Senator for Western Australia, Louise Pratt, has come out in support of City of Greater Geraldton Mayor, Ian Carpenter’s submission to the Senate National Broadband Network Select Committee last week, on the City’s bitter disappointment to possible cuts to the National Broadband Network (NBN). It was back in 2010 the [then] Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, announced Geraldton as one of 19 regional sites in Australia to benefit from the rollout of extended broadband connections to about 3000 properties, after the City had lobbied hard to leverage off the NBN required to support the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.
Mr Carpenter said he is bitterly disappointed that since the Federal election the Coalition Government may “pull the rug” from the Geraldton community dividing it into “haves” and “have nots” with its decision to pull out of fibre to the premises (FTTP) connections.
“Geraldton people deserve more than that,” he said, “the City was very proactive in its planning on the back of the promised NBN rollout. As the Regional Capital of the Mid West the City adopted a Digital Strategy to ensure it was at the forefront of this wonderful technology opportunity but it is predicated on the reticulation of a ubiquitous fibre to the premises (FTTP) model. Failure to deliver this model will ruin our competitive advantage,” Mr Carpenter said.
“Now, as Senator Pratt says, we may be left with a ‘digital divide’ between residents that have benefitted from the FTTP rollout and those who would have a fibre to the node (FTTN) connected under the Abbott Government’s NBN plan.”
He said the “have nots” will be left with a seriously degraded copper network and a second-rate technology as a result of the decision.
“Also based on the back of the promised NBN rollout, the City of Greater Geraldton was one of only 33 cities in the world to receive an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant in 2012.
“Six IBM executives spent three weeks in Geraldton and produced a report that outlined an approach to take full advantage of the NBN, putting Geraldton on the digital world map,” said Mr Carpenter.
“They advocated creating the foundation for a digital Geraldton; smart digital and services hubs and developing innovative opportunities with the NBN, among other things, which the City embraced. If we do not get the promised network, our plans will be compromised.
“The high speed network was switched on at the Geraldton Digital Hub in July last year (2013) and the initial release from NBN Co was to provide access to 600 homes and businesses, with NBN availability to reach several thousand premises by the end of July 2013 and completion of the rollout at the end of this year.
“The Geraldton Digital Hub has helped many small enterprises and community members with free online training to take advantage of the high speed network.
“I am concerned much of our hard work may be wasted,” Mr Carpenter said.