news The Federal Leader of the Nationals, Warren Truss, has for the second time this year made a major factually incorrect public statement with regards to Labor’s National Broadband Network project, inaccurately stating that no resident in his electorate would be able to connect to the infrastructure until “at least the latter part of this decade”.
The Noosa News, a newspaper covering areas in Truss’s Queensland electorate of Wide Bay, which covers towns such as Maryborough, Noosa Heads and Gympie, this week reported that business representatives in the area were pushing for the NBN rollout to accelerate the NBN rollout in the area, stating that there was “enormous potential” for the area’s development, but that it would need access to “the latest technology” to take advantage of the opportunities.
Truss was quoted in the article stating that not a single person in the Wide Bay electorate or Noosa areas would be able to connect to the NBN until at least the latter part of this decade. “The people of Wide Bay bear their share of the liability for the NBN, but no one is getting any benefits,” he said. The comments by the Nationals Leader echo — word for word — a media release he issued in March this year, in which he alleged that the NBN had proven to be “nothing but a cruel hoax” and a “monumental debacle”
“When Labor came to office they cancelled the previous Coalition Government’s OPEL contract, which would have already been delivering high speed broadband to the people of Wide Bay,” Truss said in March. “Despite Labor’s NBN costing tens of billions of dollars more than the OPEL contract, local people are having to wait an extra decade before anyone can access the service. The NBN is a scandal, and for the people of Wide Bay an empty sham. Labor’s announcement this week locks the people of Wide Bay into a slow speed economy for decades. All the claimed benefits for business, education, medicine and information services are for Wide Bay an illusion.”
However, Truss is factually incorrect in his statement that no residents in the Wide Bay electorate will receive access to the NBN before the later years of this decade.
In mid-2011, NBN Co started providing access to an interim satellite service nationwide (including to Truss’s electorate of Wide Bay). The service, which delivers speeds of up to 6Mbps over Optus and IPstar satellite infrastructure, is already providing improved broadband service to some 213 homes and businesses in Wide Bay, according to a media release issued by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.
In addition, a number of communities in the Wide Bay electorate are also slated to receive access to either fibre broadband or fixed wireless broadband over the next few years. NBN Co’s wireless service is currently slated to deliver guaranteed speeds of up to 12Mbps to premises in a number of communities in Wide Bay, with the entire nation-wide rollout to be completed by 2015. Speeds of up to 25Mbps are eventually expected to be provided over the infrastructure. In addition, NBN Co is also planning to launch its own satellites in 2015, which are slated to deliver speeds of up to 12Mbps across Australia.
It is not clear at the moment when fibre components of the NBN will be rolled out to core communities in Wide Bay, with Truss being correct that much of the electorate missed out on the NBN’s three-year rollout plans announced several months ago.
Truss’s statement in March illustrated that his constituents are constantly demanding better broadband in the electorate.
“Hardly a week goes by when my office does not receive complaints about the unavailability of high speed broadband in the electorate,” Truss said at the time. “In many areas Telstra does not have any ADSL2+ portals available for connections and they have been unwilling to undertake new investment because of the uncertainty about the NBN network. The Wide Bay should have been a high priority area if the Government was genuinely interested in providing high speed internet services to communities that do not currently have access. Instead, Labor is duplicating existing high speed internet services in the cities rather than extending them to areas that are presently underserviced.”
Truss’s comments about rural demand for better broadband is consistent with a number of reports over the past several weeks about ongoing support for the NBN in rural and regional areas in Australia. This week, a new independent report found that rural and regional Australian communities are strongly committed to NBN project, with a focus on maximising the potential of the infrastructure when it arrives in their area. In producing the report, the Federal Government’s Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee held public consultations in 20 regional locations around Australia, as well as roundtable stakeholder meetings in every state and territory capital city.
The review’s findings echo a recent analysis of rural media coverage following the announcement of the three-year rollout plan for the NBN, which showed overwhelming demand for the infrastructure from a large number of rural and regional Australian communities, with many expressing disappointment that they had been left off the list for the NBN’s first few years.
The analysis was published last week (we recommend you click here and read the full article) by telecommunications industry worker and blogger Michael Wyres. In a blog post, Wyres wrote that he had examined reports from a large number of local newspapers to determine what community attitudes in the regions were to the rollout, universally finding that local community representatives wanted the new infrastructure in their areas, and wanted it fast.
The popularity of the NBN in rural areas is consistent with polling figures which have consistently shown high levels of popular support for the project Australia-wide. In February, for example, a poll released by research houses Essential Media and Your Source showed that the NBN policy has continued to enjoy strong levels of popularity, especially amongst Labor and Greens voters, since the last Federal Election.
The pair polled their audience with the following question: “From what you’ve heard, do you favour or oppose the planned National Broadband Network (NBN)”? The response displayed an enduring level of support for the NBN, with 56 percent of total respondents supporting the NBN in total, compared with 25 percent opposed and 19 percent stating that they didn’t know.
I know the Opposition has a responsibility to help keep the Government accountable, especially on major policy initiatives such as the NBN, but once again I must highlight the fact that it is unethical for the Opposition to do so if this includes making factually inaccurate statements about the NBN.
Warren Truss is certainly aware — or should be, given he is the local MP for his electorate — that a large number of residents and businesses in the area will be receiving NBN services by 2015 or so. I would expect a number in the tens of thousands to be benefiting from NBN services in the area by 2015. To state that “not a single person” would be able to connect to the NBN until the latter years of the decade is flatly incorrect.
Now, there is a case to be made that Truss was merely, in his comments, speaking about access to the fibre component of the NBN, rather than the wireless and satellite portions. And it is true that most locations in Wide Bay will be waiting until after 2015 to find out when they will get fibre to their premises, if they are in areas slated to receive that level of infrastructure. In this case, it is possible that Truss doesn’t understand the NBN well enough to know that it features a mix of technologies. However, to be honest this still isn’t good enough. The core aspects of the NBN policy have been known for several years now. One could have expected that Truss would have familiarised himself with them by now.