GOOD telecommunications is the first thing businesses and professionals consider when contemplating a move to regional areas, and the uncertainty surrounding the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Orange acts as a deterrent for those looking to relocate, industry veteran and councillor Jeff Whitton believes.
Under the former federal government’s NBN plans, Orange was expected to have to wait until at least 2016 to be connected after missing out on last year’s rollout.
Since the Coalition government was elected on September 7, its new approach to the NBN and any changes to the rollout timetable remain uncertain for most of Australia, including Orange.
A spokesman for NBN Co. said the company was working with the government in line with an interim Statement of Expectations recently released by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and more would become clear in the coming weeks.
“However much of our work, particularly for the fixed wireless areas, continues unchanged,” he said.
“For instance, our central objective continues to be to ensure every Australian is able to benefit from better broadband.”
Cr Jeff Whitton said he had worked in the telecommunications industry for 35 years and had watched successive governments treat telecommunications as a “political football” since the early 1990s.
“In real terms governments and politicians should leave the telecommunication aspect to the people who know what they’re doing,” he said.
“They’ve taken the country from having the number one telecommunications in the world to not even making the list.
“The ideals of the NBN should be sold back to Telstra or the commercial sector and they should let them deliver it.”
Cr Whitton said as community leaders of the city the council should lobby NBN Co. and the minister for NBN infrastructure in Orange.
“We are a regional health precinct, we also have universities and mining,” he said.
“The need for good telecommunications has always been the requirement for equality of all Australians now more than ever.”
It was a sentiment shared by a NBN Co. spokesman who said the NBN will play a critical role in ensuring people in rural and regional Australia will no longer be disadvantaged in terms of telecommunications.
“The NBN will deliver the sorts of internet speeds and bandwidth that will help open up increased access to public health and education services and opportunities for local farms, businesses and the regional economy,” he said.
“That’s what makes the NBN such an exciting prospect for the families and business in the area.”
Cr Whitton said successive governments had focused on rolling out the NBN to residential connections when they should have focused on businesses that would have driven the demand for better communications.
“Carriers and government can easily recoup the costs of these rollouts if they target businesses and also critical institutions like schools and hospitals,” he said.
“If regional Australia is to compete with the rest of Australia and the Asian region we have to have access to the same telecommunications as metropolitan areas.”