Senate debates

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010

In Committee

6:30 pm

Photo of Kate LundyKate Lundy (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | Hansard source

and wreck. I think that their opposition to the NBN underpins an incredibly irresponsible attitude by the coalition, and I have a little bit of sympathy for those on the opposite benches who find the whole stance of their party uncomfortable. I say that on the basis that, like me, they have experienced the real world and understand what citizens want. In fact, I was distracted by a point of order when making this point earlier, but I will go back to it because it relates to the real-world experience of real people who are trying to establish home based businesses, who are trying to embark on long-distance education endeavours, who are trying to access improved government services in an online environment and who consider reliable, affordable, high-bandwidth services absolutely essential to their future prospects.

The other great strength of the NBN is that it allows people to choose where they live. Being from Canberra, I take issue with the point made by one of the coalition senators that somehow I am not privy to the real-world challenges of bandwidth availability. I can assure you that I am. Here in Canberra I benefit from feedback from three important groups of people in relation to telecommunications. The first one is the constituency of Canberrans who retire to the surrounding region, particularly down the coast. They tell me of the absolute frustration they feel when they invest their life savings in their retirement home only to find that there is no infrastructure that they can access that will provide them with an affordable high-bandwidth service. It is quite a tragedy, because many people, particularly here in Canberra with the work demographic, are used to having online access.

We have also benefited as Canberrans from having more competition than usual in Canberra because of the presence of TransACT, which is a BDSL fibre-to-the-node independent network. That has created some competition with Telstra in the past. So we are rather unique. But for some areas of Canberra we are in exactly the same position as many regional people around the country. In outer metropolitan areas, relatively new areas, Telstra invested in an infrastructure called remote integrated multiplexers, which are like a sub-exchange, but this had the effect of inhibiting the number of ADSL or broadband services that were able to be provided. As all of my colleagues have heard over many years, the people of Gungahlin are long-suffering victims of the RIM pair gains systems and still find themselves on waiting lists just to get the basic ADSL2+ services.

This is the experience of so many communities around the country, where new estates have been built and Telstra, for all of the wrong reasons, invested on the cheap in their infrastructure, denying a proportion of the population that needed a higher bandwidth service in the ADSL service the ability to access it. This outer metropolitan problem is even experienced by very large, multistorey high-rise inner city developments where these RIMs were installed in the basement. People who thought they were buying a state-of-the-art apartment in some of our biggest cities had problems once the densities and demands for ADSL started to increase. The NBN, of course, addresses all of these problems.

There is another constituency, and that is the people in the outlying areas around Canberra. There was nothing in the former government’s 20 or so reports and responses to the problems of regional connectivity that serviced the needs of people who found themselves on ageing copper unable to sustain broadband services and for whom the only solution was a satellite service riddled with latency problems, not to mention expense. Those who found themselves—wait for it—in the doughnut, outside of the footprint of the metropolitan terrestrial delivery area but not inside the subsidised area under the schemes that were designed to support people in more remote areas, were not able to get any satisfaction, support or help to— (Time expired)


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