Press conference, Rathmines, NSW, NBN access

DAN REPACHOLI, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Good morning, all. I’m here today with Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland. We’ve got a great announcement not only for business but a fantastic announcement for families as well that will really benefit our area, and I’m really looking forward to hearing what Michelle has to say about this. Thank you, Michelle.

MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thanks, Dan, and thanks for all your local advocacy for your community including in the area of making sure that everyone irrespective of where they live or work, especially here in the regions, has access to reliable and accessible communications services, and of course that includes high-speed broadband. We know arising from the pandemic, people’s work habits, their study habits and also their habits as consumers have all changed, and there’s certainly an expectation that irrespective of where you live or where you work, you will have just as great access as anyone else in Australia. And to that end, I’m very pleased to announce that people living and working here in this area in Rathmines and surrounding suburbs will now be able to access and put in an order for high-speed broadband services in the conversion from the copper network to the fibre network through the National Broadband Network.

So, people will need to take up a higher speed plan, but as Dan has been telling me for quite some time, one of the biggest areas of feedback he gets is that residents who are stuck on old copper really want to upgrade to fibre and the greater speeds and reliability that that provides. So, we encourage all residents in this area, Rathmines and surrounds, to get in touch with their retail service provider or go to the NBN Co website to see if they are eligible for an upgrade and, if they so choose, to put in for that upgrade.

This is all part of the Albanese Government’s plan to ensure that irrespective of where you live or work, and particularly in the regions, that we have the best quality broadband services for everyone. And under our plan, 90 per cent of the fixed-line National Broadband Network footprint will be eligible for gigabit speeds. So, again thank you very much, Dan, for having us here and I’m sure you would also encourage all local residents who are eligible to check that out and to make sure that if they do want it, they can upgrade and put in their order as soon as possible.

REPACHOLI: Thank you, Michelle. Thank you for coming out and thank you to the Albanese Labor Government for really caring about the regions because these are areas we need to make sure we fight for and we’ll continue to fight for, for as long as we can. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: How much is this costing?

ROWLAND: Well, this is part of NBN Co’s existing program, which has been announced over the last couple of years, and this is in addition to the election commitment that we took to upgrade some 1.4 million premises around Australia for $2.4 billion, and that is an investment that is reflective of the commitment that we have to making sure that everyone has a quality of opportunity and the best access irrespective of where they live or work. So, as I said, people will need to take out a higher speed plan and that will be their choice, but certainly, it is a really positive thing for our local community to have that access.

JOURNALIST: So, do you have a cost?

ROWLAND: This is within the existing funding envelope of NBN Co, so that’s some $50 billion already spent to date, but, of course, more is being invested in the network.

JOURNALIST: Right. And is the sort of upgrades to these areas part of that additional investment or it’s all part of what’s already – 

ROWLAND: This is what’s been already announced. So, people can already put in an order for this. Part of the upgrades that we are doing to an additional 1.4 million premises, we’ll be making an announcement about that very soon and of course next week we have the Budget.

JOURNALIST: I guess, when will upgrades start happening? Can you talk me through the process a little bit?

ROWLAND: People put in their order with their retail service provider. NBN Co as the infrastructure provider will determine how quickly that can be done, but it is generally quite an expeditious process because the build has been completed and these areas are now ready to connect.

JOURNALIST: Right. So, the actual upgrades are finished. People can now make an order?

ROWLAND: That is right. That work has been done. In other parts of Australia that build is still being undertaken. These suburbs, we are announcing them now because people can actually put that order in right now.

JOURNALIST: I guess for people in this area, Dan, can you talk me through your discussions with them and how they found internet speeds in the area and what they’ve been sort of experiencing?

REPACHOLI: As we’ve been through the pandemic, a lot of people have been working from home. The family internet is just not as good as it used to be, as what we could be having now. A lot of those families – we’re talking to the small businesses, how they need more and more internet to continue to go through and do what they need to do as a family and a small business as well. So, that’s the main things we got pushed through in the campaign. That’s why we’ve been speaking with Michelle about this and really making sure these issues got looked at.

JOURNALIST: How much more will they be paying for this?

ROWLAND: Depending on the plan they have with their retail service provider, it will be an additional cost per month. Again, that depends on what plan they’re on. As Dan will attest as well, what people are looking for here as well is speed and reliability. So, a lot of the time the big complaints we receive as local MPs – people who say, “We’re paying for a particular service at particular quality and we’re not receiving it.” And we know that there are limitations with copper and that has been one of the big causes of complaints. So, with these fibre upgrades, again depending on who your retail service provider is and what sort of time frame and contract you take up, the issue here for people is speed and reliability. And we know that you’ll be able to get that with fibre.

JOURNALIST: So, obviously there’s some people who would think: why weren’t these upgrades done earlier? What would you say to that?

ROWLAND: Certainly when Labor was last in Government, we kicked off the NBN, which was a 93 per cent fibre-based network. When we lost Government, the incoming Liberal and National Government decided to replace this with a multi-technology mix comprising of copper, HFC as well as fibre. So, it meant that a lot of areas that otherwise would have had fibre missed out. We’re now looking to the future and we’re really positive that under this program, these areas that were otherwise relegated to an old copper network are now capable of being upgraded. As I said, this is in addition to the election commitment that the Albanese Labor Government took to the people and that was endorsed, and we know that people want the best quality broadband, and they deserve it irrespective of where they live or work.

JOURNALIST: Just quickly for you, Dan, off the back of the last question, how much will this affect or change the area and people’s lives here?

REPACHOLI: More and more people are moving from the big cities into regional Australia, and this will help that even more. So, more people will be able to start their businesses, run their businesses from home, do everything they need to do to be able to work from home as well. This will just enable that to happen quicker and, honestly, to be a lot more professional.

JOURNALIST: Anything else to add?

ROWLAND: I think it’s also important for the tourism sector as well because when people come here for holidaying or for weekends, they expect to be able to access a certain quality of broadband service. So, this will make a big difference to them, and I think that this will be noted by local tourism operators and providers as well, which is a really positive thing.

JOURNALIST: Thank you.