Rollout Times Will Be The New NBN Battlefield

When the NBN three year rollout plan was announced last Thursday, Malcolm Turnbull was quick to go on the attack, as is Coalition policy in these cases. But something had changed; rather than complain on the grounds of cost, the new battlefront appears to be one of timing. At yesterday's NBN Co media briefing, representatives were quick to label Turnbull's attacks as "odd" based on the difference between the trial and stage one rollouts, but it appears that Coalition MPs aren't done with this particular tack as yet.

In a release on his Website, Federal MP for Wide Bay (Fraser Coast, South Burnett, Cooloola Coast) Warren Truss has the following statement:

Labor’s $50 billion National Broadband Network is proving to be nothing but a cruel hoax for the people of Wide Bay.

Commenting on yesterday’s announcement on the next areas to receive the National Broadband Network, Federal Member for Wide Bay, Warren Truss said that not a single person in the Wide Bay electorate will be able to connect to the NBN until at least the latter part of this decade

“The people of Wide Bay have to bear their share of the liability for the NBN, but no one is getting any benefits.

Mr Truss said the Federal Government has announced that the NBN will begin construction to connect 3.5 million premises by 2015, but none of the places to be connected are in the Fraser Coast, South Burnett, Cooloola Coast or Noosa areas.

“Hardly a week goes by when my office does not receive complaints about the unavailability of high speed broadband in the electorate. In many areas Telstra does not have any ADSL2+ portals available for connections and they have been unwilling to undertake new investment because of the uncertainty about the NBN network.

“The Wide Bay should have been a high priority area if the Government was genuinely interested in providing high speed internet services to communities that do not currently have access. Instead, Labor is duplicating existing high speed internet services in the cities rather than extending them to areas that are presently underserviced.

Mr Truss said yesterday’s announcement is a further illustration of the monumental debacle the NBN has become. Labor promised that by June 2012 the NBN would be available to 316,000 premises, but in fact only 18,900 can be serviced and less than 5,000 have actually been connected.

“When Labor came to office they cancelled the previous Coalition Government’s OPEL contract, which would have already been delivering high speed broadband to the people of Wide Bay. Despite Labor’s NBN costing tens of billions of dollars more than the OPEL contract, local people are having to wait an extra decade before anyone can access the service.

“The NBN is a scandal, and for the people of Wide Bay an empty sham.

”Labor’s announcement this week locks the people of Wide Bay into a slow speed economy for decades. All the claimed benefits for business, education, medicine and information services are for Wide Bay an illusion.”

Although the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy has been rather quick to quash that particular claim; in a media release he states the following:

Nationals Leader Warren Truss is misleading his electorate on the National Broadband Network (NBN), the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said today.

“Mr Truss' statement that not a single person in the Wide Bay electorate will be able to connect to the NBN until the latter part of this decade is not correct,” Senator Conroy said.

“The NBN fixed wireless network is being rolled out now and will be switched on progressively to rural parts of the country not covered by fibre by 2015. This includes communities in Wide Bay.

“In addition, the NBN Interim Satellite Service is being used in Mr Truss' electorate today.”

Introduced in July last year, the Interim Satellite Service is targeted at those people who cannot access metro-comparable broadband, and already has over 5000 homes and businesses connected. More information on eligibility and how to connect to the ISS is available by calling NBN Co on 1800 881 816 or visiting the website at www.nbnco.com.au

Seventy-eight homes and businesses in Wide Bay are already enjoying better broadband using NBN Co's Interim Satellite Service.

“The simple fact is the Liberal and National parties have pledged to scrap the NBN if they are elected, which means slower speeds and higher prices in the bush. That is their commitment – to demolish the NBN,” Senator Conroy said.

“Under Mr Truss' plan, regional Australia will pay more for broadband because the Coalition has committed to abolish the NBN's cross-subsidy for the bush.

“Warren Truss and the Coalition have tried to block the NBN, with its massive investments in regional telecommunications and the reforms to the sector it has generated, at every turn. To now be calling for a faster rollout to his electorate is hypocritical in the extreme.”

When the NBN is completed, over 70 per cent of homes and businesses in regional Australia will receive a fibre connection.

The Gillard Government last week announced that more than 3.5 million homes, businesses, schools and hospitals, will have construction of the National Broadband Network either commenced or completed within the next three years.

I've published both unedited, lest I be accused of partisanship one way or the other -- although I'm happy to say that I'm notably pro-NBN in principle; whether the rollout actually happens to schedule and cost is a matter to be seen -- but what strikes me as genuinely interesting is that the attacks on the NBN have rather solidly shifted from "we don't want or need it" to "why don't we have it right now?"

Could this focus signal a grass roots shift in conservative political circles towards the NBN even as the Coalition leadership openly states it'll dismantle it? [Warren Truss and Stephen Conroy]