Entsch fires broadband broadside

Monday 2 April 2012

Entsch fires broadband broadside

Outspoken Federal Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, has taken aim at the NBN broadband project after a three-year rollout plan was announced on Thursday.

Mr Entsch said much of his electorate would not benefit from the multi-billion project which aims to deliver high-speed internet across the country.
"It concerns me. I was the one that stepped up and said we need to get super-fast internet into Far North Queensland.

"I am a vehement opponent of the NBN. Even when it's fully expended, it's not going to cover the majority of areas in Leichhardt.

"There are going to be places just north of Mossman that will miss out, and most of Cape York and into the Torres Strait."

His comments are in contrast to NBN Co's marketing which says the network will be rolled out to all "no matter where you live in Australia."

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Mr Entsch levelled criticism at the Federal Government saying that the costs had escalated wildly and NBN Co were using inappropriate technology.

"They've already blown their original budget ten times over, they're close to $50 billion and it's growing. And now they're talking about completion not until 2020.

"The concern that I have is by 2020, God only knows what the technology we'll have by that stage. Everything we'll have, in my view, will be redundant because the one growth area is in wireless."

An NBN Co spokesperson told The Newsport the Federal Government will in fact invest $27.5 billion into the business which will be repaid from revenue generated as services are taken up by consumers.

"We haven't changed our costings since we released out corporate plan in December 2010. The actual capital costs of the network is $35.9 billion," the spokesperson said.

"In our business plan we've run a 30 year business case because what the NBN is, it's not government expenditure, it's a business that the government is investing in.

"We make money so ultimately we will make a return on the investment the government has made."

She said the company has already factored in upgrades to technology.

"Fibre is just a much more efficient way of transmitting a message than copper (the material currently used).

"Over time the electronics that sit at either end of the fibre will be upgraded, we know that, just like things over copper changed over time. We went from dial-up services to ADSL.

"There's already a well-known upgrade path for the type of technology that we're using and we can change that up over time."

Mr Entsch said Cairns Regional Council should have pushed NBN Co harder to include the Douglas region in the rollout.

"Like every other bloody thing up there you're expected to get up and carry the can yourself.

"By drip feeding a bit into a small section of the region, it does not resolve the problem." 

Meanwhile, Entsch's long-time sparring partner Mayor Val Schier welcomed the announcement of Cairns' involvement in the rollout, saying the Council had worked for over a year advocating and lobbying, and preparing a business case.

“We went to great lengths to get the message out to the Federal Government that this is a critical project for Cairns,” Cr Schier said.

“While others were trying to score political points criticising the NBN we took the initiative and made a business case that showed the benefits of fast broadband in Cairns.

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"I personally met with Ministers and NBN Co executives to make sure our case was heard and it is pleasing that our rollout has been brought forward as a result,” she said.

Suburbs of Cairns from Palm Cove to Gordonvale have also had their roll out dates announced and will have their infrastructure installed from December 2014.

“This is another example of successful advocacy under my leadership. I will always stand up for this region and make sure we get our fair share from the State and Federal Governments,” Cr Schier said.

Division 10 councilor Julia Leu said the decision by NBN Co not to include the Douglas region into the three-year rollout plan was "extremely disappointing."

"We're actually going to be completely behind (the rest of the rollout areas).

"It's a real blow for Port Douglas. It's criticial (infrastructure), that's exactly why the whole broadband project was proposed in the first place.

"We've got a high percentage of small businesses so we rely on internet feed maybe even more than some other areas," she said.