Note: NBN Co’s response to this story can be found here.
Consumer action group Digital Tasmania late last week expressed its frustration with what it said was a lack of information and promotion about the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network project in the state — with some communities having no knowledge about when they would get the next-generation network or how to use it.
Spokesperson Andrew Connor said many in Tasmania — the first state to receive the new infrastructure — had heard of the NBN, but few knew other details.
“Even those who seek more details are often left confused over how they will connect to the NBN in terms of fibre or wireless; and how to compare their current broadband plan with those the NBN will offer.” said Connor in a statement, after appearing in Launceston before the Federal Parliament’s committee looking into the NBN.
“At the end of the day, people want a straight answer. We acknowledge that circumstances may change as the rollout progresses, but more clarity in the rollout timeframe is key in helping consumers decide whether they should be committing to things like 24-month broadband contracts with an ISP,” he added.
Connor gave the example of confusion being experienced by the communities of Hillwood, Dilston and Windemere in the East Tamar region in Tasmania, pointing out that although the areas were close to a major city getting NBN fibre to the premises, and had fibre backbones to existing exchanges, the regions had been told they might actually lose existing ADSL1 and ADSL2 services as the NBN rolled out fixed wireless services to the region.
There are certain technical advantages to the fixed ADSL service over wireless services — with one usually being better latency (or response time to the broader internet).
“For some with ADSL2 this is seen as a step backwards, for others they are missing out on the opportunity to leap ahead to fibre speeds and services running at 100-1000Mbps,” said Connor, who asked whether there would be a plan to progressively upgrade communities on wireless to fibre in the future. NBN Co has been contacted for a response to the issue.
Digital Tasmania is also keen to know when construction of the NBN in the next seven towns slated to receive new infrastructure as part of the second major stage of the rollout will take place, with the group noting that construction was originally scheduled for December 2010.
The group added that in general, there was a lack of education around what the NBN would mean for the everyday Tasmanian.
“NBN and ‘optic fibre’ is mentioned by government at every opportunity but explaining it has not been a priority. Many people who speak to us express frustration that the State government is squandering its much-touted ‘NBN Advantage’,” said Connor, noting the situation was not helped by proposed cuts to ICT initiatives in the state’s recent mid-year financial review.
“We fully support the NBN project and accept that it’s a massive undertaking, but we are calling on the State and Federal Governments, NBNCo and the Retail Service Providers to make more information available to consumers so that they can have a better understanding of what the NBN can do for them,” he concluded.
Image credit: Delimiter screenshot of Google Maps