With less than a month to go before the Interim Satellite Service makes its last internet transmission, installers, customers and lobby groups have hit the afterburners.
Communications networks around the country are flooding email and social media feeds with a last-minute campaign to contact an estimated 1500 customers yet to be connected to the new Sky Muster internet service.
One of those waiting is Kimberley cattle producer Anne Maree Huey.
After applying to be migrated across to Sky Muster in June 2016 but being “bumped back” to September, November, December, February and then March 30, before being given a new connection date of March 1, she has no confidence she’ll be connected up before her existing internet connection is lost.
Her frustration at the prospect of having no internet for a month boiled over on the Better Internet for Rural Regional and Remote Australia Facebook page at the end of January.
“Considering our connection date has been postponed four times since November, I have little faith that the March date will go ahead either.
“I am just wondering if anyone else is in the same position, as I am about to start lobbying anyone who will listen (and no doubt quite a few who won't).”
Living 3.5 hours from Broome at Dampier Downs and with the wet season making access problematic, Anne-Marie is facing the prospect of not being able to track cyclones, nor being able to access market information as the cattle muster begins.
“My 15-year-old niece is looking at starting Year 11 with no internet – what other kids have to do that,” she asked.
“We’ve invested in InReach for staff working for us, so they can send emergency messages. It sends an email but without internet, we’re in the dark.
“This is putting lives at risk.”
Nbn co’s Queensland corporate affairs manager Kylie Lindsay has since said a helicopter install was planned for next week.
“This order has previously been identified as being located in an area known to have periodic access issues due to weather. For example the last appointment for this site had to be rescheduled due to weather.
“We’re actually doing quite a few by chopper. We are just doing what we need to do to get into some of the most remote, and difficult to reach places in Australia.”
Kylie also said reschedules were down to “resource availability”.
According to retail service provider SkyMesh CEO Paul Rees, the installation delays were not down to his company or nbn co, but were an installer issue.
He also commented to Anne Marie that his company had highlighted the problem to nbn co, and he suspected “they will realise the seriousness of the situation and will pull out all stops to get you connected by the deadline”.
One of the most galling things for Anne-Maree was that neighbours 20km away had been connected last year, meaning that an installer would have driven past their turnoff.
“This just seems to be inept,” she said.
According to Kylie, as satellite customers apply for their service at their discretion and with their service provider, nbn does not control the locations of the rollout for satellite as they are lodged in the system.
“For ISS migration, where we had not received orders at all, we undertook a pre-installation campaign where we did batch installations for areas where we were in control of the process.”
She said that even with the “proactive effort” put in to contact all ISS users, some had left it to the last minute to order a Sky Muster service.
“However, this number is small in comparison to overall number of people who were on the ISS.”
BIRRR is urging even people who hope to secure a fixed wireless service in future to apply for Sky Muster in the meantime.
“You will NOT have an internet connection past February 28, unless you do this,” spokeswoman Kristy Sparrow said. “At a later point in time you will be able to switch to fixed wireless/fibre as planned.”
She also urged current ISS users who have made an informed decision to use an alternate service to nbn Sky Muster, to also inform their ISS provider of their decision urgently.
“This will ensure you are removed from the list of people nbn is trying to contact but will also stop your provider billing you for your ISS service.
BIRRR believes that ISS providers are contacting customers regarding the looming deadline, but fears that many are not fully aware of the implications it might make on internet services and connectivity.
“It can take some time for applications to be processed and installers to actually physically get to customer locations to install the new Sky Muster satellite dishes - we urge everyone affected to immediately get the ball rolling with their application underway,” Kristy said.