After another delay in the rollout of the National Broadband Network, towns like Braidwood are still without reliable access to the internet and residents' frustration is growing.In 2014, NBN.co and the Liberal Party MP for Eden-Monaro, Dr. Peter Hendy, announced that construction of the NBN would commence in Braidwood by June 2016. Now, however, the most recent three-year construction plan released by NBN.co shows that the town would have access to the National roadband Network by the second half of 2017 at the earliest.
The delay has prompted criticism in Braidwood. Palerang Council member Tanya Lamont thinks that politics is responsible for Braidwood’s long wait for the NBN. She described the reasons for the delay as “archaic” and “typical of politics”.
Ms Lamont is not the only person who feels that politicians have caused the delay by using the NBN as a political “tool”. Susie Edmonds, a Braidwood business owner, says the delays have been caused by “ineptitude, false promises, and a policy that hasn’t taken into account anyone outside of the city or metropolitan areas.”
She’s not surprised at the situation, describing it as another example of “the usual argie-bargy that goes on in Canberra, turning most issues into a political football.”
Ms Edmonds is frustrated and angry about current internet speeds in the area: “You may as well walk to the person and say what you need to say, because the speeds are so slow sometimes,” she says.
She argues that Braidwood’s current, unreliable network falls far short of meeting the town's needs. “We want to run our community effectively. In this day and age, we’re talking 2016, we need powerful fast internet... and reliable internet service.”
Braidwood resident Gordon Waters similarly feels let down by the delays, and he too blames politics for the wait. “I’m disappointed… I think it’s all because of political reasons that we haven’t got it.”
He is also worried that the current internet service is causing the town to be “left behind”, and believes that Braidwood needs more reliable Internet to help it develop. “If we had reliable, fast internet everywhere it certainly could help Braidwood grow, by bringing more people out of the city.”
Emma Louise, who lived In Canberra until she moved to Braidwood last year, thinks the federal government treats people in rural communities as second-class citizens. “The government doesn’t seem to care about anyone that lives outside the city,” she says. “We only live an hour away from the capital, and it’s like we don’t even exist.”
The original NBN plan, which began implementation under the Labor Party, was for fibre optic cables to be connected to 93% of all premises by 2021. The Coalition’s victory at the 2013 election saw that plan replaced with what it called a ‘cheaper’ alternative: fibre optic cables would be connected to internet nodes that would provide service to premises through preexisting copper networks.
The disruption caused by that change is what many Braidwood residents pick as the chief reason for the NBN’s latest delay. Braidwood residents remains excited y the prospect of gaining access to reliable internet just as they remain jaundiced by the project's glacial pace.