Councillor Neil Meiklejohn has concerns about the National Broadband Network.
Councillor Neil Meiklejohn has concerns about the National Broadband Network. Shannon Newley

NBN ignores small towns

EVEN though the internet line will pass by their doorsteps, small communities will still be left disconnected when the National Broadband Network (NBN) is rolled out.

While Warwick businesses, homes and schools will enjoy speedier internet, smaller communities won’t reap the benefits, which has irked at least one local councillor.

Councillor Neil Meiklejohn said townships with a population below 1000 would not be connected.

“My understanding is when it comes, it will be in Warwick, Stanthorpe and, I think Allora, but Killarney for example doesn’t get it,” he said.

“So the technology gap won’t get solved by the roll-out of the NBN, which is my concern.”

He said he was “really annoyed” by the fact the main line of infrastructure for the NBN would run through Ballandean, Wallangarra and Dalveen, but residents would not be able to connect to it.

“Even though it runs past their front doors, they won’t be seeing the benefits,” Cr Meiklejohn said.

He agreed the Southern Downs had to position itself to get the NBN rolled out as soon as possible, but said smaller communities should not be forgotten about.

“Getting on the NBN roll-out list and looking after residents who currently have poor internet access should have equal priority,” he said.

“I heard if they can’t access ADSL2, they won’t be able to access the NBN.”

He said he was passionate about the issue and didn’t want to see the social gap between bigger and smaller communities on the Southern Downs grow any further.

“I fully advocate good quality, fast internet, but it should be for everyone,” he said.

Local businesses were keen to see the roll-out happen as soon as possible.

Leading Edge Computers part-owner Valerie Giddens said her business would benefit greatly from the NBN.

“We think it’s going to be great, the speed here is just atrocious,” she said.

“It will make dealing with business easier and it won’t matter we are in a regional area.

“It would be well worth it for us at work, not sure if it would make a huge difference for personal computers at home.”

Computer Right owner Wayne Booth said the NBN would help with his business, but he wasn’t holding his breath.

“I am sceptical about when we will get it,” he said

The Southern Downs is not currently on the roll-out list for the NBN and although it will eventually be installed in the area, the waiting period could be years.

Regional Development Australia (RDA), the organisation formed by the Federal Government to look after the NBN has approached councils requesting they submit asset maps at the council’s expense, for a chance to be put on the list earlier.

The maps should detail what infrastructure is currently in place and could be used to store the fibre optic cabling which will be used instead of copper wiring used by communications now.

This week Shadow Minister for Communications Luke Hartsuyker criticised the government’s management of the NBN and said local councils were being taken for a ride.

“This is no more than cost-shifting onto local government,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

“Trying to penny pinch funding from local councils just shows the management of the NBN has become a debacle.”

The issue will be discussed again by Council at today’s general meeting.

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