Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

What does NBN network degradation mean?

Your internet is struggling and your ISP isn’t helping. Support is telling you nothing beyond a weird message from NBN Co. What does it mean?

It was when we were watching ET with the six year old that we realised something was genuinely, seriously wrong with the internet. Two minutes before the end, when the alien was doing his heart-warming moment, the NBN cut out. Restarting the router did nothing, nor did power cycling the NBN supplied hardware.

On a Saturday night in October, our six year old went to bed without knowing what happened at the end of the movie. Thanks, NBN.

Faulty broadband issues are a pain at the best of times, affecting day and night, slowing down internet and rewarding you with a genuinely frustrating experience. Sometimes it’s an easy fix with a router restart, but other times you’re left in the dark about what to do. Most broadband providers will give you a warning of an outage a week or two out, but emergency outages can still occur, and then there are other issues.

If your network is suffering problems in Australia, the NBN Network Status page can give you a heads up on what if anything is going on. Different from the NBN address lookup integrated in nearly every telco and broadband provider in Australia, this address check gives you an idea on whether NBN knows something is problematic on your address.

On ours that night, it listed the address as having “network degradation”, which means our network connection was slower than usual and suffering from dropouts. That was certainly in line with what we were experiencing not just that night, but regularly for the past few weeks, but what was the actual cause?

Frustratingly, NBN tells you to go to your provider, who in turn won’t typically have much to say, beyond telling you something is happening and instead tell you to go back to NBN, creating a loop of irritation.

For broadband providers, the problem is that the answer can be complex.

“On this one, it’s hard to give a response as there are so many variables that determine this,” said Mark Fazio, Co-CEO of Mate.

“The biggest one is the type of NBN technology a household has,” he said. “For example, if it’s HFC or Fixed Wireless then the degradation is always there and amplified based on weather, construction in the area, etc. Then if it’s not an NBN issue then it could be a device issue in the home or just bad wiring in the home that needs fixing.”

Unfortunately, the answer can vary wildly, and you may very well be stuck with the luck of the draw. If there’s construction occurring around nearby, your NBN degradation could be that. If there’s a lot of rain, it could be that. If you’re just unlucky enough to live somewhere where NBN Co has yet to complete some maintenance, it could also be that.

Indeed, Dodo’s explanation is probably the most helpful, while also being frustratingly unhelpful at the same time, noting:

If your service provider’s Network Status page shows your area as being affected by an outage or degradation, there is nothing you can do until they have resolved the issue. If there is no known outage for your area, work through the next steps before contacting tech support.

In short, it’s an NBN Co issue.

A few weeks later, NBN Co did work on something in the area, taking out everyone’s internet connection for half the day, and all of a sudden, the “network degradation” message had disappeared.

Given the patchiness, we’re sure it’s still probably there, but it seems to be solved in the eyes of NBN Co. At least for the moment. Hopefully we can keep watching movies at night and see the ending at the same time.

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