Why is my fibre broadband installation taking so long?
Fibre is great for those who can get it. The internet technology - also known as "ultrafast broadband" or UFB - should make your connection world-class: speedier, more reliable, and sometimes even cheaper.
But not everyone can get it yet, and even people who can get it often wait months for the service to actually be installed.
Installation usually involves five separate steps, three separate companies, and the permission of neighbours. Delays can happen at any point during the process, and often you'll be the only one actually pushing the ball forward.
So it's no wonder this complicated mess of legal, commercial, and real world infrastructure can take some time to work through - but knowing the enemy is half the battle.
Let's go through those five steps in detail.
ONE: THE REQUEST TO THE ISP
Almost all of the fibre in the country is managed by one company: Chorus. But Chorus doesn't sell broadband directly to consumers - it is in fact legally barred from it. Instead, ISPs like Spark and Vodafone wholesale services through the network Chorus owns and operates.
So the first step to getting fibre is actively making a call to your ISP (or a new ISP) and asking for it. You can check if fibre is available in your area with this handy map.
Once you've put your request in with your ISP they should put the job through to Chorus. But if you haven't heard from Chorus within a few weeks, it might pay to call your ISP again and check that this has actually happened. If you can, get a job number so you can deal with Chorus directly - poor communication between companies is often behind delays.
(I'll keep saying Chorus throughout the article, but if you are in one of the areas covered by a different network, the same rules should apply.)
Here, as you can imagine, is the nightmare stage. If you live in a house you own and don't share access with anyone, you can probably skip this step. But if you rent, live in an apartment building managed by a body corporate, or share access with a neighbour, then you will need to get consent from all these parties. This is done by mail and can take months.
But you can speed things up. Calling up your landlord and knocking on the doors of your neighbours means they won't be confused when they get the consent form - in fact it might even get them on board the fibre train, as it increases the value of your landlord's property and your neighbour's house. They can fill out the consent forms online to save on delivery times too.
Yet even if everyone says yes right away, this process can mysteriously still take weeks and weeks and weeks. Make sure to call Chorus with a job number to quote if you want to know exactly what the holdup is.
THREE: PRE-INSTALLATION MEETING
Fibre installation can require some work on your property, so before any actual installation happens a representative from Chorus or a subcontractor such as Downer will come to your house to assess the situation and talk through any possible problems.
If you already have copper internet (you probably do) they can likely just replace the lines (either underground or aerial) with their fancy new fibre ones.
Sometimes other kooky solutions like literally stapling the wire to a fence will be required - every property is different. You might have to wait a few weeks to find out exactly when this technician will come, and you'll need to be home for this.
In this meeting you'll also discuss where the wire will actually come into your home. Most people opt for somewhere near a TV - but what's key here is getting somewhere around the middle of your house, as you will probably place your wi-fi router here, and you want the signal to be distributed to as many rooms as possible.
Note all the "probably" and "usually" in this section. The technician may need to come twice, you may need to go back to step two to get even more consent forms signed - the opportunities for delay are rife. Try to be as prepared as possible: make sure everyone who might need to sign consent forms has signed, you know whether you (or your landlord) are comfortable with someone digging up your garden, and you know where you want the wire to enter the house.
FOUR: THE INSTALL (PART ONE)
Once you've agreed on a "build plan" someone from a Chorus subcontractor such as Downer will do all the actual wiring from the cabinet to your home. This may be quite simple, this may be quite complicated - if they're digging up a new trench it will definitely be complicated. Wait times can suddenly be multiplied by weeks in this stage as you are often calling your ISP, who are calling Chorus, who are calling a subcontractor. Make sure to keep calling often and refuse to pay any internet bills before you actually get connected.
You don't need to be there for this, but it doesn't hurt. Chorus recommend you are at least contactable by phone.
FIVE: THE INSTALL (PART TWO)
After the physical install a technician will need to come to your house and hook up your router and test that it works, inside your home. For some maddening reason, this happens separately to the first part of your installation - so you could be looking at another few weeks if the companies are busy. You'll need to be home for this and it could take up to four hours.
Luckily this technician's job is to not leave your house until they can verify that your fibre is actually working.
Speaking of luck, if you've got to this stage - count yourself among the very fortunate. Only about one in five homes have fibre installed - and that's one of the highest rates in the entire OECD. It's likely been a bit of a war, but you're connected now. Enjoy it.