Verdict on regional rollout of the NBN : ‘We can do it better’

LISTENING TO COMPLAINTS: Indi MP Cathy McGowan and Senator Pauline Hanson asked questions during the Wodonga hearing of the parliamentary inquiry into the NBN rollout in April.
LISTENING TO COMPLAINTS: Indi MP Cathy McGowan and Senator Pauline Hanson asked questions during the Wodonga hearing of the parliamentary inquiry into the NBN rollout in April.

MEMBER for Farrer Sussan Ley and MP Cathy McGowan are at odds over the performance of the NBN in rural areas.

Both were part of a parliamentary inquiry into the rollout of the NBN, which released its first report after a series of hearings, including in Wodonga in April.

Indi MP Ms McGowan was one of the majority of committee members to stand by 23 recommendations, including advising the federal government to require NBN Co to complete as much of the remaining fixed line network as possible using fibre to the curb or premise.

“By far, the majority of the committee is saying the NBN isn’t good enough,” she said.

“The overall response was that while we want the NBN to work, there are ways we can do it better.”

Ms McGowan said her recommendation in the report was the introduction of a special committee to look into rural and regional issues because these users had the extra confusion of fibre, satellite and wireless internet.

“The diversity of technology that we have is much more complicated than the city,” she said.

“There still a lot to be done and the good thing about this committee is it will continue to meet.”

NBN Co had already made some changes, including almost doubling the peak download allowance on its Sky Muster satellite plans – up to 100 gigabyte/month – which were often used by rural businesses.

Communications staff will visit the Border in the coming months.

MPs Sussan Ley, Senator Jane Hume and Lucy Wicks.

MPs Sussan Ley, Senator Jane Hume and Lucy Wicks.

Farrer MP Ms Ley only supported five of the 23 points in this week’s report, which were her original recommendations.

They included asking the Australian Communications and Media Authority to develop a new code to regulate the marketing of broadband speeds.

As the committee chair, Ms Ley put out a dissenting report supported by fellow Coalition members, which defended the NBN’s performance.

“It is important to remember NBN is the builder of a once in a generation project – a complex and expensive transformation on how we will connect, study, work and play through the 2020s and beyond,” she said.

“The majority of frustration seems to be coming from what you might call ping-pong discussion between the retail service providers and NBN when a customer has an issue.”

Ms Ley said retailers now recognised they actually had to deliver speeds they promised.

“I do think things will settle down and in the next phase you will see, and we’re already seeing it now, home and business owners demanding better service and the speeds they were promised, as well as an expectation any issue be resolved quickly,” she said.