facilities- really ???
    Tom Tank
    10th Apr 2014
    This shows all the signs of too many cooks spoiling the broth. It appears that no one body is in charge of this changeover with NBN, and the telcos, such as Telstra, not working together.
    The system has been started by one political party but the other is now responsible for the changeover so they should ensure it proceeds smoothly.
    Then again of course perhaps they see some political points can be scored by letting a stuff up happen.
    Am I being unreasonably cynical about our elected representatives??
    10th Apr 2014
    Tom we are so sidelined by the political agenda, that we rarely get the TRUTH until it's too late. In this case it's ALMOST too late. If we all wrote a petition to the Government and I mewan ALL of us- they may sit up and take notice. The growing threat of APATHY lingers evesn after the last 6 years of debacles. Wake up Oz we need to get to this problem NOW by positive but realistic action. Maybe a simple letter to the Govt saying "WE DON'T WANT NBN- YET" would do. !!!
    10th Apr 2014
    In my street I would estimate that at least 50% of the homes do not have internet & PROBABLY MORE.
    Most of the occupants of these houses are older people.

    10th Apr 2014
    The problem is that these people do not know or understand their own products their own services - or how they work -
    10th Apr 2014
    10th Apr 2014
    Nightshade I suspect you are guessing that "BUSINESS" relies heavily on the NBN. Some businesses may only use the internet for half the day, while many only use it for emails. Why should an email that takes 2 to 3 minutes be more efficient irispective of the speed of transaction ? Really, this is like giving a child a V8 car when all he needs is a push bike to scoot around the block. The real need is for the few big business users who need this fast transaction speed to be charged for the NBN system, not the rest of us who don't need nor want it. Fools rush in but realists take a closer look.!!!! Please send a letter to the Govt "WE DON'T NEED NBN- YET, Maybe the penny will drop- or our dollars will be lost.
    10th Apr 2014
    I may be quite wrong, but, I think I remember some time ago there was talk about this and no matter what, your service provider had to supply you with a "basic" home phone connection if you already were connected .
    10th Apr 2014
    I am grateful for this article. Like many other people I was simply not going to bother to change over for my simple internet requirements. Will I do away with my computer? I don't think I could. I can live on bread and dripping I suppose, to save the money to pay for it. Thank goodness it still looks to be in the far distant future for where I live. They might even have it properly organised by then.
    10th Apr 2014
    Why don't you do what I do i just pay39 bucks a month unlimited calls and text and 4 gigs of data with a amaysim that's it .
    11th Apr 2014
    hey Pete its not all about what you do How about thinking of others who have extremely bad vision to send a text??????????????
    13th Apr 2014
    How did you manage to post on here? And what has texting got to do with it .
    I get unlimited mobile phone calls unlimited text plus 4 gigs of data from which I do all my emails all my banking receive all my newspapers and mags on line I am totally mobile and my total bill is 39 dollars a month .
    Soapbox Diva
    10th Apr 2014
    And what happens when the power goes out??
    10th Apr 2014
    I understand that the NBN box has a battery in it. Unfortunately this only drives a normal phone plugged into the phone socket on the box. If you use VOIP then thats it no phone.
    10th Apr 2014
    I have not received any letter in this regard. Surely, if this is true, a proper communication is in order otherwise there will be a backlash from the community.
    11th Apr 2014
    I listened to the Minister of Communications on TV and he claimed it would cost $15Billion to withdraw from this shambles. IF these figures are the case, how can he justify the cost to continue ( obviously MORE than $15 Billion). I am suss about that figure, and wonder if he can support the claim he made. Surely the previous Government did not allow such a huge compensation figure- or was this another political game? I would be interested in how the $15 Billion was arrived at. In the meantime, cease the rot and stop the "roll out" before we all get totally swamped with such dubious figures. How much will that roll-our cost the taxpayers to satisfy such a small group of users who NEED the NBN, let alone those who can afford to PAY the monthly charge.
    Capn Dan
    12th Apr 2014
    Is it that anything run by the government has to get rid of any competition first to be a 'success'? I remember having a business when the Telecom (now Telstra) had a monopoly. Getting a phone line for my business was a joke. Was I big business? No just small business that needed an extra line. So is the present government capitalist or communist? Or just a mish-mash of lawyers and flunkeys. Older Australians are being put in danger by idiots.
    13th Apr 2014
    Governments should not be in business period especially high tech .nor should it have favourites as in Green technology .
    6th May 2014
    So what about a FULL LIST of suburbs which are to be disconnected.
    6th May 2014
    Disconnect the landline and get a smartphone fish head. Your sabre rattling about the cost defies the fact that nobody really knows where the cost is going to go. And lets face it the beat up of the NBN's cost by the Abbott?Goebels propaganda machine belies that fact that it has to be paid for and the subscribers will have to bear the cost.

    What people who bag the NBN do not understand is that THERE WAS NO CHOICE because data usage id roughly doubling every year and at this rate in 20 years time we will be putting through 1000 000 times the current amount. Copper would DOA long before that. It is sad that the cattle voted Abbott in and that his henchman Turnbull is doing a great job of destroying the original concept. The real danger is that this side of politics will render the NBN useless and we will need to pay a second time. Welcome to the big end of town which only cares about serving the rich and getting back into power.

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