The National Broadband Network is only weeks away from a rollout to around 14,000 homes in Gungahlin. It heralds a shiny-bright future of super-fast connection speeds amid promises to “transform Australia as much as the telegraph, railways and highways did for previous generations”.
But this dream has been nothing more than a nightmare for a group of residents in the north Watson development, The Fair.
In late June last year, residents moving into their new, two-storey complex of 12 two-bedroom units were informed that their homes were NBN Ready and only a number of weeks away from connection. Many of them first home owners, they had no reason to expect the frustration, legal loopholes and vague updates from NBNCo that were to come.
Being what is termed a “Greenfields” area, The Fair boasts only the latest in NBN-ready cabling and none of those copper wires that older houses get their phone and internet from. This means that residents cannot access a traditional landline phone or any form of cabled internet connection. NBNCo also does not have the same obligations as Telstra under the Universal Service Obligation, so until a service can be provided, residents of a suburb barely 10km from the centre of the nation’s capital must make do with mobile phones and 3G services, or satellite services usually reserved for those in remote rural locations.
Playing the waiting game was almost fun for the residents in the first couple of weeks, with anticipation building until the first rumour of delay came via service providers who could not even find Whitmore Cres on a map.
Getting connection dates from NBNCo has been like pulling teeth, with residents being given rough estimates that edged steadily closer to the end of the year. Soon “in around two weeks” became “late August”, then “October”, then “November”. Upon contacting NBNCo in late November, residents were assured a January 2013 connection date, which was later confirmed by a document on the NBNCo website.
In early January, residents again contacted NBNCo for a more exact connection date. After two weeks of chasing this, one resident received this response today:
“We have run into a few small issues with regards to connectivity to Block 138 which we are working through. It is envisaged that we should be able to get services connected in early March but potentially a little earlier.”
If “small issues” can cause a seven month delay, it begs the question of what issue NBNCo might consider big.
The residents of the complex at Whitmore Cres have watched in frustration as every other home in their development received its connection to the NBN. They are not sure whether to believe that March will bring a connection either.
Despite an overall trend away from landline phones, a number of residents in the complex are eager to have theirs connected. Calling relatives and friends both interstate and overseas can really add up on a mobile phone. One young woman, whose family lives in rural NSW, can’t wait to be able to have long phone conversations with them again. This morning, after hearing of the latest delay, she commented on Twitter:
“This was beyond a joke months ago. Now I don’t even know what it is.”