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Monday, 28 November 2016
Page: 4710

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (19:17): I second the motion. I completely support the member for Indi's motion, and I would like to echo her concerns about the national broadband rollout. It is disadvantaging regional and rural communities. I wish to support her push for a review of the fair use policy as it applies to NBN satellite services to ensure equity of internet access for rural people.

The electorate of Mayo was one of the first areas to have the NBN rolled out—in some parts of it, of course—and we have seen that in regional areas there are winners and losers and that we are certainly losing compared to our urban cousins and, sometimes, our immediate neighbours. In my area, the townships of Strathalbyn and Willunga were fortunate enough to have fibre to the home and not to the node, and they were certainly the envy of many other rollouts beyond them. Mayo now has 11,900 premises ready for fibre to the node, with 4,500 connected; more than 5,000 premises will eventually have fixed wireless; and, to date, just under 5,000 premises will have to rely on the Sky Muster satellite service. The result is a disgruntled populace, acutely aware that communities are being discriminated against on the grounds of geography, even if they live just 20 kilometres from the CBD of Adelaide.

When I came into office, the NBN quickly became the No. 1 constituent issue handled by my staff. Initially, we were receiving 30 calls a week about the NBN. This has petered out to around 10 calls a week. That may sound reduced, but we know that many people are not making contact with the office and are just living with the service they are being offered, shrugging their shoulders and realising: 'Well, I guess we live in a regional area. I guess we cannot expect the same as our metro areas.' I think that is fundamentally unfair. Residents and businesspeople were contacting us because they had no-one else to turn to. The NBN Co service providers and their subcontractors, from our communications, did not want to know about the problems. It was always somebody else's problem.

We had a vet clinic that not only did not have internet; they did not have a landline for weeks, because somehow somebody damaged the line infrastructure underground, and nobody—neither their telco nor the NBN—wanted to own the problem.

We have an internet businessman in Bridgewater, 20 minutes from the city. He was originally told that he would be getting fibre to the premises, only to find out last week that this is not going to happen. His immediate neighbour will get fibre to the node, but he will not. And, thanks to geography, he will not get wireless either.

A similar tale affects a medical imaging research company at Piccadilly, 25 minutes from the city, and we have residents in Langhorne Creek, which is pretty flat country, whose area is 3.2 kilometres from a tower, but they cannot get wireless, because of the trees. We have a town with a broadacre farm that needs a 50-metre lattice tower to ensure that 300 residents get wireless. Anyone who lives more than two kilometres away will get satellite, and there is currently a very long waiting list.

Country people are pragmatic, and they understand the economies of scale. However, the NBN is a national infrastructure project akin to the electricity network and the copper telephone networks of previous generations. Due to geography, country people will not have access to a level of service at the same price as the majority of people who live in metropolitan areas. Can you imagine the uproar if, in the middle of metropolitan Sydney, people were offered a mix of satellite and fixed wireless towers and just a very, very small percentage of them were offered fibre to the node?

An honourable member interjecting

Ms SHARKIE: Absolutely. It is not enough to say to regional communities, 'Well, just use ADSL.' There has been limited investment in that resource because of the NBN. Some new residents cannot access ports, because there are none available, and they have been told there will be no upgrade, because of the NBN. Sections of my electorate are also in high-rainfall areas, and in winter copper wiring can be underwater because many of our areas have over a metre of water. That affects the conductivity of the network, and this is going to be an issue that the NBN will have to address.

If you are going to put rural people on satellite because it is cheaper for the government, it needs to be affordable for all. As people in regional areas, we should not be expected to pay more for internet services and receive a slower service simply because we live outside the metropolitan areas. The government really must look as this as an infrastructure project that must be thinking of the next 50 years and not just three years and a budget line.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Coulton ): The time allocated for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned, and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.