Send Me Your Speeds: Canberra's Digital Divide

For the last 18 months, here in Canberra, I've been campaigning very, very hard on the NBN. Up until about two or three months ago, the vast bulk of my electorate of Canberra wasn't even on the NBN rollout map. So I campaigned very hard for Canberra to be placed on the NBN rollout map and, finally, we achieved that a few months ago after a lot of lobbying and a lot of effort. 

Now I'm lobbying and advocating for an even approach to the technologies that are going to be rolled out in Canberra. At the moment, we're going to have three technologies—fibre to the kerb, fibre to the node and fibre to the premises—in the one street, which is completely and utterly unacceptable.

The concern I also have is despite the fact that we are finally on the rollout map, after 18 months of advocating and trying and campaigning on the issue, and encouraging people in Canberra to send me their speeds, most of Canberra is not going to be rolled out with the NBN until late next year and early 2019.

For the past 18 months I have been reading and sharing with the rest of Canberra the appalling speeds that Canberrans are having to deal with, which are significantly hampering their educational opportunities, significantly hampering their business opportunities and significantly hampering their ability to take part in what I call active citizenry. We have Canberrans, like Jenny and Steve from Fadden, who are regular subscribers to my Send Me Your Speeds campaign.

They've been sending me speeds for months now: Jenny and Steve, thank you so much for taking part in this campaign and thank you so much for being active contributors to the campaign. You can really understand why they are so concerned about their speeds, why they want to jump on the bandwagon of this campaign, why they want to see Canberra prioritised in the NBN rollout map and why they want to see even technologies.

We'd love fibre to the premises. Why should we be penalised for the fact that we weren't even on the NBN rollout map until a few months ago? Why can't we get fibre to the premises like we have in Gungahlin on the north side? A digital divide exists in Canberra as a result of different technologies in one street, in my electorate, these different technologies between the north and south side of the ACT. There's a real digital divide and there's a real case of haves and have-nots, which is why I want technology that's as even as possible across my electorate —ideally, fibre to the premises for everyone. If we can't get that, I want fibre to the kerb and fibre to the node.

I will come to some concerns I have about fibre to the node after I've run through my Send Me Your Speeds campaign, which will tell you why Canberra needs to be prioritised on the NBN rollout map. We are talking the nation's capital. We are talking 2017. We are talking suburbs that are less than 20 kilometres from this very Parliament House. And these are the speeds they are dealing with.

I will run through some speeds that Jenny and Steve have been sending me over recent months.

One day, recently, they had an upload speed of 1.91 megabits per second and a download speed of 1.91 megabits per second. Those speeds are pretty bad—but it get's worse.

I'm warning you now: brace yourself.

As if those absolutely appalling speeds weren't bad enough, Jenny and Steve also have regular interruptions to their service, which makes using the internet absolutely impossible. Then they sent me speeds of 0.43 megabits per second for download, and—listen to this; they might as well not even try—an upload speed of 0.05 megabits per second! This is in Canberra; this is in Fadden—less than 20 kilometres from this Parliament House, in 2017, in our nation's capital.

We're not talking remote Australia here. We're not talking the outback. We're not talking some sort of mountain range or chasm or gorge. We are talking less than 20 kilometres from Parliament House, in our nation's capital, in 2017: upload speeds of 0.05 megabits per second.

Jenny and Steve recently had an upload and download speed of just 0.15 megabits per second. Jenny said that recently she was watching Q&A and a question was asked regarding internet speed satisfaction. Seventy per cent of the audience were dissatisfied.

Jenny also sent me speeds of 0.92 download and 0.11 upload. Jenny is concerned about trying to communicate with these absolutely appalling speeds, but then she hears on Q&A that 70 per cent of the audience are actually dissatisfied with their NBN.

She's rightly concerned, given that she's dealing with this absolutely appalling state of things now, about what the future will look like when we actually get NBN, particularly given the distance she is from the exchange. I will showcase once more the appalling situation Jenny and Steve have to live with, with a download speed of 7.5 megabits per second and an upload speed of 0.09. At least it wasn't 0.05 download speed and 0.09 upload speed, which was one of their recent readings.

Another response from a participant in the Send Me Your Speeds campaign that underscores why we need to be prioritised on the NBN rollout map and need the best NBN possible in terms of the fibre to the premises and fibre to the curb was from Bec, also from Fadden.

She sent me an email saying her broadband speeds were so low she couldn't manage to get a speed test done. That's how bad it was! Poor old Bec couldn't actually send me her speed because she couldn't actually download it. She is less than 20 km from the Parliament House, in the national capital, in 2017!

When she did find enough speed, poor little thing—pedalling away there—to run the test, it was a download speed of 0.20 and an upload speed of—listen to this!—0.03 megabits per second.

