Senate committee calls for greater scrutiny of NBN rollout in regional areas

ANY changes to the National Broadband Network that affect country users would have to be approved by a regional watchdog as part of recommendations put forward by a senate committee investigating the NBN rollout.

The committee’s report also called for fibre-to-the-curb to be rolled out for the remaining fixed-line premises in Australia not already connected.

But the federal government appears unlikely to adopt the suggestions, after committee chair Sussan Ley claimed the rollout had been better managed by the current government.

The NBN rollout in Bendigo is expected to be complete next year, with more than 41,000 premises in the city already having access.

Epsom, Maiden Gully and Eaglehawk were the next areas expected to receive NBN.

Related coverage: Businesses speak of NBN issues

However the rollout suffered problems in Bendigo as residents reported repeated drop-outs, slower speeds and poor customer service between their internet provider and the NBN.

The issues were not isolated to central Victoria either – as detailed in the senate committee report.

It stated consumer awareness and education about the NBN had failed, and fixed-line speeds were not reaching 50 megabits per second as much as expected.

The report also found that the fibre-to-the-node network would need to be improved once the rollout was complete.

“Much of the FTTN network will likely need to be substantially upgraded in the short term, and NBN has made it clear this will be more costly than delivering future-proofed technology in the rollout phase,” the report states.

Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said the NBN needed to meet the needs of future users in regional areas.

Related coverage: NBN says copper network not the problem

“It is imperative rural and regional Australians are given the same technology as their city counterparts,” she said.

“Farmers and agriculture businesses are in desperate need of technology upgrades if they are to continue to create produce for our local economy.”

Liberal MP Sussan Ley, who chaired the committee, said many of the claims included in the report were incorrect.

She said the NBN had met its financial and rollout targets for three consecutive years.

“This important infrastructure project is continuing at a more manageable cost and is on track to deliver all households access to better broadband by 2020,” Ms Ley said.