NBN 'guinea pigs' are fed up

"MY FEELING is that we're out in the middle of nowhere - St Helens is being used as a guinea pig,'' North-East Vet Clinic owner Michael Perrin said yesterday.

The remark is echoed throughout Northern Tasmanian towns preparing to migrate to the  National Broadband Network's fibre-optic-only connection.

Business owners at St Helens, George Town and Deloraine expressed concern for their trades as connection delays of more than eight months build uncertainty in the "guinea pig'' regions.

There have been complaints over a range of internet service providers, some of whom were not able to offer a business connection package until months after announcing the NBN launch.

Mr Perrin said a week-long eftpos blackout and the allocation of a Victorian phone number to his 10-month-old business left him without confidence for the May 23 NBN switchover.

Although he received ``a couple of thousand dollars'' compensation after approaching the Ombudsman, Mr Perrin said he was unsure how much business was lost due to the bungle.

``Every time we had a problem,  we were always the first one who had ever had it,'' he said.

``It couldn't just be fixed, we got pushed around from person to person.''

Harcourts East Tamar director Andrew Michieletto said he was still waiting to be connected to the NBN, some eight months after first requesting the service.

``To tell you the truth, it's been so disorganised, one hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing,'' Mr Michieletto said.

``They've [NBNCo and Telstra] come back three times, haven't done anything and then left.

``We've been chasing it up but we seem to be getting nowhere.

``It's total disorganisation - we just don't know what's going on, to tell you the truth.''

NBNCo spokeswoman Lalla McKenzie said on Wednesday that  businesses that registered with an internet service provider would not be cut off until their connection was installed.

 However, George Town Chamber of Commerce president Alan Golley said some businesses had already been rendered uncontactable by phone as part of apparent system errors.

``I was told that there is no chance of having any alteration to the cut-off date, even if we do find issues with service,'' Mr Golley said.

``I've actually had a letter from [Communications Minister] Malcolm Turnbull with words to that effect - `the date will not be changed - under no circumstance will they be changed'.''

George Town Stylemaster Mensland owner Ben Bottle said he was forced to pay up to $2500 to upgrade his dated alarm and install wireless surety for his eftpos machine.

``It's frustrating. Everything was working OK -  we've never been offered any compensation,'' Mr Bottle said.

``I don't think we needed it here. We're a clothing store.''

Deloraine's Les Woods Auto Centre owner Les Woods said similar issues with connectivity had also been experienced in Meander Valley.

``I got it all connected about four or five months after the date it was supposed to be,'' Mr Woods said.

``I'm still actually on copper wire with my business line, fibre optic for another phone line and the internet.''

The communities are among the first in Australia to be marked for a complete NBN switchover.

Harcourts East Tamar director Andrew Michieletto with cabling left unconnected for eight months.

Harcourts East Tamar director Andrew Michieletto with cabling left unconnected for eight months.


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