In a small percentage of cases ISPs sign up new customers or go to move an existing customer to a new address, only to find they can’t complete the order because of something called ‘port waiting’ or ‘port waiter’.
Each telephone exchange or cabinet has a set number of ports. The port is the thing we connect your line to in order to give you broadband access. What can happen is that we place a new connection order, only to discover that there are no spare ports at the exchange or cabinet.
Think of it like turning up to a carpark and finding there are no spaces left.
Well, in a nutshell we and the customer wait until a port becomes free.
This happens when another user disconnects (maybe they are moving house, or have an extra phoneline that they no longer need). It’s extremely frustrating for everyone, but it is the way that the industry in New Zealand works at the moment.
The problem affects all ISPs. If there are no ports, no ISP can connect you. You’ll need to look at other technologies like 3G in order to get online. The issue is compounded because we can’t tell when we place an order whether it will be able to proceed (we are often advised there is a free port, only to find this is assigned to someone else before we can connect to it), or if a customer will become a port waiter until it’s too late.
We are working with the industry to improve systems and hope to soon be able to reduce the number of port waiters.