Better broadband sooner needed

I commend the member for Gilmore for this motion. She knows as I do that regional Australia needs better broadband sooner. Regional Australia needs to catch up to the major metropolitan centres and have access to the type of broadband service that allows businesses to grow and compete and individuals to enjoy an equivalent level of support.

Labor in government failed to prioritise regional communities in the original NBN plan, and many regional areas with no broadband service were left behind and had to watch as metropolitan areas were upgraded. Labor underestimated the number of Australians in regional and remote areas who want the NBN by a factor of two to three.

This is easily demonstrated by their bungling of the NBN interim satellite service, which provides temporary internet access for premises in metropolitan fringe, regional and remote areas with no other way of getting broadband. In December 2013 the ISS reached its capacity of 48,000 customers and registrations were closed. In July 2013 Labor told 250,000 households and businesses, many with other broadband options, that they were eligible for the ISS. Tens of thousands were left demanding the service but unable to obtain it.

Labor spent $351 million on the ISS—$7,300 per user—yet it delivers dial-up service to many users. By comparison, the coalition has made unserviced and underserviced regions a priority. The government moved in April 2014 to fix Labor’s mistakes and $34 million was committed to improving the ISS to improve service quality for existing users, allow new connections and establish a subsidy scheme for the cost of on-premises equipment and installation.

The government is committed to rolling out the National Broadband Network as quickly as possible, at less cost to taxpayers and more affordably for consumers. In nine months the number of premises covered has increased 65 per cent, from 348,000 to 573,000. The rollout is proceeding using a multi-technology mix that matches the right technology to the right location and leverages existing infrastructure.

The NBN Co strategic review found that, if Labor’s NBN proceeded, it would cost $72.6 billion—a mere $29 billion more than the public were told. It would lift broadband costs by up to 80 per cent and take until 2024. The government’s approach will save taxpayers $32 billion, get the NBN finished four years sooner and enable nine out of ten Australians in the fixed line footprint to have access to download speeds of 50 megabits per second or more by 2019.

In my own electorate of Forrest, NBN Co has recently announced new services to be provided by fibre and fixed wireless technologies in Brunswick, Stratham and Boyanup. This will add to the 44,000 homes and businesses in Western Australia with access to the NBN. I was especially glad to see the media release from NBN Co announcing the additional services in the electorate. I would like to quote from that release:

For many homes, farms and businesses in rural and regional Western Australia the rollout of the NBN will provide access to internet speeds and bandwidth that many in the big cities take for granted.

That is how it is in rural and regional Australia.

We saw the overbuild. We heard repeatedly about the overbuild in Labor’s NBN. Instead of prioritising rural and regional, they overbuilt in areas where there were sometimes two services already available. It has taken the installation of a coalition government to get that recognition, and I am very glad that we have it. NBN Co will release an updated 2014-17 corporate plan in the September quarter of 2014. This will include detailed information about the rollout schedule, and I look forward to seeing it spell out how to deliver better broadband in Forrest.