NBN coverage in Fremantle’s West End has reportedly been delayed yet again over heritage concerns.
The switch-over date has been pushed back to the second half of next year, which the local Chamber of Commerce has described as a “disaster”.
“Businesses are restricted and unable to be competitive,” chamber CEO Olwyn Williams told the Herald.
Ms Williams said a Cliff Street company involved in developing virtual reality technology relocated because of the West End’s poor internet quality.
“These departures are not temporary,” Ms Williams said.
“When a business leaves a precinct, it is a five or ten year wait for them to potentially return.”
Ms Williams says the city needed to be able to attract new business to the West End as it was an important operational business precinct.
“It’s not a museum,” she said.
The broadband rollout was held up because the State Heritage Office didn’t want the ubiquitous green NBN nodes cluttering up the historic streetscape, but Ms Williams says what was supposed to be a year’s lag has blown out.
The chamber had not been happy about the state heritage listing of the West End in the first place because it was done without a business impact assessment, and Ms Williams says the NBN debacle justifies the organisation’s concerns.
Labor’s candidate for the Fremantle federal by-election, Josh Wilson, isn’t surprised by more NBN strife.
He sat on a parliamentary committee examining the rollout and says it’s been riddled with mistakes from the beginning.
“At a time when local businesses are dealing with a recession in WA, the NBN problems add an extra layer of frustration and uncertainty.
“The Fremantle business community includes a strong weighting towards creative industries, innovation, media, tourism and education – all rely on access to cutting-edge technology, yet a big part fo the Freo CBD is at the back-end of the NBN rollout.”
Mr Wilson was joined by deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek for his campaign launch on Tuesday.
“[Prime minister] Malcolm Turnbull said he would give us faster speeds at half the cost, but the cost has doubled, and so many people are experiencing frustration with their connection that Labor has developed a service guarantee,” Ms Plibersek said.
She said while that wouldn’t necessarily cure all the NBN’s ills, it would prevent NBN Co and service providers blaming each other for problems and ensure that when a customer was having trouble connecting, someone would come and look at it.
NBN Co agrees the initial rollout was delayed by the heritage listing but says it’s in line to complete the revised works ahead of schedule.
by STEVE GRANT