news The Opposition today promised to deliver Fibre to the Premises to most of the West Coast of Tasmania if it wins the upcoming Federal Election, in a move squarely aimed at resolving the complaints of residents and businesses in the area over being relegated to satellite broadband access under the Coalition.
Residents of areas such as Queenstown in Western Tasmania were previously scheduled to have received a full Fibre to the Premises rollout as part of the previous Labor Government’s original NBN plan.
However, under the Coalition’s revised Multi-Technology Mix approach to the NBN, they will instead only receive satellite broadband, with the NBN company not planning to deploy any fixed broadband infrastructure to some areas of the state, despite the fact that townships such as Queenstown already have ADSL broadband over Telstra’s copper network, and several thousand local residents.
Residents and business groups in the region have bitterly complained about the issue to their local MP, Brett Whitely, demanding better broadband.
In a joint statement issued this afternoon, Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare, Tasmanian Labor Senator Anne Urquhart and Labor candidate for Whiteley’s seat of Braddon, Justine Keay, said that if elected, a Labor Government would be a “fibre NBN link” to the West Coast of Tasmania, connecting Queenstown, Rosebery and Zeehan to fibre.
“This will reverse Mr Turnbull’s sneaky and unfair decision to rip the West Coast of Tasmania off the fibre NBN map and instead provide them with an inappropriate satellite solution,” the trio said.
“This fibre link will mean that Tasmanians living on the West Coast will get the fast internet speeds that come with a fibre connection.”
Labor said the fibre link would mean residents and businesses in Queenstown, Rosebery and Zeehan would receive a full FTTP connection, with those in Strahan to receive a fixed wireless connection.
The three Labor figures said that before the last election, Queenstown, Rosebery and Zeehan were scheduled to be connected to Labor’s Fibre to the Premises NBN, with construction to start by December 2014.
Before the election, the trio said, as Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull promised Tasmanians he would: “honour all contracts” for the fibre rollout in Tasmania; and roll out the NBN to all Tasmanian homes and businesses by 2015.
“In Government, Mr Turnbull broke these promises,” the three Labor figures said. “Mr Turnbull and Brett Whiteley then said that the West Coast would be connected to the second rate fibre-to-the-node network, with construction to start by June 2016.”
“They broke this promise too.”
“In 2015, Mr Turnbull quietly put the West Coast on the NBN satellites without even informing the community—it only came out in Senate testimony. Mr Turnbull has treated the West Coast of Tasmania with contempt and Brett Whiteley has been a willing accomplice.”
The Labor figures said Labor “will make it happen” in terms of connecting the residents of Queenstown, Rosebery and Zeehan with “fibre”.
A Shorten Labor Government, the statement said, would also work with the Tasmanian Government to lease capacity on TasNetwork’s West Coast fibre network to provide redundancy. This will mean that if the link goes down the fibre service to the West Coast will still operate, according to Labor.
Labor said the cost of the Tasmanian project was estimated to be approximately $29 million, including contingency. This would be met from within the existing budget allocation for the NBN.
The trio said Turnbull had made a “mess” of the NBN, accusing the Member for Wentworth of presiding over a doubling of the cost of the Coalition’s version of the NBN, as well as the time to completion, as well as having let Australia slide from 30th in the world for broadband speeds to 60th.
“A Shorten Labor Government will fix Malcolm Turnbull’s Mess and deliver the West Coast of Tasmania the 21st century infrastructure it was promised,” Labor said.
Delimiter has invited Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to respond to Labor’s announcement.
Opinion/analysis to follow.
Image credit: Julie Inman Grant