Julia from Kambah emailed me earlier this year after receiving a copy of the Brodtmann Bulletin in her mailbox. She's getting a download speed of just 0.25 megabits per second and an upload speed of 0.03. Poor old Bec and poor old Julia! Julia wrote:

I am currently on an ADSL plan with iiNet and at times it's worse than the ye olde dial up. IiNet would never own up to it, but I'd bet my bottom dollar they're making the existing ADSL connections crap to induce their customers to sign up to their VDSL network before the NBN rolls out.

Victor from Macarthur is getting a download speed of 0.12 megabits per second and an upload of 0.06. He says that it's a real challenge to get one-tenth of a megabit per second each day and when he does actually achieve that it's a good day. He lives with his girlfriend, who studies, and she says it's nearly impossible to study and watch her lectures for universities. The videos and documents just won't load.

That's not surprising, Madam Deputy Speaker, when you've got a download speed of 0.12 and an upload speed of 0.06. I'm surprised she can download anything with those speeds.

Paul from Fadden has a download speed of 4.8 megabits per second and an upload of 0.84. For Craig from Yarralumla it's a download speed of 0.19 and an upload speed of 0.28. He says a friend of his, who lives in Virginia in the US, showed him speeds of nearly 900 megabits per second, which he's getting for $69 per month.

So there's poor Craig in Yarralumla, just down the road from here, five minutes away from Parliament House, getting a download speed of 0.19 and an upload of 0.28, while his mate in Virginia has a speed of 900 megabits per second for $69 per month. That's something we can only dare to dream of.

Ahmed from Calwell has a download speed of 5.15 megabits per second and an upload speed of 1.30. To quote him:

The biggest question is why my street is planned for fibre to the node in April while people in the same suburb will get fibre to the kerb on the same date. Why not fibre to the premises like Gungahlin? Are we second class citizens?

Another response was from a family who didn't wish to be identified but wanted to have their experience heard:

Our kids were keen to do maths tutoring based in the US but needed a minimum download speed of 5 megabits per second and an upload speed of about 2 megabits per second. As you can see from the screen shot we didn't even come close so the kids missed out.

As I said, my community is missing out on educational opportunities as a result of the fact that we have these absolutely appalling download and upload speeds.

The government, despite my many, many attempts to communicate with the Minister for Communications, doesn't care. It does not care about the fact that this community is having its educational opportunities impeded, it's having its business opportunities impeded and it's having its citizenry opportunities impeded by these absolutely appalling speeds that basically don't allow for the community to communicate.

I have told the minister this many times, and this government just does not care. We need to be prioritised. My community is actually getting a second-class service. As Ahmed said, they are being treated as second-class citizens by this government because of its inability to prioritise areas with these appalling speeds and its inability to get an even approach to the technology that's being rolled out. As I said, in one street there is fibre to the curb, fibre to the premises and fibre to the node.

It is unacceptable.

Here we have a family whose children are missing out on the opportunity to take part in maths tutoring based in the US because their internet speed is about two megabits per second and the requirement is five megabits per second. They go on to say:

We certainly can't watch HD through the internet and the kids struggle to do internet based homework on a regular basis. Even using Skype with my parents in Sydney is a chore with frozen screens, pixelations and bad quality sound. And our mobile phone reception isn't much better either. I need to step outside to take some calls.

I've heard that said quite often. Further, they say:

Good luck getting the Senate to listen to ordinary Australian family challenges with the world's slowest internet speeds.

In terms of the experience of this person, who chose to remain anonymous, I've heard so many times from Canberrans that they have to step outside to make phone calls because the reception is so bad.

At one of the NBN forums that I held in Tuggeranong, I remember I woman saying that she had to climb up on top of her garage roof to get reception for her mobile phone. I hate to think what she did at night. I hope she had some decent lighting there. This is happening here, now, in our national capital!

It's just breathtaking.

Bill, from Chisholm, is another frustrated Canberran broadband user. He says:

An update on my never ending saga with slow internet speeds here in my home in Tuggeranong. This is a real problem, particularly in Tuggeranong. Whenever it rains, things go pear shaped.

You can forget about communicating whenever it rains in our nation's capital in 2017. Bill goes on to say:

Last weekend when we had some rain and the internet dropped out

This happens all the time.

I can read so many written accounts sent to me by Canberrans about their appalling internet speeds. As I've said so many times, these slow speeds are having a significant impact on the ability of my community to take part in educational opportunities, in business opportunities, in citizenry opportunities and in the e-health options that exist.

My community is being seriously impeded in its options, choices and opportunities for prosperity and growth as a result of the Turnbull government's continued ignorance and continued contempt for Canberra and also for the suffering that is going on here in terms of telecommunications.

Download this speech.

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