When fibre installs go wrong

Ditch the copper, get fibre, and join the world of ultra-fast broadband (UFB). That’s the dream, but for many the road to get there is a nightmare.

Fibre installer in trench

Here are two examples where a standard fibre install went wrong to show you what could happen and what to do if it all goes pear-shaped.

The process

Chorus, the main UFB installer across New Zealand, breaks its process down into “ABC” steps: Agree, Build, Connect.

Agree

After you contact your internet service provider (ISP) about getting fibre, it will arrange for a Chorus technician to meet you at your house. The technician will explain what’s required and you’ll agree on an installation plan.

This meeting will be organised via phone from the call centre, and confirmed via text message and email. Most of this communication will come from your ISP. This is your chance to have your say about where the optical network terminal (ONT) will be placed inside your house and is where you plug in your router. You'll also discuss the path the fibre will take from the road to your house.

Build

This is where the fibre is run from the road and connected to an external termination point (ETP) – a small box that’s installed on the outside of your house. Chorus will cut any trenches or install any required cable. You may not need to be home.

Usually the fibre will be installed along the same path the old copper wires use to get into your house. If that’s not possible, Chorus will discuss other options available and recommend the best method for your property. This is where you may have a trench dug from the road to your house, or wires strung along a fence.

Connect

This is the final stretch! A technician runs fibre from the ETP outside and connects it to the ONT inside your house. This step could require you to be home for up to four hours.

How complex each step needs to be depends on your situation. You might need consent from other residents if you share a driveway, or your property may need a trench to run cables. Because there can be so many variables, Chorus creates schedules on a case-by-case basis. As our examples show, this is where you can quickly run into trouble.

The technician will complete the internal wiring and installation of the new fibre equipment in the agreed position, as well as testing it before leaving.

Scott's experience

Losing connections

It started well enough. Through one of its “ninjas”, Vodafone offered me a decent fibre package. I was advised the next step was a Chorus technician visiting to look at my fibre installation options. We’re on a back section, so I knew there’d be a lot of planning needed.

The next day our landline was disconnected. Premature, but of all the services that could have been cut off early this was the one we could live without.

Chorus told us the road-digging and kerbside work would start on 1 June, nine months after I started the process. My wife stayed home, no one showed up.

Technician inspection day arrived. I’d organised to work from home so I would be there for the anticipated phone call saying “are you home now?” Late morning and I’d heard nothing. I called Vodafone. I was told Chorus tried to call but the landline was disconnected.

The Chorus technician called my mobile the next day and agreed to see me at a different time. This consultation determined our property would require an overhead connection that needed consent from neighbours, meaning a delay of two to three months.

But the process had gone awry at Vodafone’s end. Four days later, our internet was disconnected.

Trench or no trench?

After a month went by, I was advised the fibre connection would be installed in a trench, not the overhead wires we’d agreed on. I raised concerns as I didn’t think my patterned-concrete shared driveway was suitable for a trench, but I was ignored.

My install date passed with no correspondence from Chorus or Vodafone, or visits to the house. I didn’t bother being home as I’d not heard anything from anyone.

When Vodafone did finally contact me, the date was moved back an extra month. Ten days later I was contacted again to say it’d actually be eight months.

At this point I also received three different emails telling me I needed to get all the consents in place and that I risked being sent to the back of the queue if they weren’t. Vodafone reassured me these messages were all sent by mistake.

When the install team did arrive there was a new problem: they weren’t a trench-cutting team! Worse, they had no instructions on the job or the consents that had been obtained. They also had no details regarding other Chorus visits and what the other technicians thought was or wasn't possible.

Finally, fibre

Chorus told us the road-digging and kerbside work would start on 1 June, nine months after I started the process. My wife stayed home, no one showed up.

I got a call from a Chorus field engineer seven days later. He said he visited the house and a trench wasn’t the best option and he preferred to run the fibre up our fence line.

The install date with this new process changed three times from 22 June, to 25 June then 21 July.

But then I arrived home on 29 June to find roadworks and diggers doing the kerbside work and later workers ran the fibre along the fence. I received no email or mail notifications about this work.

Then on 12 July, almost a year after starting the process, I finally got fibre in my house.

Hadyn's story

A comedy of errors

After having the date and time of the meeting finalised, I received a message saying the date had been brought forward. So I took time off work and waited. And waited and waited.

Since there’s no contact number for Chorus, I called my telco Orcon, and was told that the tech was on his way. He wasn’t.

It shared details from the tech’s plan such as “install the ETP on the red wall”. My house is blue.

The next day I contacted Orcon, again and used social media to get hold of Chorus. I was told by my ISP that, according to the notes on my account, the technician had been around and my install was going ahead. It shared details from the tech’s plan such as “install the ETP on the red wall”. My house is blue.

Through social media I was able to get Chorus to escalate my case. What followed was a comedy of errors. I was contacted by several people, including the technician, each with a different plan for what was going to happen next. This culminated the next day in a surprise visit from the tech and his manager to do the consultation – they claimed it had all been arranged; it hadn’t.

Technical no-show

This part of the process should have been easy, and yet it still got screwed up. The fibre from the street was going to get to my house via a power pole.

Chorus needed permission from the lines company to do the work and that could take a few months. No worries, I know these things take time. And in the meantime, I needed to get some wiring work done.

The tech said, if I let him know in advance, he’d come along and tell the electrician exactly what to do. So I booked the sparky and spoke to the tech, all sorted. Ha! No, of course it wasn’t.

The electrician showed up, the tech didn’t. Thankfully, the electrician had done some similar jobs and was able to complete the job. I never heard back from the tech until the final install day.

