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Out of our reach

Tuesday, 3rd April, 2012

By Kurtis Eichler

There was nothing more the city could have done to improve their chances of being connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN), according to Regional Development Australia (RDA) Far West.

Upon her return from New Zealand this week, RDA Far West CEO Linda Nadge said  she was “a little disappointed” that the city didn’t make the cut, but not surprised.

This was because of the sheer size of what she called one of the most “competitive” and “sought-after” projects in Australia.

Ms Nadge said she’d spoken to NBN Co, the Government-owned company wiring up the country to faster internet speeds, in late February.

“NBN Co have told us there’s nothing more that the Broken Hill community could have done,” she told the BDT yesterday.

The whole of Australia was competing for the same thing and she said the city was trying its best to be one of the first connected.

“It’s a shame we’re not on the list but it’s not so devastating that you have to crawl into a cave.

“What it means is we need to work harder and do the things we said we would do in our strategy.” 

Ms Nadge said the RDA had launched its Far West NSW and Broken Hill Digital Economy Strategy and internet surfers had been visiting the site on a regular basis.

“We know that and we’re seeing it being quoted by different communities across Australia and being used as an example of what small communities can do.”

However, Ms Nadge said it would be worth looking at the engineering aspects to determine if it was something technical that was keeping the district back.

“Also, is there something constraining connections between the different solutions to be rolled out in our region, fibre optic cable and the NBN Co satellite - due here in 2015 - for example, that have had some impact on the rollout time frame. I think that’s part of what we need to look at in the big picture.

“Attracting an early roll out of high-speed broadband in our community - in the earliest third of the nine year period - was always going to be a tough call.”

Ms Nadge added that it was “a blow” to the city on the economic, business and social fronts not to have been included in the rollout.

Not receiving faster broadband in the next three years would increase the cost of doing business in the region, she said.

“We know the existing infrastructure does not work adequately. That’s a fact.

“We know people are already spending money on telecommunications and data solutions because of the poor infrastructure here at the moment.”

Ms Nadge said the difference in internet speed between what is available now to what was promised were “poles apart.” 

She said she was finding it difficult to work with the current technology even though the RDA Far West office was only about 200 metres from the Telstra Exchange.

The knockback would also affect young people who might want to start a business.

“Those people thinking about creating a new business that was technology related or that used technology in a smart or innovative way are now less likely to start up.”

There was also a social impact to not having the technology here.

Ms Nadge said the NBN was also about offsetting the isolation that comes with living far from the coast and improving life in the bush.

“Far West NSW could be showing the rest of the nation how we can help low income households, the unemployed, the elderly, Indigenous communities and the digitally illiterate people, for example, to use technology to become economically active, more informed and socially empowered.”

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