While the National Broadband Network (NBN) has updated its rollout maps, removing hundreds of thousands of premises that were scheduled to be connected to fibre optic cable, residents in ‘activated’ NBN streets in Toowoomba continue to face lengthy delays in connecting to the service.
Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde warned ABC News of a ‘digital divide’. He has urged communities to contact their political representatives, “make a case to your politicians, to say ‘Hey guys, hang on, we believe this is important for us, we don’t want a digital divide – we want to be on the right side of the divide.'”
Nick Day recently moved into an NBN ‘activated’ area in Mt Lofty Toowoomba. His internet service provider informed him the only option for internet was the NBN.
“I was put on a long wait list for the installation. The crew arrived, and unfortunately they weren’t able to connect the NBN. A trench needs to be dug and civil works need to happen. And I found out today that after those civil works are completed, about the middle of November, I’ll go back onto the waiting list for the normal installation, which could be another six weeks after that.”
Day says internet forums he visits are full of stories from Toowoomba residents with similar stories. His work colleague faced a four month wait after his area became ‘active’.
“I have a hobby where I film sport. It’s a paid hobby. I upload the videos online. With no internet it’s not a possibility. I haven’t done any filming for the last month, and am missing out on a hundred dollars each weekend.”
While he waits to be connected to the world again, he’s “been doing a lot more gardening and work outside. I’ve got a nicer tan, so that’s the silver lining,” he laughs.
“I’m philosophical. I haven’t gotten too frustrated, but I’ve been thinking of ways people are going to have to deal with this in the future, and interim internet is essential. I’m one of the first people to be moving into an NBN activated area, and having a long wait to have it connected is going to be a problem nationwide.”
Day says the message for people who are in ‘activated’ NBN areas, but not connected, is to be patient.
“People need to be aware that you might have a three to six month wait with no internet. They need to be informed. And they’re not being informed.”
The Toowoomba situation
“I think Toowoomba is a bit behind with contractors,” Day says. “Other areas seem to be quicker. Because there’s been so much NBN work here I would have thought the crews and contractors would be set in place, but the impression I get is there’s not too many of them doing the actual house installations. Running the cable through the street is a big job, and they seem to do that part pretty quickly. But once someone rings up and says ‘I want the NBN’…there’s a six week wait. And that’s a long wait.”
“It’s the final ten metres that seems to be the trickiest. I’ve even offered cartons of beer to grease the wheels of progress, which used to work effectively, but nobody’s taken me up on my offer!”