COMMENT: NBN – Annoyed or amused?

COMMENT: NBN – Annoyed or amused?

I DIDN’T know whether to be annoyed or amused when the Federal Government announced that the NBN was finished.

Nice! EXCEPT! the CBD of Parramatta doesn’t have the NBN and won’t for at least another two years – in 2022 or later. Sorry guys, but if it’s not in Parramatta CBD, it’s not done. Telstra still has a rollout list and Parramatta CBD is last. Yep, last!

But there might be a silver lining in being…well, last. The Government has now realised that fibre is the way to go and has announced a multibillion-dollar upgrade for areas that already have the NBN.

Just maybe, we can convince the Government not to bother rolling out the inferior version first, and to go straight to fibre for us. Rolling out twice now that they have announced the re-build would be a wee bit silly. Let’s get it right for Parramatta CBD the first time.

And this is where you come in. Make your voices heard. Please, contact the Minister for Communications yourself, sign the petition on my website: julieowens.com.au/nbn, contact your local Council and local business groups and ask them to speak up for Parramatta. I will push for a better deal, and so should you.

Then there are the opportunities that come with upgrades to fibre in areas that already have the slower NBN.

All the things that my colleagues and I talked about back in 2012 are on the table again – things like shared workspaces for micro-businesses; virtual reality teaching; smart houses for people with disabilities; and health monitoring at home. It’s time to open our minds.

The upgrades will go to people who are prepared to pay for higher speeds, exacerbating the existing inequity.

What will we do as a community about the growing digital divide? We have a lot of units in Parramatta, many rented by lower-income families with children who do not have access to the internet at home.

I heard of one family that goes to McDonald’s every night so their children can do their homework on the
free wifi. And finally, we don’t know yet where the extra upgrades will go. Given the Government’s history of using taxpayer funds, shall we say, rather selectively, they may prioritise some areas and not others?

But, again, there’s a silver lining – Parramatta is a marginal seat (bad for me, but good for you).

We must keep a close eye on this. We need to share information, complain about current speeds, make a business case for the many sole traders and microbusinesses in our suburbs, apply for upgrades, and drive the innovative thinking we need to bridge the growing digital divide in our community.

I’ve added a new section to my website called Local Solutions, where you can put your name down if you want to help in some areas, or you just want to be kept informed to have the best chance of getting an upgrade: julieowens.com.au/solutions.

We can’t be the community we need to be without the speed that fibre brings. We have had to wait far too long for it, but now we have to grab the opportunity that is in front of us.

By Julie Owens, Federal Member for Parramatta.

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