NBN director Michael Malone says complaining customers should be sent 'to the back of the queue'

iiNet founder turned NBN board member Michael Malone. Source: supplied

NBN director Michael Malone says he’d put people who complain to the media about a lack of NBN service would be put “to the back of the queue” if he was running the national broadband provider.

In a pugnacious interview with Fairfax Media, the iiNet founder and tech entrepreneur, who sold his business to TPG two years ago, also took aim at Telstra, and “lazy” ISPs who blamed the NBN for problems its not responsible for, which are costing it additional money.

His “back of the queue” comments were directed at customers known as “NBN service class 0”, where are site is planned to be serviced by fibre.

The issue has been so vexed it has involved discussions between the ACCC and Telstra over the way class 0 customers are treated, because it involves premises in areas that are NBN-ready but in some instances are left with no internet service at all.

Malone said they should be patient, rather than complaining to the media, saying iiNet had 20,000 calls for support a day but “very few ended up on the front page”.

“If I was running NBN and they went to the media, I would put them to the back of the queue,” he said, adding “faults along the way” would occur in such as massive roll out, and the easy parts would be done first before circling back to fix the problems.

Malone told Fairfax that Telstra and NBN needed to fix the class 0 problem, adding there’s “no reason” why the telco can’t keep customers connected to the pre-existing DSL service while they’re waiting for the NBN.

He also said that ISPs and customers are slowing down the roll out and costing the NBN money because everyone assumes it’s responsible for any problems when 90% of the time, they have nothing to do with the broadband service, also floating the possibility of “incorrect callout fees”.

“If you can get the customer to start with the idea of, ‘Let’s rule out all the stuff in my house as causing the problem’, then you will fix 80 to 90% of the faults before even calling NBN Co,” he said.

While speed testing being organised by the ACCC was “a step in the right direction”, Malone said it “can be gamed pretty easily”.

He also took a swipe at the competition watchdog for its decision to make the NBN install 121 points of interconnection, where retailers plug their own network into the nbn, saying it drove up the cost for smaller retailers wanting to compete nationally.

The full Fairfax interview with Malone is here.

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