Nova Women and Children is the place where you hope the phones never ring again, but it’s also the place where a call can never go unanswered.
Staff said the centre receives around 50 calls and 10 emails a day from women who need help to escape domestic violence, who are sleeping rough on the street, or from services referring clients in need.
But a 10-month battle to get connected to the NBN and have their phones and internet working has been a “rollercoaster” for staff and resulted in a 15-day stretch where no one could contact the office on Hunter Street.
“That was difficult for all of us because we knew that there would have been women ringing in for assistance, or services would be ringing in to refer," CEO Kelly Hansen said.
"We don't know how many women had tried to contact us."
Staff have fought for months for better service, working on an interim connection, working on hotspot connections at one point, and having a free 1800- assistance line diverted to a mobile phone.
Their troubles started when their offices sought to change providers for better mobile service at several of their office locations when the NBN became available.
Since then, they have complained of intermittent outages and a lack of follow-through with their provider’s response.
“They would say one thing, and we thought it would be solved. It was like a rollercoaster ride,” Ms Hansen said.
“We would say this date, and we would know it was happening, and it would be solved, (but then) we would find new information that suggested that it wasn't solved, or they would just not show up.”
At one point, the original provider told Ms Hansen’s executive assistant, Fiona Edwards, that a temporary disconnection on their line would be resolved the same day only if they agreed to stay with the provider.
Read more: Businesses crying out for an NBN fix
“We didn't understand the language, often. We didn't understand what one particular might mean in consequence for something else that might have to occur. That was the problem; it was like a mystery,” Ms Hansen said. “It was like we were reliant on them to give us the right information, which we weren't always getting.”
In response to a surge in complaints made by consumers and small business to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in the last six month of 2017, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield announced a review into complaints handling.
Senator Fifield warned telcos they could face fines and compensation payments after most of the near 85,000 complaints made to the TOI between July and December last year were regarding either service quality or provider response.
"Customers are continuing to experience poor service, and are unable to get their service provider to satisfactorily resolve issues," Senator Fifield said.
"The fact that complaints to the TIO are still high across all types of fixed-line and mobile services clearly shows that telcos need to lift their game."
But Communications Shadow Minister Michelle Rowland slammed the government in Newcastle on Tuesday with claims of a lack of action to address the rise in complaints.
“It would appear that this government is, in many cases, focussed on spin and on the media cycle.”
“The government needs to take more of a leadership-over-spin role here.”
TOI Ombudsman Judie Jones said the industry has faced significant change with an increasing range of products and services on offer.
“However, consumers still seem to be facing the same problems, particularly with their bills and the customer service they receive,” Ms Jones said.
Meanwhile, Nova's staff were hopeful they would have their intake line taken off mobile diversion this week.
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