‘They won’t do anything to fix it’: Why the NBN still matters to many voters | National Broadband Network (NBN)

The NBN rollout may be over, but Richard Proudfoot is still using an old ADSL internet connection, and he has to juggle his Zoom meetings around his partner’s work.

He runs a small IT business from his home in Maleny on the Sunshine Coast, around 100km north of Brisbane, while his partner is a part-time university professor.

Due to the terrain on their property, NBN Co told him he was unable to connect to a wireless or landline landline. Although it has the satellite option, many users have reported poor speeds and reliability. He has opted for ADSL for the time being because he thinks the forest cover and weather conditions would adversely affect his service.

“We are very, very dependent on a reliable ADSL Internet connection. To make this work for us given the limitations, we are scheduling internet usage as needed…we cannot run concurrent Zoom meetings, so we are rearranging schedules to accommodate.

The Coalition and NBN Co declared the rollout of the then $51 billion network complete in 2020. There are now 12.1 million households able to connect and 8.5 million households on the NBN.

The high-speed network was intended to bridge Australia’s digital divide, but two years after its completion there remains a stark difference between haves and have-nots; those with decent internet service and those who are still waiting or suffering from low speeds and reliability on their NBN service.

Richard Proudfoot runs an IT business in Maleny, Queensland
Richard Proudfoot runs his business using ADSL because he doesn’t think NBN’s satellite service will be reliable at his home in Maleny, Queensland.

Liberal MP Julian Leeser wrote a scathing critique of the NBN in a submission to the federal government’s regional telecommunications review last year, describing it as ‘too slow with countless delays’.

Leeser’s constituency north of Sydney, Berowra, is a mix of suburban and semi-regional localities, meaning its constituents live with the spectrum of NBN technologies, from fixed to wireless and satellite.

“There is too much variability in the quality of coverage between different NBN technologies,” he said.

The pandemic has forced many people to work from home and rely on their home internet more than ever.

Leeser said teachers had been forced to work in McDonald’s parking lots to exploit wifi for online classes, people were unable to work from home or undertake telehealth appointments, and some had even been forced to leave the area due to their weak NBN Connection.

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Unlike the 2010 and 2013 elections, when the NBN deployment was a hot topic, it has yet to make headlines this time around, but it still appears to be on the minds of some voters.

Many Guardian Australia readers raised issues with the draft when asked what their main concerns were ahead of the federal election this month.

One reader, Cate, who lives in Killarney Heights in Sydney’s Warringah constituency, missed the full fiber or cable that some nearby suburbs have access to.

She says she was originally connected via the Optus internet cable but was moved to fiber to the node (FttN) on the NBN.

“Using Optus cable, we rarely had any dropouts. I could count on the one hand the number of times over five years that we lost internet for any noticeable amount of time,” she says.

Now she says they experience daily interruptions.

“Our modem takes five to 10 minutes to reconnect which can often mean at least 25 to 50 minutes a day of downtime for our service and this is still considered acceptable by NBN and they will do nothing to fix it.”

She says she’s rarely able to get the top speeds promised. In speed test results provided by Cate to Guardian Australia between 2 and 3 p.m. on a weekday, results ranged from 1.3 Mbps to 40 Mbps, compared to 100 Mbps on its previous Optus cable.

Where to go from here?

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says it would not have been possible for so many people to work from home during the pandemic under Labour’s original NBN plan.

“If we had stuck to the Labor Party’s plan, when the pandemic hit and millions of people moved overnight to work and study from home, Australia would have been in a terrible mess,” Fletcher said in a speech at the CommsDay summit this week.

Fletcher’s argument, however, is based on modeling undertaken in 2013 that current NBN Co management has since walked away from.

In late 2020, the Coalition announced $4.5 billion in upgrades of 8 million premises to achieve speeds of up to 1 Gbps by 2023, including 2 million homes on FttN. Around 100,000 locals can now order these upgrades – provided they agree to pay for faster service.

A $750 million wireless upgrade was also announced in March as part of a $1.3 billion regional communications package that will also allow more people using satellite to go wireless. wire and free up space on the satellite service.

The Coalition is also funding upgrades through the Regional Connectivity Grants program. Many of these grants upgrade entire cities in regional areas from satellite to full fiber to premises. However, as Guardian Australia has previously reported, two grants from the first round of funding have been awarded to upgrade a single company to full fiber in the New England electorate.

Leeser told Guardian Australia he believes his community’s concerns about NBN will be addressed with wireless upgrades and the opening of the grant scheme to semi-urban areas such as Kenthurst and Dural in his constituency. .

The work promises to match the expense, but go further. He conducted detailed deployment modeling and determined that an additional 1.5 million homes can be upgraded to full fiber, at a cost of $2.4 billion. This means that seven out of eight FttN premises will have access to upgrades by 2025.