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West Coast Council not giving up the NBN fight

9 March 2016

West Coast Council will follow-up this week with Braddon MP Brett Whiteley regarding a meeting with stakeholders regarding the NBN rollout for the region.

Mr Whiteley made the commitment to arrange a meeting with Council, NBN Co, Federal Government representatives, Telstra, TasICT and TasNetworks at a public forum in Queenstown last night (Tuesday 8 March 2016).

The forum brought West Coast residents together with representatives from Federal Government, NBN Co and local industry to discuss concerns regarding the satellite NBN service the West Coast is set to get.

“Whilst Council has met with all of these people individually to discuss options, it’s important we sit around a table together,” Mayor Phil Vickers said of the proposed meeting.

The purpose of the meeting will be to determine possible solutions to a redundancy option for fibre NBN, “We know there is a State Government-owned fibre line running from Railton to Queenstown.  Satellite-only NBN, even when running at its best, will not suffice for our region,” Mayor Vickers stated.

“What we want to know is can this fibre line be used to connect a large portion of our community to fibre and what are the redundancy options – for instance, can the satellite be the redundancy?” Mayor Vickers said.

The forum was well-attended by a cross-section of the West Coast community keen to hear what the satellite service could offer, and what potential opportunities existed for the provision of a mix of NBN technologies to the region.  Local business owners and residents expressed concerns that the satellite service would not stand-up to West Coast weather conditions, that download and speed restrictions would impact health, education and business services and that households would not be able to afford the service packages.

On the back of extensive community engagement in 2015 and creating the West Coast Community Plan 2025, diversification and building the West Coast economy was highlighted as a priority for the region and Mayor Vickers says the uncertainty surrounding the service is not helping the community as it looks to diversify its economy and attract more people to live in the region.

“Our community does not need more uncertainty and that is what is being felt with the satellite service.  Existing businesses are already making decisions based on concerns around satellite NBN – being unsure about the quality of NBN they’re going to get is preventing businesses from expanding and offering new services.  The ability to attract businesses will be dependent upon business owners believing an adequate service is available here.”

Whilst Mr Whiteley continually told forum attendees to give satellite a go and if, after six months, the service is not sufficient he will lobby Federal Government for a fibre connection, the West Coast knows that a single non-fibre NBN service is not going to be sufficient for business attraction and for the West Coast economy to build and diversify. 

“We understand Mr Whiteley can’t create a fibre network into the West Coast tomorrow but telling us to wait six months is irrelevant to the discussions we are trying to have and the solutions we need to find,” Mayor Vickers says. 

“What we’re asking is that, given all the data and research that already shows the expected pitfalls of satellite service, why can’t the government commit that fibre NBN services will be provided to the West Coast?  This would allow West Coast residents and businesses a mix of NBN technologies, still utilising the satellite service where there is no other option, and also provide some certainty moving into the future.”

Some of the attendees at the NBN Public Forum

NBN Forum panel for the public question and answer session: NBN Co CEO Russell Kelly, Shadow Federal Communications Minister Jason Clare, Mayor Phil Vickers, Braddon MP Brett Whiteley, West Coast Councillor Scott Stringer and West Coast resident and business owner Taz Huxley

11 Sticht Street
PO Box 63
Queenstown TAS 7467