BENDIGO residents are delaying transferring to the NBN suggesting NBN Co is losing the public relations war over broadband in central Victoria.
And further shaking up the sector, the city’s business group BE Bendigo has confirmed it is considering an option to advocate for 5G connectivity, which could compete with the national broadband network.
It is understood fifth generation mobile networks form part of the City of Greater Bendigo’s Smart Cities proposal.
BE Bendigo will decide at its March 27 board meeting what items make up a state election wishlist to be released within weeks, but chief executive Dennis Bice said based on a member survey last year, communications will be part of it.
Meanwhile, NBN Co released its first monthly performance report this week showing improvements year on year in the proportion of premises Australia-wide transferring to NBN.
On the same day, Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters released a survey of the Bendigo electorate containing anecdotal evidence that residents were delaying transfer because of negative reviews of the network.
“Residents in areas that have been allocated fixed wireless connection are even less likely to have transferred to the NBN network (because) many constituents living in fire prone areas reported that they are extremely worried that the connection will not work and they will be left with no form of communication in the event of an emergency,” Ms Chesters said.
Both reports require qualification.
The NBN report shows a significant reduction in the time wasted because of congestion, dropping from four hours 50 minutes to just 12 minutes.
The result, however, is Australia-wide and doesn’t account for individual Internet Service Providers who skimped on broadband and don’t have enough to share around.
Their customers are likely to have suffered congestion but the NBN’s report does not drill that far down.
Ms Chesters’ survey is about a 16 per cent response rate to 20,000 sent out, and the MP conceded those who responded may have been the people who wanted to complain.
Regardless, the issue is likely to be front and centre at the next election given the roll out will not be complete before then.
The NBN report showed that as of February, 6.3 million Australian premises were ready to connect, making broadband a physical reality rather than a concept debated in Parliament.
Ms Chesters reiterated that if elected, Labor would undertake the expensive exercise of retrospectively refitting with fibre to the kerb or fibre to the premises, every household and business which had fibre to the node broadband connection.
She conceded it would be an expensive move but said it was necessary because Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had “stuffed up” the roll out.
Her survey showed almost half of 3258 survey respondents had fibre to the node connection and 75 per cent were unsatisfied.
Some of the earliest of those connections are fast approaching the 18-month deadline when they must transfer to NBN.
NBN spokesperson Kasey Ellison said the current take-up rate across all areas at the end of the 18-month migration window was more than 74 per cent.
“We have found that the most popular time to connect to a service over the NBN broadband access network is in the first six months after a premise can officially connect,” she said.
“We get another surge of activations towards the end of the 18-month migration window as residents and businesses connect to services over the NBN access network before their existing services are de-activated.
“We are finding that the City of Greater Bendigo is consistent with this profile.”
Ms Chesters said many respondents were pushing out the date they choose to switch over the NBN for as long as possible in order to avoid slower connection speeds.
Shadow communications spokesperson Michelle Rowland will visit Bendigo next week for a series for forums on the NBN.