Burt's Broadband

Federation Chamber, 28 March 2018 

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Transcript

Mr KEOGH (Burt) (16:07): Less than 20 kilometres away from the Perth CBD sits the electorate of Burt. It's not out in the sticks, despite what you may hear from many of my university friends. It is indeed in metropolitan Perth, and it is the year 2018. And in 2018, students are expected to do their homework and research their assignments online. We are required to pay our bills online, bank online and work online. We even watch TV online. The government even asks us to report to Centrelink online and to complete passport applications online. And, of course, we all have to pay our tax—unless you're some of Australia's biggest companies—online.

In Burt, we have areas on the NBN, areas getting the NBN and a whole lot of areas that will be sitting in a technological dead zone without the NBN or, in fact, without even ADSL for quite a while. Until recently, suburbs like Thornlie were just a big blank space on the NBN rollout map. They may now be coloured in, but there isn't any NBN coming to them or surrounding areas until at least 2019, and, on current performance, that's more realistically 2021 if they're lucky. The types of issues that I hear from my constituents about the Prime Minister's failed 'fraudband' network are many and varied, from service class 0 homes that, for whatever reason, cannot and, seemingly, will not be given access to the NBN, to slow internet speeds—slower, in fact, than people had on their ADSL—to rollout dates that keep on getting pushed back.

The availability of ADSL services across Perth's south-eastern suburbs was already patchy at best. Plenty of my constituents pay for expensive mobile data plans on their phones or a dongle, so that they can access the internet from their computers at home, assuming they aren't living within the various mobile black spots that also cover many parts of my electorate. Many resort to staying back late at work or school to download large documents or complete tasks that they could otherwise have been doing at home. Some even have to walk their children to sit outside their school in the evening so that they can access the school's wi-fi to get their homework done.

But what happens when these households do eventually move onto the NBN? If your area isn't one of the many that has had their rollout delayed, you'll probably start to notice your mailbox filling with paraphernalia from telcos reminding you that now is the time to switch, often advertising speeds and prices that seem just too good to be true. And, often, they are. We now have the ACCC conducting an inquiry into misleading claims made by internet service providers over the kinds of speeds that consumers could expect. Some constituents are telling me that they are lucky if they can get the speed test itself to download in less than 10 seconds.

About one-fifth of Australians are getting fibre-to-the-premises connections, but the majority are being connected using the older technology such as copper telephone wires and pay television cables. The end result is that some households and businesses are unable to access the high speeds which they pay for. Some are told they can get a refund; others suffer not knowing. NBN Co has been blunt about this: if you want high speeds and you have fibre to the node, you had better be prepared to pay for it. You can drive down streets in my electorate where people on one side get fibre to their home—it's much faster and much more reliable—and people on the other side of the street are connected by copper, which limits their internet speed.

NBN chief Bill Morrow has been quoted as saying:

Fibre medium is better than copper medium … You can't argue any other way, but do we need that fibre today?

I'm sure that, when the first copper wires were laid in Australia, the telecommunications company installing them—that was the government—didn't expect that the same copper wires would be used to download movies, play video games—I don't think they even knew what video games were—stream music, publish graphic-heavy online content or interact with social networks around the clock. By limiting achievable speeds and reliability of our broadband to what we think we may need today, we limit the ability of Australian businesses and individuals to innovate into the future. We do not know what the internet will or could be used for in 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years time, and we need the capacity to accommodate the growing needs of the Australian community, its businesses and its future leaders. We should not constrain ourselves and condemn the next generation—indeed, my generation—to having to pay to do all of this again at a much higher cost.

To the members of my community in Burt: I would like to assure you that we will continue to advocate for a timelier, better quality NBN rollout for Perth's south-eastern suburbs. We deserve better, and I'm here in this place to make sure we get it.