23 October 2017

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| Andrew Leigh MP
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Disconnected: Internet connectivity is becoming an issue for many Canberrans.

‘When the internet is too slow to do my homework, it means I have to stay up late to finish it’.

‘My daughter drives into university at night because our home connection is too slow. I worry about her returning to a deserted campus in the late hours and spending long periods alone in computer labs, but it’s the only way she can get the speeds she needs to get core coursework done .’

‘I’m trying to build cybersecurity start-up, but it’s hard to do it from home when we don’t have a stable broadband connection.’

On a warm spring evening, nearly one hundred Canberrans gathered at the Belconnen Community Centre to discuss with Tara Cheyne MLA and me the ways they use broadband, and the challenges many are facing in getting a decent connection.

In days gone by, fast internet was a luxury. Now, it’s becoming a necessity. Streaming television. Watching university lectures. Video calls between grandparents and grandchildren. Speedy internet is like water and electricity – we expect it to be there when we need it.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. Malcolm Turnbull promised that Australians would be connected to the National Broadband Network by the end of 2016. For many Canberrans, that’s just another broken promise from the Liberals.

We’ve also seen the throttling back of the original broadband model. Under Labor, nine out of ten Australian premises were to be connected with fibre to the home. The advantage of fibre is that light signals travel through glass cables. As scientists develop better compression algorithms, the signal speeds up.

But when they came into office, the Abbott-Turnbull Government decided that second-best was good enough, and opted to start rolling out fibre to the node instead. That means the glass cables stop at a box in the street, and signals have to travel down copper cables to your home.

Not surprisingly, Canberrans at our Belconnen forum bridled at the injustice of one suburb getting fibre to the home, while other suburbs got fibre to the node. They were left scratching their heads as to why the Liberals would allow one side of the street to get the best technology, while the other side of the street was left with an inferior option.

We talked about possible solutions, but the simplest would also be the most economical: a federal government that does the job right from the outset. Why build a one-lane Sydney Harbour Bridge when you know the traffic demands are only going to increase?

I’m grateful to those who shared their stories with Tara and me at our Belconnen forum, and I’ll be raising these issues in parliament and seeking answers. As former independent parliamentarian Tony Windsor once put it, ‘Do it once. Do it right. Do it with fibre.’

Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, and his website is www.andrewleigh.com.

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I’m getting about 6.5 down and 1 up from my current ADSL2, in Page. Generally I find it ok, and I work from home, using things like Webex and Zoom, and also stream Netflix and don’t really have any problems even at these speeds. Sometimes I find things slow downloading data from work, but I’m undecided if that’s due to my employer’s infrastructure or the internet.

I’m pretty much resigned to getting probably a only small improvement in speeds from the FTTN NBN I’ll be getting, at around the same price I pay now. And I’ll be stuck with that for 10 years +, because I can’t see a future Labor government undoing what’s already done with FTTN and replacing it with FTTP. I think FTTN recipients are going to be stuck with it until its completely decrepit rather than merely obsolete which it already is. It truly is a sad case of what might have been and wasted opportunity.

I attended Andrew’s forum and while valid points were made, I do suspect some of the issues raised, like poor school internet performance probably have more to do with ACT Education dept decisions (not budgeting appropriately, the quality of their own infrastructure) than any relationship to the NBN or any network provider.

John Moulis said :

I had the NBN connected last Friday and it’s great! I have no problems with it at all. Before NBN I had a download speed of 8, now it is 93. Over the weekend I was able to download both parts of the Wake In Fright TV series in just under 60 seconds, whereas with the old ADSL each part would have taken 3 or 4 hours.

I don’t think I could handle those head exploding speeds, not that I need them as the ADSL 2 through 100% copper wire serves me very well, especially since I gave Telstra the flick and signed up with TPG.
Actually, I am dreading the day the NBN comes past my house -it won’t be until 2019 anyhow- because I don’t want or need it. That will be when I go to wireless broadband.

Having said that I do marvel at the technology and wonder what the next major advancement will be. Sixty years ago I built a 1 transistor (OC 72) radio as a replacement for a germanium diode crystal set I had built previously. I marvelled at the fact that the transistor enabled me to tune into both the local ABC station and the commercial station within the town I lived AND the next town 35 miles away. Then came television which totally mesmerised me – I even used to watch the test patterns. My business had a teletype machine in the 60s, a fax in the 70s and car mobile phones in the late 80s.

Half the readers of this thread won’t have a clue what I am talking about – technology these days is taken for granted.

I had the NBN connected last Friday and it’s great! I have no problems with it at all. Before NBN I had a download speed of 8, now it is 93. Over the weekend I was able to download both parts of the Wake In Fright TV series in just under 60 seconds, whereas with the old ADSL each part would have taken 3 or 4 hours.

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