A former tenant may end up costing a Warilla man $300 to connect to the internet.
The bizarre situation came to light after Steve Fisher moved into his flat in Warilla three weeks ago and contacted Southern Phone to arrange a connection to the NBN.
Mr Fisher runs a lobby and support group called Beyond Abuse for people who have been sexually assaulted.
He said he was part of the push for the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse and had testified before it.
Internet access is crucial for the lobby group, he said.
“I deal with emails every day, I’ve got to send out media releases,” he said.
“It’s been three weeks and in the meantime I’ve been using my phone to send out media releases. There are people contacting me who need help and I can’t help them because I can’t read their messages.”
He was surprised to be told by a Southern Phone representative that, unless he could provide them with the old phone number for the premises, NBNCo would charge a $300 fee for a new landline.
Southern Phone – like a number of other telcos – would then pass on that $300 fee to Mr Fisher.
After deciding the $300 charge sounded “a bit bloody dodgy”, Mr Fisher opted to go with another provider.
Southern Phone managing director David Joss said the charge wasn’t dodgy but was a result of a situation that can happen in rental properties.
Mr Joss said the problem stemmed from the fact there is an existing phone number connected to the line running into Mr Fisher’s house.
He said it was likely the previous tenant did not bother to disconnect the phone, or it was not disconnected properly.
A phone line can only carry one number and so, Mr Joss said, unless Mr Fisher can find what that number is and they can clear it, NBNCo will have to run a new line from the node to his flat so he can connect to the internet.
That cost of NBNCo laying that new line would be $300, which NBNCo would charge to the telco.
“The NBN is essentially saying the copper that’s within that unit is incumbent with another service, so they can’t put anything on it until we tell them what that number that is encumbering the copper is,” Mr Joss said.
In 90 per cent of cases like this, Mr Joss said they know the old number and there were no issues.
He said Southern Phone was looking to work with Mr Fisher to rectify the issue.
Mr Joss recommended ways renters could avoid being plagued by this little-known hassle.
“It seems to apply mostly for people who are renting, so my advice for people who are renting would be to try and find out the number when they’re moving in,” he said.