IT WAS a moment of truth for the NBN Co today when their representatives came face to face with concerned and aggrieved Central Queensland residents and businesses people.
After significant negative publicity relating NBN roll out over the past couple of months, the NBN Co sprang into action by launching their four-person local community relations team, which was dedicated to servicing the Rockhampton area.
Although there wasn't a large turn out for the 'round-table' event, which could possibly be attributed to confusion relating to the starting time, those who did attend, like Brent Wesley, had troubling stories to share.
Mr Wesley works in business IT as an account manager for Consulting One and said he was experiencing problems almost constantly since the roll out started in Rockhampton last June.
"We represent quite a few clients here in Rocky, it's probably on a daily basis if not more that I'm dealing with problems with the NBN and getting NBN in place for customers,” Mr Wesley said.
"We are spending hundreds and hundreds of hours dealing with these issues.
"Currently we have customers who, as of June, were told they could get NBN in the CBD and they can not get NBN currently because they have completely blocked a node from new connections.”
He said some of his clients including The Two Professors, Allenstown Florist and the Ambassador Hotel have had terrible experiences with no internet for extended periods of time and consequently losing thousands of dollars.
"I've lost entire weeks, who do we charge for that?” Mr Wesley said.
"I've spent more than 60 hours on the phone and email and lost at least $25,000 plus labour since last June.”
He has taken the drastic step now of adding hundreds of dollars to his charges by getting another phone line installed just so his clients have certainty that when they switched from ADSL to the NBN that they wouldn't lose their internet coverage for potentially weeks if something was to go wrong.
"We've done a social media blitz through the politicians, everyone we can and not one person has had the balls to stand up to provide any assistance whatsoever to businesses who can't get the NBN, when push comes to shove, nothing happens,” Mr Wesley said.
"I'm not going to expect anything as far as NBN is concerned until they can prove themselves.
"I see this as a media stunt to be honest but if they come back to me with information, I see that as a bonus.”
An NBN spokesperson responded to Mr Wesley's concerns saying the NBN network was the largest and most complex infrastructure project in Australia's history and for a project of this scale, things don't always go to plan.
"In fibre service areas right across the nation where nbn has been switched on to date, there are areas that require more work to make them ready for service,” they said
"The node in question has been identified as having design issues and requires further work. We are currently working on this issue and hope to have it up and running as soon as possible.
"We apologise for any inconvenience experienced and ask for your patience while this critical work is carried out.”
The spokesperson said the purpose of today's launch was to ensure residents here in Rockhampton that the NBN local team will work alongside network engineers and deployment to help improve customer experience.
The Queensland head of NBN local Ryan Williams sought to address the concerns of the community saying his dedicated team was looking at improving the customer service in regional Australia including places like Rockhampton.
"As we roll out with greater speed, it's even more important that we continue to work with local communities to ensure that people get the best out of the NBN,” Mr Williams said.
"We do understand there has been concerns in the community and what we're here to do today is tell people that we're going to be more present in the community helping people who do need to switch to the NBN and our dedicated team will help people address their issues.
"We get the installation process right nine times out of 10 but we acknowledge that one time out of 10 is not good enough so part of the NBN local team of technicians and engineers will do is be on the ground to answer concerns and get those issues resolved as soon as possible.”
He said the local team planned to appear throughout the community at field days, in front of supermarkets, and other places where people can engage and have those conversations.
If something does go wrong, Mr Williams said people's first point of contact should still be their internet service providers and if they are having difficulties to call the Gold Coast based NBN contact centre before the local customer service team was deployed.