Monday, 11 March 2013

Time to give NBN a good plug

imageBrunswick was one of the first suburbs in Australia to get the National Broadband Network. And I guess that also means we are the first to realise its limits.

One of the issues with NBN is that it is dependent on electricity supply. In the copper network, if the power went in a home, it was still possible to made a call. That’s important, as it may be an emergency situation like a fire outbreak. So NBN have tried to cover this by installing a backup power supply with the modem. Even if the power goes, there should be enough in the battery to keep you connected. All well and good.

However, rather than having a plug that can be inserted into the power unit, the power from the modem is hard-wired. As we discovered four days ago, this means that, when the backup unit goes, you have no connection.

A little ironic, eh?

We’ve certainly had time to appreciate the irony, but will not miss it when as hoped the crew arrive tomorrow to fix or replace the box.

So why did they decided to hard-wire it? It seems bad engineering to add another link in the chain that can break. If it was a plug, we could simply take it out and add it directly to the mains outlet – thus ensuring consistent access, as intended.

Someone at NBN didn’t trust us to use this wisely. What could go wrong? Maybe we’d decide it wasn’t necessary and re-locate it elsewhere in the house – or sell it in a garage sale.

So this is what it’s like in a technocracy. One hard head at the table says we need to be able to make calls if the power goes. Another says we need to hard-wire it to prevent illegitimate use. But then we are left with a far worse problem when we aren’t able to make the simple work-around ourselves.

Let us help you make it work, eh?


  1. An update:
    NBN was scheduled to come this morning to replace the power unit. No one turned up. I called iinet and they can't get a response from them (perhaps they are down the beach).
    We originally hear beeping from the unit last Tuesday. When I rang iinet they said someone from the NBN team would attend to it. We got a call back saying that they had fixed it from their end.
    It was still beeping. When we rang again on Thursday night, we were advised to turn the power unit off and on again. It didn't recover from this.

    1. This appeared today (great timing):

  2. I've had lots of input from some very technical minded people on this. It's more complex than I first thought (with lots of acronyms).
    The NBN modem does require some kind of transformer from the mains, but some believe that the NBN power unit is now optional. It could be a simple power brick like with a laptop. I'd be willing to do without the battery backup as I think the inconvenience of lot of power is less important than the increased risk with a complex power box.

    The tech did eventually turn up and changed the power unit over. He said that it should still function even if the battery wasn't working. He didn't say there was any alternative.

    NBN is great mainly because it is replacing old copper wires with new fibre plumbing. But the system seems quite complex with more things that can go wrong. I hope they they some flexibility to adapt to the experience of pioneer users like us in Brunswick.

    1. The only valid reason that the battery backup is in place, besides convenience for power outaged (scheduled or otherwise), is the safety issue of emergency phone service.
      If the power goes out and there was no battery backup, you would have no way to call for emergency services.

  3. Hello Kevin. I'm a student at Swinburne University and I'm doing my assignment in terms of how Brunswick people adopt NBN. Can I ask you some questioned about it? I just want to use some information for my assignment. Could you please give me your email address?
    Thank you so much.