Bendigo mayor to call for NBN answers from minister during Canberra visit

Bendigo mayor Margaret O'Rourke will be in Canberra next week, and getting answers to National Broadband Network issues will be top of the agenda.
Bendigo mayor Margaret O'Rourke will be in Canberra next week, and getting answers to National Broadband Network issues will be top of the agenda.

BENDIGO mayor Margaret O’Rourke has called for a meeting with federal communications minister Mitch Fifield to get answers to the issues affecting the roll out of the National Broadband Network in Bendigo.

A delegation from Bendigo will be in Canberra next week for a local government conference, and will seek out a meeting with Mr Fifield to raise concerns about technical difficulties, delays and slower-than-expected download speeds.

Ms O’Rourke said she wanted to get the best result for Bendigo.

“It is very concerning for businesses and residents that the service has not been up to expectations,” she said.

“We are hearing about long delays in connecting and delays between NBN Co and the retailers when there are issues.

“We want this to work, we want Bendigo to be a smart community. People need fast speeds to be able to do day-to-day activities, it’s essential for businesses.”

The NBN has started to roll out to premises in a number of Bendigo suburbs in the last 12 months, but some have complained about the service resulting in a loss of internet and landline phone.

There have also been complaints about delays in customer service when issues arise, with residents caught between NBN Co and the retailer.

Ms O’Rourke said Bendigo should not be left behind other regional centres.

“Shepparton and Ballarat are experiencing fantastic speeds with their NBN rollout,” she said.

“There was a change of government after Labor made the announcement for fibre-to-the-premises for Bendigo and the plans changed. There were also changes at NBN Co, and we came out with a multi-technology approach for Bendigo.

“Because were were later in the rollout, we’re now in catch up mode.”

Before being elected as a City of Greater Bendigo councillor last year, Ms O’Rourke was the project manager for iLoddon Mallee and was a former Telstra regional general manager.

The NBN has consistently been a major priority for both the council and the Bendigo Business Council, now named Be:Bendigo.

The rollout includes fibre-to-the-node in the Bendigo suburbs, and a mixture of fixed wireless and Sky Muster Satellite service for those beyond the city’s boundaries.

A spokesperson for Mr Fifield said the minister’s office was yet to receive a request for a meeting from the City of Greater Bendigo, but Mr Fifield or one of his representatives would be made available.

In last year’s federal election campaign, Mr Fifield said the Coalition would deliver the NBN $8 billion cheaper and six years faster than Labor.

Minister deflects to NBN Co

COMMUNICATIONS minister Mitch Fifield has deflected questions on the Bendigo rollout of the National Broadband Network to NBN Co, refusing to comment on issues affecting residents.

The Bendigo Advertiser twice attempted to question Mr Fifield this week about aspects of the rollout, including whether there were concerns about the existing copper infrastructure in Bendigo being used to provide high-speed internet.

The Victorian Senator was also questioned on whether it was fair for Bendigo to expect slower internet speeds than Ballarat and Shepparton.

A spokesperson from his office said the questions were technical and specific in nature and NBN Co was in a better position to respond.

NBN Co corporate affairs advisor Kasey Ellison said geographical location, existing infrastructure, cost and time were factors that could determine which technology was used in each area.

She said NBN Co could guarantee a minimum wholesale speed of 25/5 megabits per second.

“The performance of the NBN network can be impacted by a number of things outside our control like equipment quality, software, broadband plans and how different service providers design their network,” Ms Ellison said.

“We encourage consumers to speak with their retail service provider to ensure they are choosing a plan that suit their needs and they are getting what they are paying for.”

Some NBN packages offer similar speeds to ADSL2, while others are far faster than what was previously available.

Bendigo mayor Margaret O’Rourke said the NBN has “many advantages” and hoped people continued to try to get connected.

“Residents and businesses should be excited by this opportunity and the exchange of information at speed; not worried about the impact of making the switch to the new technology,” she said.

A poll with 150 responses on the Bendigo Advertiser website found 55.7 per cent had experienced serious problems with their NBN connection, while 27.5 per cent said they had no problem.