Today's South-East Advertiser has reported on locals' concerns about being able to get help in a power outage, with landlines becoming less reliable once people have the NBN.
Paul Keene and I held an NBN crisis meeting in Carina recently, and concerns were raised about landlines not working during power outages.
Towards the end of last year there was advice from NBN that neither the Fibre to the Node nor HFC network can be relied on during a power outage:
“Equipment connected over the NBN network will not work during a power blackout. An exception is if you have Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) with battery backup, in which case you will get up to 5 hours of power provided the battery has been correctly maintained.”
In other words: Malcolm Turnbull's decision to drop full fibre-to-the-premises in favour of a mix of different technologies, including cable tv, has made landlines less reliable when the power goes out.
This is a huge worry for people with medical conditions, and for retirees and those on low incomes.
People with medical conditions, who have medical alarm devices, often depend on a working phone service through their landline.
The NBN co announced a subsidy for monitored alarms. But vulnerable users of non-monitored medical alarms continue to be excluded from the NBN medical alarm subsidy scheme. This should change. Monitored alarms are more expensive. People on low incomes - including elderly pensioners - shouldn't be forced to get rid of their lower-cost non-monitored alarms and pay for expensive monitored alarms. There should be support for people with unmonitored alarms to be able to get back-up batteries for when the power goes out.
But even that's not enough, given that the NBN co has admitted that batteries will only be reliable for people who are lucky enough to have fibre to the premises.
Malcolm Turnbull needs to tell Australians what he's going to do to make sure people can have access to a landline no matter what type of technology they are left with after the NBN is implemented in their area.
So far, the acting Minister has just told people to get a mobile phone as well. Not good enough.
Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King has said that the risks facing users of non-monitored medical alarms on the NBN are not trivial.
"Labor is calling on the Government to clarify what assistance will be available for vulnerable Australians migrating to the NBN,” Ms King has said.