FISH Creek’s Tony Walker believes Australia has ended up with a “second rate internet, that’s been cobbled together using a variety of technologies”.
In South Gippsland, the NBN is delivered by either satellite or fixed wireless technology. Neither, he said, were living up to the hype, leaving people in regional Australia at a serious disadvantage. He lays the blame at the feet of the federal Coalition government, who, he says, took the cheap option without thinking of the country’s future needs.
“Our fixed wireless is probably only as good as ADSL. Sometimes it’s better. A lot of the time it’s worse. A lot of the time it doesn’t work at all,” he said this week.
“A lot of the time, if you are streaming content – and it doesn’t have to be TV, you can be streaming music, which is nowhere near as demanding on the bandwith as video content – you’ll get a lot of buffering, a lot of stuttering.
“A lot of time if you’re watching TV – and this is a familiar story for the people around here, because we have the conversations over and over again – and you’re not getting buffering at peak hours, you’ll get such a low definition picture that it’s barely watchable.”
Mr Walker said politics and poor planning were a big part of the NBN network’s deficiencies in regional Australia. He points to statement from the corporation in mid-2018, in which it admitted that at least 28 per cent of its fixed wireless towers had take up rates at least 2.5 times higher than assumed in planning in 2011.
“With a small population like ours, you wouldn’t assume there’d be a problem, but it just depends how much capacity they’ve provided,” he said.
“The feeling among a lot of people is, ‘We pay for this service, month in and month out and a lot of the time it’s not available.’”
Fish Creek artist and gallery/cafe owner Kerry Spokes has had a similar experience with her NBN service.
Recently, she took to Facebook to vent her frustrations, writing, “This is the message we received today and get every week from our internet ‘non’ provider ……as if the NBN will be working over the long weekend on maintenance of our network!!”
The message from the provider arrived on the eve of the busy Australia Day long weekend, informing her that “NBN will be performing network maintenance to improve the service in your area”.
Another message has come since. The messages and the promises of maintenance are constants in her life. Along with the outages.
“The messages were delivered to us just about weekly, all through January. You’ll get it on the day it will happen, and in the shop it means anything that’s reliant on the internet will drop out – that means music, the phone – which is a VOIP one we were forced to get – and ETPOS all go,” she said.
“We can’t take calls and our EFTPOS is compromised. The service is intermittent. The stability is not there.”
One of the more frustrating aspects of the experience, Ms Spoke said, is that customers must direct their complaints through providers, who invariably blame the outages on NBN maintenance.
“It’s a very unreliable service. You pay a premium amount of money, but there’s no recourse. You should not have to pay for a service that’s not being delivered,” she said. “The Liberal government is serving us – not.”