NBN

21 October 2019

I thank the member for Boothby for moving this motion, as it gives me a chance to talk about the disaster that the NBN has been for many residents of Werriwa. Despite the spin, the NBN is a hotchpotch patchwork of a multitechnology mix that will rely on a very aged copper network well into the future. In fact, the copper wires in my suburb have been there for 58 years. This is not a network built for the future; it is a scattergun approach that has been put together by the Liberal government. When the NBN was planned by the Labor Party, it was a network that enabled fibre-to-the-premises connections for nearly all Australians. For those who have that connection, which was provided in the early rollout in my electorate, they have brilliant, high-speed connections. Unfortunately, too few have fibre to the premises. What they do have is slow, unreliable internet connections reliant on copper connection—if they have an NBN connection at all.

The rollout is ongoing and delayed in Werriwa. Take the suburb of Long Point. Long Point is a suburb in the bushland along the Georges River, and it is heavily reliant on stable connections to the internet so it can be made aware of bushfires and so forth. Long Point is also just one example of many in my electorate and around the country of the failure of the rollout and the multitechnology mix. The people of Long Point have experienced frequent delays that have plagued the installation of the NBN over this small suburb of just three streets. Emails from NBN Co tell of the expected rollout to Long Point in the latter half of 2017. Yet, today in 2019, only a portion of the suburb is actually connected. That's right: it's two years later and most people in that suburb are still waiting for their NBN connection. The latest problem, I'm told, is an infrastructure shortfall that is expected to be fixed by 2020. The NBN has provided the following explanation to me: 'This service area appears to be ready for the service, and most premises will receive NBN by fibre-to-the-node or HFC technology. There are a small number of premises within the fibre-to-the-node footprint that are unable to receive a connection.' The email continues: 'In this instance, the distance of some of these premises from the NBN network means we can't connect properly, in the same way as we have connected others, because of the length of the copper. The signal degrades over distance, and it wouldn't be possible to achieve a service that meets the minimum requirements. At this stage, the expected service availability date is January 2020.' So, three years after Long Point was originally scheduled for connection, some of the residents may get internet speeds of 25 megabits per second—hardly First World speeds for 15 kilometres away from Liverpool, and another example of why copper is not one of the best options.

We have constituents who often have to go outside to find higher ground just to make phone calls. We have parents who are worried that a lack of internet access will mean their kids will fall behind in school, and there are university students who can't access multimedia and upload assignments.

The NBN Co's own figures from February this year show that while the number of premises connected has increased by 38 per cent, speeds were still slow and certainly not up to standard. Australia is now ranked 62nd in the world in internet speeds, falling yet another three spots since 2018. The Ookla speedtest global index has Australia behind Kazakhstan and Cape Verde. It was the Liberal government that moved the majority of the network to fibre to the node, forcing the majority of users to rely on the aged copper network. It was then in 2016, under the same Liberal government, that fibre to the kerb was announced as another way to deliver the NBN, again relying on copper wiring.

The internet is meant to connect people through technology, not unite communities and connect people through sheer frustration at the complete failure of government policy. It's sad that in 20 years' time my constituents will still be relying on the copper network, a network that slows or becomes unusable just because it rains, a network that becomes nearly unusable just because it's between 7.00 pm and 10.00 pm at night and the copper lines can't deal with the connection. Patchwork quilts won't serve a community, patchwork quilts won't deliver high-speed internet and patchwork quilts actually have a purpose and it's not for the delivery of NBN. The government really does need to do better.