AUSTRALIANS have come to expect such a poor standard from the new National Broadband Network that it threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophesy and make things even worse, says Fremantle federal Labor MP Josh Wilson.
Reflecting on his first year in Parliament, the Beaconsfield resident has sat on a committee investigating a myriad of problems with the network and says it’s been a fiasco that threatens to degenerate into a complete disaster for the nation.
Mr Wilson says NBN Co’s recent announcement that it’s going to start running fibre along the streets in Perth rather to neighbourhood nodes, was a tacit acknowledgement that Malcolm Turnbull’s preferred model had failed.
But the patch-up is going to create a three-tiered NBN in the city; those connected under Julia Gillard who’ve got primo fibre to the premises (FTTP), those in the first stage of the Turnbull rollout who’ll end up with a second-rate fibre to the node (FTTN) model that often won’t deliver speeds faster than already exist under ADSL technology, and those with the new fibre to the curb (FTTC) who’ll be somewhere in between.
Mr Wilson, who grilled NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow at the committee meeting, says he’s worried that further upgrades to those already on the FTTN model are going to be based on revenue. That means people in low socio-economic areas are likely to get stuck on the bottom speeds, which he fears will affect kids’ ability to do school work and make it harder for them to break out of the poverty cycle.
People are also baulking at taking up the top-rung internet bundles (100 Mbps) because there’s a general belief they’ll be paying for something the network can’t handle, meaning NBN Co isn’t reaching its revenue projections, further inhibiting its ability to upgrade the system.
Meanwhile, says Mr Wilson, internet service providers are exploiting the flaws in the system to get away with selling people packages they know they can’t honour. With low expectations about speeds on the network already ingrained, when it delivers exactly that people are unlikely to complain to the provider.
He believes there needs to be more regulation, but says the ACCC recently put the providers on notice that it wouldn’t tolerate that behaviour.
Another problem looming is the rollout of 4k ultra high definition movies, which are about a year away from flooding the internet and are going to really push most people’s internet service.
Mr Wilson said the committee heard evidence from industry experts that the 4k rollout would mean a minimum download speeds of 50 Mbps would be needed for the average family, otherwise they’d have to take turns using their computers; but that’s way above what a whole bunch of Perth households can receive.
by STEVE GRANT