Over the last few months I have been collecting signatures for a petition. It is a petition calling on the government to prioritise Canberra's NBN rollout, and today my petition has 774 signatures—774 Canberrans who are desperately hoping that their signature will make a difference. Under Labor, every home in the ACT would have had access to a world-class fibre-to-the-premises version of the NBN. Under this government, Canberra has literally been taken off the map.
The situation as it stands is bleak. The next three-year rollout plan for the NBN, released in October, failed to include the Canberra suburbs that have the poorest broadband connection rating in the country. The vast majority of Tuggeranong including suburbs like Monash and Theodore, which have the lowest rating in the country for both availability and quality of broadband, is not even on the rollout map. Compare this to large sections of Canberra's north, which already have access to Labor's world-class fibre-to-the-premises NBN. It is creating a digital divide between the north and south of Canberra. I am concerned that Canberrans in my electorate are being left behind: they are being denied access to educational tools, to learning tools, to small business opportunities, to entertainment and to engage in active citizenry, and many other benefits that having access to the internet provides.
And this is what I am hearing from Canberrans across my electorate, particularly those living in the suburbs that have the lowest rating in the country. We are in the nation's capital, but some of the suburbs in my electorate have the lowest rating of availability and quality of broadband in the country. This is what I am hearing from Canberrans like Geoff, who wrote to me saying:
We cannot even get ADSL2 service although we are paying for a higher end service. If we are serious about becoming a clever and innovative country it starts with having top end infrastructure. Don't cut us short.
Or Rebecca, who wrote:
I am so tired of living in a fantastic area that has broadband far, far worse than I got while living in Brisbane 10 years ago. Some nights my broadband is so slow I can't download text emails. How is this acceptable in 2015?
We are talking 20 kilometres from this building. Rebecca goes on:
I am about to commence university studies online: I will need to be able to view/listen to lectures and download/ upload large files. Please make this possible!
Or Roger, who wrote "It's a situation verging on the tragic. Only fast internet will allow us to compete on an equal footing with countries like South Korea. The NBN has the potential to transform our economy, create new jobs and businesses, and cut urban congestion and pollution. But it's still off in cloud cuckoo land for many. Along with thousands of other people in the ACT, I am starting to wonder if I will ever see higher-speed internet. Contacts in Melbourne are already on the NBN and think my speed is a joke. Canberra should be a high priority because of our government and tertiary education sectors."
Or Mary, who said "It is very sad for a country like Australia to not be more advanced in our technologies. To think that parts of our capital city do not have access to the NBN is so backward."
I literally have hundreds of emails echoing these concerns and these sentiments. And the overwhelming sentiment and concern is frustration and the feeling that they have been let down by this Liberal government. So I am here on behalf of all of Canberrans, but especially the 774 people who have signed my petition, and I am calling for change. Today, on behalf of these Canberrans I ask the Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, to take action. I ask of him to please prioritise Canberra's NBN rollout. We are in the nation's capital and our situation is bleak. It is dire and we are being left behind. My constituents are being denied economic and active citizenry opportunities. The NBN is just another broken promise from a Liberal government that has no vision for this country. It could be five years or more before suburbs in my electorate are connected, and it is just not good enough. The message is loud and clear from these 774 Canberrans, the many others I have spoken to and the hundreds of others I have received emails from. The message is loud and clear: we want the NBN, we want Canberra prioritised and we want it now.