Broadband rollout caught in the net

Minister for Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy has hit back at claims a typo would have cost Bombala access to the National Broadband Network.

Last week it was announced the network provider, NBN Co, had blamed a “typo” for changing who will receive fibre connection in regional Australia.

NBN Co general manager of external relations Trent Williams has announced that towns with at least 1000 premises will benefit from the high-speed connection.

Shadow Minister for Regional Communications Luke Hartsuyker accused NBN Co of changing its original definition.

Mr Hartsuyker said in April, 2009, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that fibre would be extended “to towns with a population of around 1000 or more people”.

Mr Williams dismissed claims that the guidelines had been changed.

“It’s always been 1000 premises from what NBN Co has been saying and we are the ones building it,” he said.

Mr Conroy has slammed the claims, stating that the announcement of towns to receive the rollout had been made in December 2010.

“In the intervening 18 months the Coalition has sat on their hands and developed no broadband plan,” Mr Conroy said.

“The one thing we do know is that a Coalition government won’t connect any homes or businesses in regional Australia to fibre – not to towns with 1000 people and not to towns with 1000 premises.”

He said that many towns with less than 1000 premises would still benefit from the broadband rollout.

With a population of 1200 people, Bombala was initially included to receive the service, but the change in definition left the town in doubt.

Mr Conroy confirmed that Bombala will receive the high-speed fibre optic broadband, while nearby Delegate would rely on improvements to satellite broadband services.

Member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly has downplayed Mr Hartsuyker’s claims, saying all Australians are set to benefit from the NBN.

“The National Broadband Network will be the single largest nation-building infrastructure project in Australian history and no Australian home or business will miss out,” Mr Kelly said.

“Every person and business in Australia, no matter where they are located, will have access to affordable, fast broadband at their fingertips.”

Mr Kelly said towns along the Monaro and Princes Highways would benefit, as the NBN delivered broadband services with speeds 100 times faster than those currently used by most people.

Nationwide, the NBN will be accessible in 93 per cent of homes, schools and workplaces, he said.

“All other premises in Australia will be connected with state-of-the-art wireless and satellite technologies that, although not as fast as the fibre, will deliver broadband speeds more than 10 times faster than those currently used by many households and businesses,” he said.

“The Commonwealth Government is delivering fast and affordable broadband to 100 per cent of Australians,” he said.

Mr Conroy said he was delighted with the broadband rollout and has challenged the Coalition to clarify their plans.

“The Coalition should stop misleading the Australian people about the National Broadband Network and come clean on their own broadband plans,” he said.

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