NBN outage: What to do if your internet is down

Men sitting at computer looking stressed
(Image credit: University of North Carolina)

Experiencing an NBN outage is unlikely, but it could still happen. So, what should you do if you do experience one? (And yes, we understand the irony of publishing advice online for you to read when your internet connection goes down). 

An NBN outage can be caused by either an issue in your own home, when it will usually have something to do with your equipment, or it could be a more widespread issue that is affecting the area you live in. Outages can also vary between NBN providers. 

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) monitors network outages experienced by various NBN providers and in its latest Measuring Broadband Performance report, published in December 2022, looked at the number of daily outages of 11 providers. 

Of these, it found that Vodafone experienced the highest number of daily outages lasting more than 30 seconds, with 0.53. Optus experienced the fewest with 0.14. 

What to do in an NBN outage

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If your internet connection suddenly drops out, then based on the ACCC information above, it shouldn’t last for long. If, however, it does last a while then there are a few steps you can take to diagnose the problem. 

Check NBN status

If you have a mobile data connection on your phone, then you can head to the NBN Co website, type in your address and view the connection status. If the NBN Co shows the connection status is down, then it’s likely going to be an area-wide problem. If this is the case, then there isn’t a whole lot you can personally do, other than wait for NBN to fix the issue. 

If however the NBN says you should have a connection at your property, then you can determine the problem is due to your equipment or something to do with your specific NBN provider. 

Screenshot of NBN website showing live connection status

(Image credit: Future)

Turn it off and on again

If your NBN outage can be traced to an issue in your home, then the easiest thing you can do is to turn your modem or router off and on again. It’s the oldest trick in the book but it can also be one of the most effective. 

Most Wi-Fi routers should have a reset button on them that you can press, but if you have any trouble finding it, then a simple switch off at the power outlet on the wall is perfectly fine. 

NBN router with green status lights

(Image credit: Start Broadband)

Check status lights

Your NBN connection box will have various LED lights to indicate the status of your connection (these will differ depending on the NBN connection type you have). You can find out the status of the lights by heading to the troubleshooting page of your NBN provider. 

Ultimately, if any lights are either off or orange (i.e. anything other than green) then it can indicate there is a problem. With this information you can contact your NBN provider for their help in diagnosing the issue.

If all the lights are green, however, and you're still not able to get online, then it is likely a problem with your router. 

How to stay online during an NBN outage

If you’re reading this page and you’re experiencing an NBN outage, then you likely already know how you can stay online. But, if you’re improving your knowledge so you know what to do should you ever experience an NBN outage, then read on. 

Hotspot

The best and easiest way to remain connected if your NBN goes down is to hotspot from another device, such as your smartphone. Activating the personal hotspot function on your Android or iOS device should be relatively simple to find (you can usually just search for it in the settings menu) but remember, once activated, you will use the data on your mobile plan. 

It’s therefore important to know both how much data you have on your plan and how much you have left on your current billing period. This is especially important if you need to download large files or if you want to stream music or video content. 

Get an NBN plan with 4G backup

Some NBN plans come complete with a modem that provides 4G backup. This means that if the main NBN connection goes down, then the router will automatically connect to a 4G data signal, which you can connect to to remain online. 

Currently only Telstra, Optus and Vodafone offer NBN plans with 4G backup and you can find links to their NBN 50 plans (all with 4G backup modems) below. Note that Vodafone's plan comes with an AU$15 saving only if you already have a mobile phone plan with the provider.

Find public Wi-Fi

You’ll find the vast majority of coffee shops and shopping malls will offer free public Wi-Fi, so if you happen to live near one, you can try taking your laptop, tablet or smartphone there and log on. 

We appreciate this might not be the best option for you if you’re in the middle of a busy working day – not least because public Wi-Fi hotspots are going to be less secure – but if you just want to check your social media feeds or send a few emails, public Wi-Fi is a good backup option. 

Max Langridge
Senior Editor, Tom's Guide AU

Max is a digital content writer for Tom’s Guide in Australia, where he covers all things internet-related, including NBN and the emerging alternatives, along with audio and visual products such as headphones and TVs. Max started his career in his homeland of England, where he spent time working for What Hi-Fi? and Pocket-lint, before moving to Australia in 2018.