Doreen resident Michael Johnson has struggled to move his work online due to an unreliable internet connection.

By Jackson Russell

CITY of Whittlesea residents will be playing the waiting game after the Federal Government announced a $4.5 billion investment into the National Broadband Network, according to Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher announced the influx of funding on Wednesday, saying eight million homes would gain access to broadband speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second through the upgrade.

The plan is expected to give up to three-quarters of fixed line premises across regional and metropolitan Australia access to ultra-fast broadband by 2023 through $3.5 billion of investment.

This would be delivered by taking fibre deeper into neighbourhoods served by fibre to the node technology by building local fibre networks running along street frontages, enabling on-demand upgrades and speeds up to 1 Gbps.

Also included are capacity upgrades on the hybrid fibre coaxial network support speeds up to 1 Gbps, a program to deliver speeds up to 100 Mbps on the fibre to the curb network and on-demand access to speeds up to 1 Gbps, and a program to resolve in-home cabling issues for premises on the fibre to the node network.

Up to $700 million has been targeted to make business-grade fibre services more affordable and accessible to more businesses, while $300 million of co-investment funding will see NBN Co partner with governments and councils to improve broadband services in regional Australia.

The announcement comes seven years after the Coalition Government introduced a mixed-technology model in 2013, replacing the former Labor Government’s fibre to the premises model.

Mr Fletcher said the decision to roll out the NBN quickly, then phase in upgrades, had served Australia well.

“It meant the NBN was available to almost all Australians when COVID-19 hit, giving us high speed home connectivity when we needed it most,” he said.

“And it means NBN Co is now well placed to invest in Australia’s broadband infrastructure to meet Australians’ growing appetite for faster speeds.”

Almost 38,000 City of Whittlesea premises on fibre to the curb or hybrid fibre coaxial services will be able to access speeds up to 1 Gbps by 2023, but 14,600 premises on fibre to the node will have to wait for news on upgrades to their service.

Mr Mitchell said the investment was welcome news, but far too late.
“This is the most extraordinary, wasteful, expensive public policy backflip in a generation,” he said.

“This Coalition Government has built a network that costs more and does less, and in the end, it has finally accepted that fibre is what Australians need.”

Mr Mitchell said he had received many calls from Mitchell Shire residents expressing their frustration with on-going internet issues.

“Anyone in the City of Whittlesea, particularly Whittlesea, Mernda and Doreen will tell you their internet connection and speeds are unreliable, too slow and costly – that’s if they have internet at all,” he said.

Doreen resident Michael Johnson is one of many affected by underwhelming internet speeds through fibre to the node technology.

Mr Johnson said it had only gotten worse since people started working and learning from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Johnson, the resident composer at the Royal Botanic Gardens and a music therapist, has started to use the internet to provide his services, but has been hampered by speeds well below what he pays for.

“Because streaming favours video over sound, I can’t really use sound for music therapy, it’s just not possible. It’s affected my profession quite profoundly,” he said.

“If my partner or I need to study or work, we’ve had to use our mobile phones and use the data from there.”

While Mr Johnson can reach speeds up to 30 Mbps at times, he said the speed drops dramatically around 3pm daily.

“It drops down to anywhere between 12 and 6 Mbps,” he said.

“I run workshops from home and if I’m streaming at that time, the picture locks up for my clients. As far as music is concerned, I can’t even attempt to use any music.”