Over the last couple of months I have been receiving a number of phone calls and emails from Canberrans wanting to know what is going on with the NBN. Under the previous Labor government Canberrans, in fact all Australians, could go to the NBN's website, look up their address and find out when the NBN rollout would begin in their suburb. For many Canberra suburbs that was supposed to have already happened. Under Labor's rollout plan, fibre to the premises was supposed to have been rolled out over 2014, 2015 and 2016. But now, under the Abbott government, we have radio silence.
Immediately after the election, Canberra was taken off the rollout map and we are still not on it. Canberra has, quite literally, disappeared off the map. If you go to the NBN rollout map now, other than two new suburbs in the west of my electorate, there is no rollout scheduled for any Canberra suburb. Last week, ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja, announced that Canberrans were 'a step closer to getting access to the NBN,' but the details simply are not there. The people of Canberra still have no idea when they will get the NBN and what type of NBN they will get. One of my constituents has written to me from the south Canberra suburb of Calwell. He wrote:
Our internet is slow in Calwell, the maximum speed is 4.6 megabits per second and it's been like that for more than 10 years. The suburb was on the old [NBN role out] map from Labor to get fibre to premises in 2016—but right now we don't have anything or any news about what people will get in this suburb!
What does this mean for Canberrans? It means that they are missing out on the many opportunities provided by the NBN. They are countless: opportunities to work and study from home; opportunities for telehealth, for people to actually be away from their doctor and for them to be diagnosed by their doctor; and, naturally, for better communication.
It also means that we will have a digital divide in Canberra, because there are some lucky Canberrans in the north of Canberra who, under the Labor government, already had fibre-to-the-premises rolled out to their suburbs.
Before the election, the Prime Minister said:
Under the Coalition by 2016 … there will be minimum download speeds of 25 megabits … we will deliver a minimum of 25 megabits … by the end of our first term.
But, like so many of the Prime Minister's pre-election promises, this promise was all too easily broken. The fact is that, under Labor, all of Canberra was scheduled to get the world-class fibre-to-the-premises NBN, delivering superfast internet speeds using fibre optic cable. Now, Canberrans do not know what type of NBN they will get or when they will get it—and Canberrans are not happy about it.