A moratorium on new connections, concerns about speed and reliability, and an outcry about landlines are the latest dramas hitting Malcolm Turnbull’s second-rate NBN locally.
Labor’s NBN used fibre to the premises, a superior technology. As Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull decided to use other technologies, including HFC - the same type of cable used for pay TV. The use of this so-called “multi-technology mix” instead of the better quality fibre NBN has caused significant problems.
In November NBN Co said, out of the blue, that it would “pause” its HFC rollout for “around six months”. This came as a surprise, especially since NBN Co’s Chief Engineer had been at a Senate hearing a few days before (being asked about problems with HFC) but did not mention the rollout was about to be “paused”.
The “pause” meant that locally a lot of people who had previously been advised that the NBN was ready for service in their suburb didn't get it after all, because no “new orders” were to be progressed during the “pause”. For those not yet ready for service, it meant a further delay.
This may have been a blessing in disguise given some of the stories locals have told me, including at my recent NBN crisis meeting in Carina with Paul Keene. We heard first hand reports of poor speeds, and frustrating dropouts. That was, sadly, unsurprising, because according to NBN Co data provided to the Senate in August, households connected to Malcolm Turnbull’s HFC network have been experiencing nearly 50 times more network downtime than households connected to fibre.
Worryingly, it has also come to light that landlines won’t work while the power is out once people have switched to the NBN. For those who are lucky enough to get fibre to the home, there is a workaround - you can get a battery. But last year NBN Co admitted that they can’t guarantee this would reliably work for people on the other types of technology that Malcolm Turnbull has introduced into the NBN. The acting Minister even told people to get a charged mobile phone! Can you imagine telling those elderly and vulnerable pensioners who haven’t presently got a mobile to learn how to use one, and spend the extra money on getting one, just because this government has made such a hash of the NBN?
It's not good enough. And the longer this goes on - poor design and second-rate technology - the harder it will be for a future government to clean up the mess. I’ll keep standing up for Southsiders and holding the government to account for this second-rate NBN.