Editorial: Bendigo on the wrong side of NBN divide

BENDIGO faces the very real prospect of being consigned to a sputtering jalopy on an information superhighway populated by Ferraris.

The folly of relying on an antiquated copper network to deliver the National Broadband Network to Bendigo’s homes and businesses is becoming painfully apparent.

In recent weeks the Bendigo Advertiser has been inundated with complaints from residents frustrated at the new network’s unreliability and the seemingly inability of providers to find a fix.

Month after month customers are being charged premium prices for a service that some report provides speeds comparable to dial-up, while others say does not work at all.

If not for the ousting of the federal Labor government at the 2013 election, Bendigo would be receiving the vastly superior fibre-to-the-premises that parts of Ballarat and Shepparton will enjoy.

Consequently, Bendigo is at risk of being on the wrong side of a digital divide that will separate the state into the haves and have-nots.

At a time when Bendigo desperately needs to attract new industries, businesses and jobs, the absence of a fast and reliable NBN is undoubtedly the biggest hindrance.

If a business reliant on the internet – as most are in some way, shape or form these days – has the option of setting up in Bendigo or Ballarat, it is obvious which will be more appealing.

Be.Bendigo – formally the Bendigo Business Council – has long considered the region’s less than cutting-edge internet services as the biggest impediment to growing the local economy.

The new City of Greater Bendigo council is taking this threat to prosperity seriously, too.

Mayor Margaret O’Rourke, who has extensive experience in telecommunications, and CEO Craig Niemann will raise Bendigo’s NBN woes at the National General Assembly of Local Government in Canberra this weekend.

The NBN has become politicised to the point where it is almost impossible to sort fact from fiction.

But what we can say with absolute confidence is that Bendigo will be the loser if we are reliant on a poorly maintained copper network to deliver fibre-to-the-node technology that many experts already say is obsolete.

- Ross Tyson, deputy editor

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