NBN in Canning hotly debated

NBN in Canning hotly debated

Federal Small Business Minister Bruce Billson at a Business Armadale breakfast on Thursday. Photograph - Robyn Molloy.
Federal Small Business Minister Bruce Billson at a Business Armadale breakfast on Thursday. Photograph - Robyn Molloy.

Communications issues and the NBN rollout throughout Armadale and Serpentine Jarrahdale were at the forefront of the political agenda with both major parties holding communications forums in their Canning by-election campaigns.

In parliament on Monday Federal Member for Perth Alannah MacTiernan raised concerns about the state of the copper network in Armadale and Kelmscott, which would still be used when the fibre to the node (FTTN) NBN was installed.

“On Saturday we had a great NBN forum in central Armadale in the seat of Canning, people there are acutely aware of just how bad their internet services have always been,” she said.

“The minister has acknowledged that he does not actually have any awareness of the state of the copper in Kelmscott and Armadale.

“As we heard over and over again from the community at this forum on Saturday, when it rains voice calls drop out routinely in this area.

“It gives us some idea of just what the state of this copper wire is.”

The FTTN NBN rollout runs fibre cable to a neighbourhood node and from there used the existing copper network to connect to homes and businesses.

Ms MacTiernan raised concerns using the old copper network in the FTTN rollout would impact the delivery and reliability of the NBN.

“With fibre to the node you need to have power boxes, you need to change the nature of the signal as it moves from fibre to copper and you need to keep it cool,” she said.

“My very great concern for the people of Canning, for the people of Armadale and Kelmscott who have got very poor internet services is that it is simply not going to be possible for them to deliver, even by December 2016,” she said.

‘This is going to be, I think at the end of the day, a system that will be greatly discredited.”

A spokesman for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said NBN Co, the company in charge of the NBN rollout, would replace or fix faulty copper networks when they came across them.

“Trials of the FTTN technology have produced quality results,” he said.

“On 24 August NBN Co chief executive Bill Morrow announced that NBN Co will conduct a trial of a technology called gfast, capable of delivering substantially faster connections over existing lengths of copper.”

The spokesman said if the NBN rollout reverted back to Labor’s fibre to the premises model some Canning residents could have to wait more than a decade for fast broadband access.

Small Business Minister Bruce Billson told Business Armadale members last week the federal government had moved from ‘a fundamentalist bill strategy to a multiple bill strategy’ in the roll out of NBN.

“With that multiple technology bill strategy we can knock eight or nine years off the rollout and get high speed, world class services into homes faster at a cheaper prices,” he said.

Mr Billson said NBN Co was now able to use Swiss software to turn pay TV cabling into broadband.

“That is large swathes of areas that can use existing infrastructure that we have already paid for and rather than just bury it or use it as a clothesline to hang our beach towels over we can run broadband over it so that is a real priority to get that rolled out as well,” he said.

He encouraged local councils to map out where broadband was lacking and what infrastructure was already in place, such as pay TV cabling, and send it to him to pass on to NBN Co.

Both major party Canning by-election candidates have committed to helping fix communications issues in the area.