Courtesy of ABC;
MARK COLVIN: Sometime in the next two weeks the company that runs the NBN will release the details of which houses will be connected to the National Broadband Network over the next three years.
By that time NBN Co expects to connect millions of subscribers to the high speed network.
As it stands, the fibre cables can only reach 18,000 or so homes around Australia at the moment. And only just over 2,700 households have actually opted in so far.
But as David Mark discovered, when he visited one of the test communities on the New South Wales south coast, those who have connected to the NBN are generally very happy with it.
(sound of plastic chips being scooped up)
SENIOR WOMAN: So we’re pretty good at this game; this is Rumican (phonetic).
DAVID MARK: It’s game time for the seniors at the North Kiama Neighbourhood centre in Kiama Downs, about 100 kilometres south of Sydney.
(sound of plastic chips)
SENIOR WOMAN 2: Right I’ve got three pods here.
DAVID MARK: It’s hard to imagine anywhere further removed from the cutting edge of the information super-highway.
SHARON PARKER: so as you can see we’ve got four computers, and we’ve got a laptop. We’re also going to be able to do teleconferencing, which is going to be really exciting.
DAVID MARK: That’s Sharon Parker the Neighbourhood Centre’s community development manager.
She’s particularly excited because the centre is about to get hooked up to the NBN.
SHARON PARKER: Absolutely. Yes this week we’ll be all connected up and we’re going to start running courses.
DAVID MARK: What does that mean; what does having a high speed internet connection at a community centre mean?
SHARON PARKER: It’s fantastic. It’ll be terrific for the community to come down and actually get onto it and U3A’s going to find it really fantastic because they’ll be able to actually link up with the Northern Territory U3A.
DAVID MARK: That’s the University of the Third Age, a virtual university for over 55s.
SHARON PARKER: So, they’ll be doing photography at the moment. So they might want to link up with Armidale and have a look at see what their photography group’s doing.
DAVID MARK: People in Kiama Downs have been living with frustratingly slow ADSL1 internet connections for years.
But as one of the test sites for the NBN, they’ve been amongst the first to try out high-speed internet.
Sharon Parker’s had the NBN at her home for six months.
SHARON PARKER: Downloading, uploading, fast, brilliant. Sending emails, instant. Downloading really big documents, we get it straight away.
DAVID MARK: And you’ve got a couple of members of your family who are perhaps using the internet at the same time, is that the case?
SHARON PARKER: We sometimes have six laptops going at the same time, plus the TV.
DAVID MARK: And does that all work?
SHARON PARKER: Brilliant. We don’t have any dramas, none whatsoever.
DAVID MARK: How much do you pay for this?
SHARON PARKER: I actually pay $109 a bundle.
DAVID MARK: That’s $109 a month?
SHARON PARKER: Yep.
DAVID MARK: Is it worth it?
SHARON PARKER: Yes. Absolutely, I wouldn’t go back.
(sound of meeting and introductions)
DAVID MARK: Paul, g’day, I’m David how you going?
PAUL GOSNEY: I’m Paul, come on in.
DAVID MARK: Paul Gosney’s not going back.
PAUL GOSNEY: We’ve made a choice, a decisions to move to Kiama, just a sea change basically, or get out of Sydney – we’re raising two small children. And as a consequence of coming down here we found out we’d be eligible for the NBN. And that sort of tipped us over about coming down. It made me feel more comfortable bringing my business down here.
DAVID MARK: He’s a photographer and still does most of his shooting in Sydney, but the NBN’s uploading speed means he can do the rest of his work from home.
PAUL GOSNEY: What happens in the post production, so I travel back down from Sydney to Kiama, I’ve begun to now utilise offshore processing for some of my images. So I send them to companies outside of Australia typically and they’ll do some of my post-production, they’ll do deep etching and then send it back to me and I send it on to my clients.
DAVID MARK: Ok but this is obviously all happening on the net?
PAUL GOSNEY: This is all via the net. And so the fact is now I can deliver my jobs quickly.
DAVID MARK: So the long and the short of it is that the NBN has allowed you to live the lifestyle you want to live; is that correct?
PAUL GOSNEY: Yeah. And that’s the whole idea of coming down here is to have a better family and social life and you know it’s beginning to sort of bear fruit.
(sound of card being swiped)
WOMAN: There’s your card Catherine.
CATHERINE: Thank you.
MICHELLE HUDSON: My name is Michelle Hudson and I’m the manager of library services here at Kiama Council.
DAVID MARK: Over at the library they’re hoping that the fast speeds of the NBN will allow local residents to electronically access the regions historical documents, which when digitised become very large files.
MICHELLE HUDSON: So there’s things like old rates books, there’s old photos that people have. We’ve got some lovely film footage that people have taken on their holidays in the 1940s and at the moment that information is kept behind locked doors. And what we see with the NBN, in the potential that it will be able to realise for us, is to make all that content available.
DAVID MARK: In the centre of the library some people are using the NBN via the library’s WiFi.
MALE LIBRARY USER: It’s quicker. Yep.
FEMALE LIBRARY USER: It is very quick. It’s very good
DAVID MARK: So, the consensus is, the product is good; but not necessarily the service.
Paul Gosney recently moved and had to wait for weeks to get the NBN connected even when the fibre was already there at his house.
PAUL GOSNEY: There has been some frustrations that I’ve experienced with getting this thing operating. A lot of it I can put down to early days and so on, but now it’s a commercial product I would hope it would be working better than it actually is.
DAVID MARK: And that’s important when you consider the NBN plans to have the network available, or building availability, to more than 750,000 households by the end of the year.
Ninety-three per cent of Australia will be connected by 2021.
And even when the NBN is available, a quick doorknock around Kiama Downs shows not everyone is taking it up.
MALE RESIDENT 1: Not at the moment, no. But I believe a plan is to eventually get it connected.
MALE RESIDENT 2: No we don’t, no
DAVID MARK: Why not?
MALE RESIDENT 2: Because we’ve just moved down and we haven’t got round to getting everything sorted out yet.
DAVID MARK: Have you got the National Broadband network?
FEMALE RESIDENT 1: Yes we do.
DAVID MARK: How long have you had it?
FEMALE RESIDENT 1: Say a month
DAVID MARK: What do you make of it?
FEMALE RESIDENT 1: It’s been pretty good.
FEMALE RESIDENT 2: No I don’t
DAVID MARK: Why not?
RESIDENT FOUR: Because we’re on a contract with someone else, we’re waiting for that to expire and then we will.
DAVID MARK: Do you have the NBN?
FEMALE RESIDENT 3: Yes.
DAVID MARK: When did you get it?
FEMALE RESIDENT 3: Two months ago.
DAVID MARK: And what are you using it for?
FEMALE RESIDENT 3: Mainly emails and Skype.
DAVID MARK: And what do you think of it?
FEMALE RESIDENT 3: I think it’s wonderful because I was on dial up before.
DAVID MARK: So it’s a dramatic difference?
FEMALE RESIDENT 3: Oh dramatic difference, yes.
MARK COLVIN: A resident of Kiama Downs, south of Sydney, ending David Mark’s report.