COPPER wire connections from premises to the National Broadband Network nodes that are degraded or flood prone will be replaced under the Coalition, according to shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr Turnbull was pitching the Coalition’s fibre-to-the-node broadband policy to a packed public forum in Bomaderry on Friday.
Waiting for him outside the Bomaderry Bowling Club was a knot of demonstrators with “save our NBN” placards.
Inside, after telling the audience the Coalition would deliver its mixed technology broadband system, comprising fibre optic cable to street cabinets and copper wire from there to the premises, more quickly and at lower cost, Mr Turnbull was asked about degradation of the existing copper network, especially in beachside villages, where the internet routinely drops out during rain.
“We have factored into our plan the contingency for remediating any copper that is damaged and needs to be upgraded and if there are bridge taps and other problems in the network for them to be replaced,” Mr Turnbull said.
“If there are areas where there are a lot of maintenance problems, perhaps because of a lot of flooding or very high ground water levels – the two often go hand in hand – then that would be a case for replacing that with fibre.
“Under our proposal most of the copper is being replaced. All of the copper between the exchange and the street pillar is being replaced so if you were, say, four kilometres from an exchange and you were, say, 400 metres from your street pillar – your telecom distribution point – then 3.6 kilometres of that copper is going to be replaced with fibre so it’s only the last 400 metres .
“In some areas there is no question that there has been degradation. So the bottom line is that you would upgrade that copper,” he said.
Labor candidate Neil Reilly challenged Mr Turnbull to look the people of Nowra in the eye and tell them who would be connected to the fibre to the premises NBN and who would not.
“The great virtue of fibre to the node is that it can be rolled out very quickly,” Mr Turnbull said. “What Neil and his colleagues in the Labor Party are asking Australians to do is to wait potentially decades to get their broadband upgraded.
“They’re looking you in the eye and others like you – and you might get it done in the near term perhaps – but they’re looking most Australians in the eye and saying, ‘Just suck up the second rate service for another decade or two.’”
After the forum, prominent local businessman Chance Hanlon, who asked whether the slow internet speeds he encountered at his Bomaderry business would be rectified, was cautiously optimistic.
“I’m feeling slightly more confident that they can do the job and put a timeframe on it. If it’s better than what we have got now that’s great,” Mr Hanlon said.
Mr Reilly was disappointed with Mr Turnbull’s response to his concerns a two-tier system would eventuate in Nowra-Bomaderry, with some premises connected by fibre optic cable and others by copper.
“He couldn’t answer it apart to say it would be a quick thing. He wasn’t sure if the contracts that were drawn were going to be varied or not, although he did say the contracts that were there were solid. So there is a mixed message there.
“I think what he was talking about was a very detailed plan but when it came down to specifics there were no details.
“I think people in the room who have counted and relied on having fibre to the home are also going to be very disappointed. There are specific areas that are going to miss out and those specific areas are Bangalee, Bomaderry, Cambewarra Village, North Nowra, Tapitallee, Terara and Worrigee,” he said.