Standing up for Canberra

Delays in NBN rollout frustrating Canberrans

Curtin is a suburb that is between five and 10 kilometres from Parliament House. It's a suburb in which a friend of mine lives. He was on the phone just recently to Telstra complaining about his internet connection while he was standing on his back porch looking at Parliament House.

This friend of mine who lives in Curtin can't get speeds strong enough to be able to work from home. He and his wife—his wife works from home—cannot get speeds that are fast enough to be able to download big documents. There they are in Curtin, five to 10 kilometres from Parliament House, in the nation's capital in 2018, and my friend has to go into the office on the weekend to download documents, or he has to email the documents to a friend to download, rather than being able to download big documents at his home, because of the appalling internet speeds he is receiving. That couple, my friend and his wife—she's a friend too—have spent more time watching that little circle go round and round than is fair for anyone. They are incredibly frustrated. They are tearing their hair out. And they are not alone. Here in the nation's capital in 2018 we have households five, 10 and 15 kilometres from Parliament House that are receiving less than a one-megabit-per-second download speed.

This time last year, despite these parlous speeds, Canberra was just one big blank space on the NBN rollout map. But, thanks to the campaigning that I did with the community, we managed to finally get on the NBN rollout map, and Canberra was very much looking forward to overcoming the digital divide by finally getting decent speeds. We were due for NBN rollout in the first half of this year, but then that moved to the right, and we were advised that the NBN was going to rollout at the end of this year.

Last week we received information from NBN Co that, 'Woops! Sorry. We've got a bit of a delay.' It is not only one delay. It is the second delay. We're now looking at a rollout between June and September next year. In the nation's capital in 2018 where people are experiencing less than one-megabit-per-second download and upload speeds, it's absolutely appalling. My community is frustrated. I am frustrated. I have a community that is tearing its hair out.

We got in touch when we heard the news from NBN Co that there were going to be further delays—the second round of delays. We tried to get in touch with NBN Co, not once but twice, but we couldn't get through. I spoke about this issue, and I raised my serious concerns and my frustration about this issue in parliament, and that picked up a bit of media attention, which isn't really surprising. The NBN Co confirmed to The Canberra Times that the delay for Canberra suburbs was due to a lack of contractors to complete the work. One would have thought that, given that the rollout map clearly states when things are going to be rolled out, NBN would have amped up the contractors. They knew this was coming online. But instead, as a result of their poor planning or for some other reason, Canberrans are being denied decent speeds.

I hear from installers—I hear a range of reasons—there is complete frustration. I have heard from a gentleman who works installing NBN in Canberra's new suburbs, who finds it totally unacceptable that a brand-new house in Denman Prospect will be getting a minimum of 20 times faster internet than he does after living in Canberra for 12 years. He was looking forward to the NBN upgrade after the ALP rollout plan, which was to hit his area by no later than this time last year. Last time he checked, under the LNP plan, it won't happen until at least this time next year. This person is basically making the very good point that those areas in Canberra that have the poorest speeds should be prioritised. I've been calling on the government to do this, but the response of the minister for communications and NBN Co is: further delays, because of no contractors, because of poor planning.

My community is being disadvantaged by this absolutely shameful, appalling NBN rollout, and it's causing a digital divide. I'm calling on the Turnbull government to end the digital divide in Canberra.