Ultra-fast broadband terminal installed in toilet

Chorus has fessed up to installing UFB equipment in a toilet but rejects a claim by E tu that an inquiry is warranted to ...

Chorus has fessed up to installing UFB equipment in a toilet but rejects a claim by E tu that an inquiry is warranted to lift the lid on quality issues, saying the union is motivated by "an agenda".

An ultrafast broadband installation that technicians have jokingly dubbed "fibre to the throne" has left networking company Chorus red-faced.

But the company has denied the job, which it admitted "failed to come anywhere near meeting our normal high standards", was indicative of a wider quality issue.

An optical network terminal (ONT) – where optical-fibre transitions to home wiring – was installed on the back wall of a toilet in a Lower Hutt home with leads draped over the lid of the cistern.

Technicians suspect it could also have posed a safety hazard to males with "poor aim". It shared a power socket with a washing machine and had to be plugged when that was in use.

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Derek Pullen, manager of the Telecommunications Disputes Resolution (TDR) complaints scheme, last month advised consumers to stick up for their rights when UFB was being installed in their homes.

In its annual report, TDR recounted a complaint it had received from a 71 year-old woman who was asked to stand on a hot water cylinder to plug in her phone.

That was so technicians could troubleshoot a problem with her landline, after an ONT was installed in her hot water cupboard.

Pullen said that case was an extreme and "bizarre" example of a wider issue of UFB installers placing equipment where it was convenient for them, rather than homeowners.

One telecommunications technician said issues ran deeper into the network with "unskilled" contractors botching repairs on shared pipes.

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"I'm pretty sure you would be horrified if even a fraction of the stuff surfaced."

E tu union organiser Joe Gallagher said an inquiry was warranted into work done by Chorus and its contracting model, so technicians could speak freely without fear of reprisals.

"Quality has been suffering as they continue to try and drive in a labour model that focuses less on quality than on getting the job done in any shape and form."

E tu had been tipped off Chorus was spending $1 million a month fixing faults on newly laid fibre, he said.

"Connections are playing up because there is water getting into these networks. If you speak out, you are blacklisted."

Chorus spokesman Nathan Beaumont put its hand up for the toilet job, but not the one in the hot-water cupboard, and rejected the union's claims.

"The installation took place about six months ago and was done by a service company that no longer does fibre installations for Chorus. The technician also no longer works in the industry," he said.

Chorus typically received about 10 "queries" on the 600 installs it arranged each day, he said.

"Anyone who has any experience of building projects of this nature will know occasionally there will be snags.

But Beaumont said there were no issues with the quality of the UFB build programme and "Chorus strongly rejects any claims to the contrary".

"The union making this claim represents a minuscule part of the industry and it clearly has an agenda. It's probably quite telling that it's easier to attract people to the industry with an offer for them to be self-employed rather than waged as the union would like," he said.

 - Stuff

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