NBN Co must step up its engagement with relevant government departments and the Australian community if the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) or face an increasingly ambivalent public.
Speaking at the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications in Adelaide, the City of Tea Tree Gully’s manager of business and economic development, Bob Carmichael, said the rollout of the NBN in the suburb of Modbury had been characterised by a lack of communication between NBN Co and the council.
“We’re keen to optimise connections and uptake by the [NBN] trial group of 3000 users and we see the urgent need for a local engagement strategy to explain the infrastructure to the local community,” Carmichael said. “We’re keen to be an early adopter of high speed broadband…we welcome discussion with NBN Co and the federal government.
“We’re trying to work out whether it should be our engagement strategy, NBN Co’s strategy or the department’s [strategy that runs the project]. We’d like to find out their [NBN Co’s] engagement strategy so we can work with them.”
The planned rollout at the City of Tea Tree Gully suburb of Modbury is part of the second release trial sites announced in July last year, with Carmichael saying that the council doesn’t want to falsely raise hopes for a mid-2011 rollout.
As well as needing to open the lines of communication, Carmichael said community awareness about the infrastructure project needed to be raised.
“We need to have a system where we’re promoting a connection, where we understand how the infrastructure works,” he said. “…We’re keen to establish a demonstration site of the National broadband Network.”
Carmichael said the council would not play an active role in promoting the NBN due to concerns that the project would not be delivered on time, potentially placing the council in negative light.
“We’re in contact with the NBN every week…we’re very concerned about over promising. We want to work out when we can start an engagement strategy of some kind,” he said. “We’re holding back until we know which areas will have it and the timing of it.”
The lack of communication reported in South Australia follows claims from action group Digital Tasmania last year that more information needed to be made available to the Australian public about the NBN and its impact on the Tasmanian community.
Despite the lack of communication, the Modbury community was eager to signing up to the NBN, with local businesses in particular saddled with poor internet connections, Carmichael said.
“Some people have copper [internet connections] and it’s not just enough for what they want to do with their business and others have generally poor service,” he said. “I saw a map of the black spots in our city and they are all over the place…it surprised me just how many places in the city had them.”
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