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Broadband lagging

Tuesday, 8th November, 2011

City facing long wait for NBN access

By Erica Visser

 A Government spokesperson has lashed out at a claim made by the company responsible for the National Broadband Network (NBN) that it would be years before the city had access to the Federal Government initiative. 

MC for the NBN, Peter Blasina, who is better known as the ‘Gadget Guy’, said that he was shocked that Broken Hill is still on the waiting list to be connected, despite being a ‘backbone’ spot for the network.

“I thought that Broken Hill would be connected to the NBN before I was connected in Sydney,” said Mr Blasina.

“I’m really surprised that Broken Hill isn’t a priority- you’re the regional hub of the far west.

“If I was in Broken Hill I’d be getting a group together and knocking on (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) Steven Conroy’s door.”

The Government’s lack of understanding of the importance of the NBN for the city was highlighted last Friday during a social and economical development hearing, where Committee Chairman State MP Rick Colless said that he was surprised that the NBN had been brought up by local council.

Last week, General Manager of External Affairs at NBN Co Trent Williams claimed that the city would be connected to the network within three years, citing ‘engineering’ problems as responsible for the hold up. 

Mr Blasina said that whilst he was not involved with the implementation of the service, this seemed bizarre as the preparation for the NBN was almost complete within the city. 

Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said that Mr Williams was misleading locals with his claims and that in fact, local residents would be forced to wait almost a decade for the high-speed service.

“It depends what you regard as NBN- I believe most people are under the impression NBN means super fast broadband via fibre optic cable to your front door,” Ms Ley said. 

“Even Mr Williams is reticent to put any time frame on this.

“The fact is NBN Co are only publicly offering satellite or wireless from 12 megabites a second, possibly within three years, with any fibre rollout taking up to nine and a half years.”

According to NBN Co, ninety-three per cent of the state will be connected to the service through cable, whilst the remainder via satellite. 

Ms Ley said that the Government would not answer why it would take so long to rollout NBN in Broken Hill.

“As a member of the Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network investigating how the system is being rolled out, that’s a matter I would love the Government to give me a straight answer on,” Ms Ley said.

“Here is a symbolic opportunity for Labor to deliver on its promise of linking up areas of rural and remote Australia that really need it.”

Ms Ley cast engineering problems aside and instead backed up claims by former Optus government relations executive and Liberal MP Paul Fletcher that NBN rollouts were largely based around political agenda.

According to Mr Fletcher, over eighty per cent of the regions announced in the rollouts were in Labor, Green, independent or marginal Coalition seats. 

“Unfortunately the evidence is already on the table,” Ms Ley said.

“As with a recent allocation of projects by Regional Development Australia, Labor is cherry picking where it spends taxpayer dollars.”

Regional Development Australia Far West Chief Executive Officer Linda Nadge said that any indication that the Government was neglecting the far west region in favour of larger urban cities would be devastating.

“Any region that understands that importance of the NBN would be trying to get NBN Co’s attention,” Ms Nadge said.

“The opportunity to have the NBN Co rolled out here faster is huge, purely because of the current state of infrastructure.

“It just doesn’t make sense to patch something up- it doesn’t make sense to put money into something that will need to be redone down the track.”

Ms Nadge said that not knowing when the NBN would be rolled out locally was just as detrimental for the city as not having access to it.

The next quarterly round of rollouts is due to be announced by NBN Co in January next year.


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