By Jackson Russell
MITCHELL Shire 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 along street frontages, enabling on-demand upgrades and speeds up to 1 Gbps.
Also included are capacity upgrades on the hybrid fibre coaxial network to support speeds up to 1 Gbps, and 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.
Up to $700 million has been targeted to make fibre services more affordable and accessible to businesses, while $300 million of co-investment will see NBN Co partner with governments and councils to improve broadband services in regional Australia, including for the 4000 fixed wireless and 1500 satellite premises in Mitchell Shire.
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.”
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.”
Mitchell Shire is home to 14,600 premises using fibre to the node technology and while NBN Co expects that up to 950,000 of the two million fibre-to-the-node premises in regional Australia will be upgraded, it was not able to say when that would happen.
Mr Mitchell said he had received many calls from Mitchell Shire residents expressing their frustration with ongoing internet issues.
“Anyone in the Mitchell Shire, particularly Wandong, Kilmore and Upper Plenty will tell you their internet connection and speeds are unreliable, too slow and costly – that’s if they have internet at all,” he said.
Wandong resident Robyn Musolino said she was still waiting to receive NBN from the original rollout.
Ms Musolino’s property is currently on ADSL1 and is unable to upgrade to ADSL2, let alone the NBN.
“We get about 1.5 megabits per second and that’s the best-case scenario,” she said.
“I’ve been trying to work from home, trying to go through VPNs and get into the network but it drops out constantly.
“My oldest son has gone back to uni so he’s trying to do online stuff as well, It’s just impossible.”