NBN Madness

dougkSat, 12/12/2020 - 9:23am

Late in the evening on 1 December, a flashy thunderstorm passed over the Cove. Not unusual. We get several such storms every summer. But at about 11 PM that night, our Internet connection disappeared. The almost new, white, NBN box on our wall started flashing an angry red. 

First thing the next morning we contacted our network provider to lodge a fault. "It's an NBN issue" we were told, and the earliest an NBN technician could come was more than a week away. What?  No Internet or landline for nine days! That is a calamity. Thank goodness we had already finished watching The Queen's Gambit.

We thought this equipment failure was a problem isolated to us. But no! There were many others in the Cove with the same problem. We've since heard that many people in Medowie also had this problem and that this was probably also the case for other local villages. Why? Those white NBN boxes, it seems, are highly susceptible to damage during electrical storms.There were so many faults generated in this region that NBN technicians had to be summoned from Sydney to assist with the workload. In our throw-away culture, the solution is: "replace the white box".

Next time we hear that a big storm is heading our way, we will try to get to our new white box before it does. We will be unplugging not just the power but the other two cables as well. We don't want to struggle through another nine days of unconnectedness!

The damage caused to the white box was probably attributable to lightning-induced current in the copper cable that links us to optical fibre in the roadside pit. There would have been a potential difference created between the electrical earth at the pit and the earth at the house. The current will take the easiest path to earth and if that happens to be through electronic equipment then damage will almost certainly occur. (That path could be at the house end, as happened in our case, or in the pit where there is an electronic device that links the fibre to the copper.)



On 4 January, another electrical storm took out the NBN connections of a significant number of Cove residents. Similar failures happened again at Medowie, Lemon Tree Passage and other locations around Port Stephens.

I am told that NBN Co recognise that this is a serious problem and that they are busy working to find a solution. In the mean time, apart from being ever-ready to disconnect before a storm arrives, a surge protector on the incoming data-line may help.  

You are probably not the only one going aaargghh Darrall!

I had decided to undertake an experiment.
As Saturday's storm savaged the Cove with one lightning bolt after another, I continued to use my computer (with considerable trepidation) just to see if the surge protector I had installed would protect our third NBN box from destruction. Maybe it was just my good luck but, despite many nearby strikes, our network connection continued throughout the storm without interruption and at maximum bandwidth.

This is the device that I installed:
It cost me $20 from Amazon but on checking the site I see that Amazon are currently out of stock. The same or equivalent devices are still available elsewhere though at a higher price.

Maybe it would be in NBN's interest to supply these devices to all their customers in vulnerable areas like ours!

There's a couple of ways to minimise internet disruption:
1. Hotspot your mobile phone and wifi from your computer
2. Vodafone hubs, for example, will connect via the mobile network if NBN fails.
Neither of the above will help the landline and internet speeds will be slower but better than nothing.

Very good points Grant.

We did hotspot to a mobile with a Telstra sim during the outage. We only get mobile access in one room of our house and even there the signal fluctuates from fair to poor. So it was fine for email and basic browsing but things like video chats and large downloads/uploads were not viable. I know that many other parts of the Cove have a better signal strength than we do and would not have the same problem.

I believe both Telstra and Optus also provide fall-back mobile connectivity during an outage and some of the supplied wireless modems from other providers have a sim slot which can be configured to provide the same functionality. 




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