Fibre-optic fix

The setup and install were all agreed on so it was just going to be the technician and his assistant coming to do a quick install, right?

Everything seemed fine, except when the tech checked the electrician’s work he found a section of the tube where the fibre-optic cable couldn’t bend through (glass doesn’t bend as well as copper). So he had to fix that. This likely would’ve been picked up had he been there when he said he would be.

However, since my fibre has been installed, it’s been working fine.

Tips for when things go wrong

If your installation goes badly, and your ISP can’t offer a solution you’re happy with, your best option is contacting the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution (TDR) service. Most major telcos are members of the TDR and it’s a free service. The TDR has received 174 complaints about fibre installation in the past year.

To support your case, be prepared and keep records. For example, you may need to take time off work when the technician is coming around. Make sure this is put in your ISP’s case notes. Then, if the technician fails to show, you’ll have evidence to help you claim compensation.

To make a complaint, visit tdr.org.nz or call 0508 98 98 98.

Member comments

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Debbie B.
17 Mar 2019
It usually works fine .... (but also goes really wrong)

As a Data Networking lecturer, a few people ask or tell me about their fibre installs. Number one bit of advice - always be there when it is happening!
Neither your article nor comments mention the Chorus Order Tracker: https://app.chorus.co.nz/ Our tenants ordered fibre through MyRepublic, who gave us the link and login details. The Tracker meant we all knew what was happening, when there were delays, etc.

Elaine H.
08 Mar 2019
Great job installing fibre with NOW

All our services except sewage access our home under our driveway. When we built 40 years ago we constructed our driveway with removeable pavers. After requesting fibre through NOW Chorus contractors visited our home to scope out the job. We needed to get another power point and phone line dropped into the room before this could happen. We also had to remove the pavers. Once done, they turned up promptly on the Saturday, one guy ran the cable up from the street by burying underneath the paver's base, cut a trench in the carport concrete, inserted the cable and mortered the top. The other technician worked on the inside stuff installing the outside and inside box to the house. The they reconnected the router. (Our own). Our landline then had a short break while it converted to digital. Great job by them, very tidy workmen. In Napier. Several other teams installed fibre into 2 other houses in the street on the same day.

Rodger R.
02 Mar 2019
Chorus is a shocking monopoly

Chorus has no idea what customer relations,honesty to consumers,and time deadlines are about. It abuses its monopoly every day of the week. If there was choice no one would use Chorus.

Steve B.
03 Mar 2019
Steve

Don't forget that Chorus is Telecom, but with a tiny bit of government intervention.

Cliff P.
02 Mar 2019
It's not the contractors...

I believe that the problems are mostly with the management processes and platform that Chorus use. The contractors and the ISPs have to rely on it and it constantly lets them down. For instance, my ISP at the time told me, when I phoned them for an update, that they could see into the Chorus system (apparently they have access) and that a technician was supposed to have visited the day before. On another occasion a technician called and said that the system told him that I had agreed to the scheduled visit, I hadn't and it was pure luck that I was there. The technician said that the system was always doing things like this, and often they were not notified that they had been scheduled. When they finally installed the fibre the technician told me that he was supposed to be on leave, but had still been scheduled for the job. All the technicians that I dealt with were efficient, friendly and helpful. They all seemed resigned to the screw-ups caused by the system.

Trevor S.
02 Mar 2019
Fibre installed about 19 months ago

We live down a long private lane with 8 houses on it. Our immediate neighbour and ourselves were keen to have fibre but some of our other neighbours weren’t. Eventually my neighbour and I door knocked every other house and had them sign up. We all had to agree or chorus wouldn’t do it. The installation was done in about 3 days using a micro trenching approach, not nearly as invasive as some had thought.
Go to whoa took about 13 months and our install was delayed further when our file was lost somehow.
Later I had problems with our landline dropping out and this took 4 weeks to resolve fully. The third technician sent didfix it but told me that our areas connections had been “stuffed up properly” by the contractors for chorus and he had put in a works order to fix it all.

Margaret B.
02 Mar 2019
Gave up

Before I moved I arranged for fibre to be installed with the ISP I was switching to. There was no consultation with me at all. Documents were sent out to neighbours as I am on a shared driveway. Mine were sent to my previous address that I had left several months before, so I didn't get them until some time later. Therefore I had no chance to discuss with my neighbours. Before I even got my document, which was the wrong one for the owner, my neighbour had declined as she did not understand the document she had been sent and thought her telephone would be disconnected. In the end I gave up. There is a conduit that can be used down the driveway, so external installation should be straight-forward.

Paul B.
02 Mar 2019
Comedy, but no laughs

Chorus sent a chap out to have a look at my connection, and the connection to my neighbour's house at the rear. They would get fibre through a trench, I would be connected by overhead wire to the front of the house.
I argued for a trench because I had recently extended the house and put in new internal wiring following Chorus's advice - the connection point for the was at the back of the house.
No, said the man, it must be connected overhead to the front but you will be able to change it later if you wish.
The team turned up for the build unannounced - they were terrific and agreed with me that the connection should be at the rear of the house but weren't allowed to deviate from the plan. The installation went well.
I have 1Gbit/s connection from Orcon. Around the house I have CAT6 cabling which is super fast. Because of Chorus's decision, I am stuck with 100Mbit/s in each room. This is very quick but only a tenth of what it's supposed to be.
So I called Orcon and they called Chorus and another man was dispatched and he said yes we can move the connection for you: it'll cost $4000.
Fibre is a fantastic product. It's the network of the future and it delivers tremendous opportunity. I now run my business from home and never worry about slow downs or drop outs. But the installation process is a farce.