Monday, 18 June 2007
I rise to address the House tonight about the issue of broadband. Many people in Wakefield have enjoyed broadband for a while, but I have to say there are also people in Wakefield who have been waiting far too long for broadband. As a member of the government, I say that because there are issues involving the infrastructure in the ground, the pair gains or the distance from the exchange for rural communities, as well as for outer metropolitan communities, which have led to people not being able to access broadband. This has had an impact on students and small business, and a range of activities, including medical practices and companies that have sought to operate in regional towns. Over the years, the government has spent an amount of money which has enabled many of these people to be connected through different technologies. I particularly welcome the Australian Broadband Guarantee program that for the first time has allowed everybody in Wakefield this year to have broadband via satellite at metro-comparable prices. I have had very good feedback from a number of people who have taken that up.
Today, in particular, I welcome the announcement about Australia Connected. The service will provide infrastructure for broadband that will sustain the residents of Wakefield and their wide range of uses in the future. The government is going to spend $958 million on this network and the funding will be complemented by $917 million from the network builder OPEL, which is a joint venture between Optus and Elders. In addition to the high-speed wireless broadband network, many households and small businesses will also enjoy the world-class optic fibre network which is being provided by this consortium. At between 20 and 50 megabits per second, this new fibre network is faster than anything currently available, and will be rolled out in Australia’s capital cities and major regional centres.
Members opposite have talked about fibre to the node, but the reality is that there will still be people, even with a fibre network installed, who will not be able to access broadband. They will still be limited by that pair gain technology or, if out in the country, will often be prevented access by those last miles to the house. That is why I welcome the fact that this government program has not only the optic fibre network but also WiMAX and satellite connections.
In Wakefield, we will see a number of exchanges upgraded to ADSL2+, which will deliver speeds up to 20 megabits per second. I particularly welcome that in Gawler, Gawler River, Roseworthy, Two Wells and Virginia. People in Wakefield who live adjacent to the Barossa towns of Nuriootpa and Tanunda will also benefit from exchanges that will be upgraded with ADSL2+. Residents in Balaklava, Clare, Kapunda, Saddleworth, Virginia, Angle Vale, Gawler, Undalya, Wild Horse Plain and Owen will all benefit from WiMAX towers, which will be located in their areas. This program will give them, for the first time, the ability wherever they are living in Wakefield to access high-speed, quality broadband. This is an investment in the future that enables people to plan with confidence for their IT needs.
I think it is important to compare the options that the Australian community have for broadband. Industry commentators believe that the options put forward by the opposition will only reach about 75 per cent of Australians. So residents in Wakefield and in places like Yattalunga probably would not access the service which will be provided in the ALP’s plan. Compare that to the 99 per cent of people who will be serviced by this government program and the remaining one per cent by the Australian Broadband Guarantee program. The completion date under the ALP’s promise is 2013 whereas this roll-out will start immediately and will be complete by mid 2009. By September this year, people in Wakefield should be able to connect to this WiMAX system and enjoy the ADSL2+ exchanges. I welcome this initiative from the Howard government.