CONSTITUENCY STATEMENT, 23 NOVEMBER 2016

Very sadly, the divide between city and country in this nation is growing. It is growing in health, education, government service delivery, infrastructure and, of course, broadband services.

This is the legacy of three years under this coalition government.

In my own electorate, constituents fall into one of five categories. Some have an inferior copper-based NBN, which they often say is slower and less reliable than their old ADSL2 service. Further, many lost their landlines for protracted periods during the switchover, and many still report voice phone dropouts on a regular basis. This problem is most prominent around the townships of Lake Macquarie. The second category are those still waiting for a second-rate NBN and cannot secure an ADSL2 service because Telstra says it does not make the investment because the NBN will come one day. The third category includes those who are receiving fixed wireless. I have to say, pleasingly, I have had few complaints about the fixed wireless service but, of course, too few residents have access to it.

The fourth group are those who can hope for no coverage other than satellite but are told they do not qualify for satellite. The fifth group have a problem in common with farmers and rural residents right across this nation: they have a satellite service which costs more and is inferior to the services enjoyed by those who live in our capital cities. While those in the cities are spoilt with choice, including options of limitless download capacity for less than $90 a month, the average Sky Muster satellite customer is forced to pay $135 per month for 55 gigabytes of download between 7 am and 1 am. Many have no choice but to turn to very expensive wi-fi options to keep their farms running.

Rural and remote families face being put on expensive data rations when they connect to the National Broadband Network. Two Sky Muster satellites are the only option for those who live beyond the reach of the NBN fixed wireless tower. Action group Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia surveyed 750 Sky Muster customers, with 60 per cent saying the satellites did not meet their data needs and 86 per cent that they had connection issues.

In the 21st century access to broadband is not a want; it is a need. Much of our farm equipment now relies on connection to broadband services. This is putting our agriculture sector at an international economic disadvantage. This government with its inferior NBN service is letting rural Australia down and it is letting our farmers down.


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