news Communications Minister Mitch Fifield yesterday issued a statement stating the broadband situation on the West Coast of Tasmania was already being handled through the NBN company’s Technology Choice policy, which allows for Australians to pay for their own NBN upgrade.
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, Whitely, demanding better broadband.
Yesterday Labor promised to deliver Fibre to the Premises to three towns in the area — Queenstown, Rosebery and Zeehan — if it won the upcoming Federal Election — as well as fixed wireless to a fourth, Strahan.
However, in response, Fifield issued a statement claiming that Labor’s policy was “unfunded” and that the issue was already being handled.
“Labor’s unfunded announcement today that it expects NBN to provide $29 million to pay for its election promises in North West Tasmania, sets an extraordinary precedent for the misuse of a Government Business Enterprise (GBE),” the Communications Minister said.
“Under the GBE Guidelines, the NBN is empowered to act commercially and independently when building the NBN.”
“Labor’s announcement demonstrates they have learnt nothing from the last time they messed up the NBN. Under Labor, the NBN was one of the most poorly managed infrastructure projects in the history of the Commonwealth. More than $6 billion was spent over four years to connect just 51,000 users to Labor’s network.”
“Under the Coalition, NBN has flexibility in network and technology design decisions as long as the economics stack up. Under this approach, close to two million Australian homes and businesses can now access the NBN.”
Fifield said that in North West Tasmania, local calls for fixed line broadband were “already being considered through NBN’s existing Technology Choice policy”.
“The significant difference between the Technology Choice option and the promise made by Labor today is that it is unfunded. NBN does not have a spare $29 million available to fund Labor’s empty election promises,” the Minister said.
“Labor must to come clean on which other towns will be disadvantaged by this intervention in Tasmania.Labor also needs to clarify if this promise involves the use of Fibre to the Premises, which in Tasmania, has been mired in lengthy construction delays and rollout challenges.”
It is unclear what precisely Fifield is referring to with respect to the issue being handled under the NBN company’s Technology Choices program.
The program theoretically allows residents, businesses and organisations such as councils to work with the NBN company to fund upgrades to their broadband infrastructure. For example, in this case, it may allow the Tasmanian communities concerned to pay to receive fixed broadband infrastructure, rather than satellite.
Yesterday the Liberal MP for the area, Brett Whiteley, said he would take a proposal to the Prime Minister and State Premier today to upgrade broadband in the area.
However, the Technology Choice program has so far proven relatively unsuccessful, with only three successful implementations by the NBN company, despite hundreds of applications nationally.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting