EDITORIAL: Basic question remain about NBN Local

AT a forum in Perth on Wednesday, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield was singing the praises of the NBN, saying Australians would have a broadband network that was “the envy of the world”.

“By the middle of next year it will be [accessible to] three quarters of the country, and the project will be done and dusted by 2020,” Senator Fifield said.

“Which is a good six to eight years sooner than would have been the case under the approach of our predecessors.”

Senator Fifield acknowledged there would “always be issues when you are moving the entire country to a brand new network” but said “NBN itself gets things right on about nine out of ten occasions the first time”.

NBN and retailers were working hard, he said, to “minimise those issues”, but if the experiences of some Hunter customers are anything to go by, there is still a way to go, as the Newcastle Herald is reporting.

Earlier this week, NBN announced that Newcastle and Lake Macquarie would have an “NBN Local” capacity, which it described as “a dedicated team working with local stakeholders and community groups to help ensure local problems are identified early and addressed”.

One of a number of such units around the nation, the NBN Local would have “dedicated resources to make sure that they’re engaging with the community, to make sure that everyone has the information they need”.

As promising as this might sound in theory, the immediate experience has not been so good, with NBN unable to answer some of the Herald’s basic questions about NBN Local’s activities in this region.

If NBN is serious about helping householders with connection problems, then it must put the necessary resources into its NBN Local network. Otherwise, householders are left in more confusion than ever when faced with what can be a daunting wrestle, especially for those without the necessary knowledge of modern technology.

Because the NBN is a wholesaler only, the first port of call for most problems is the customer’s telephone and internet provider. But this dual system of wholesaler/retailer can allow one to blame the other, leaving troubled customers without an easy fix.

For many people, the NBN has proved itself already. Even so, there are plenty of users who’ve found the reality falling well short of the hype.

ISSUE: 38,621.