Archive for July, 2010

The Community Voices its Opinion

July 15th, 2010

Last night, Wednesday the 14th of July was not a comfortable night to be traveling. It was raining and blowing a gale yet 70 concerned residents turned out to confront Telstra representatives concerning years of broadband issues.

The Gungahlin Community Council meeting attracted a wide cross section of the community. I was glad to see Shane Rattenbury (MLA Greens) and Caroline Le Couteur (MLA Greens) at the meeting. I had written to each of them during my campaign and I was glad to see their interest in this issue continues. I was also glad to see Pia Waugh from Senator Kate Lundy’s office was also able to attend and took a copy of my submission on behalf of Senator Lundy. I was also pleased to see David Mathews at the meeting. David ran for election to the Legislative Assembly for the seat of Molonglo for the Labor party at the last election.

The meeting was split into two sections with the speakers taking up the first half of the night and general questions following. I stood up and spoke first for a few minutes. It was my intention to frame the meeting by describing the issues faced by Gungahlin over the past 15 years. It was important for me to make sure everyone at the meeting understood the magnitude of each broken promise made.

I also took 4 of the most commonly asked questions sent to me prior to the meeting which I asked Telstra to address.

  1. Why did it take 18 months to address the congestion issues?
  2. Do you believe making Gungahlin wait 18 months was acceptable?
  3. What are you doing to ensure this does not happen again?
  4. Why should we trust you?

Chris Taylor followed and spent a significant period of the night explaining Telstra’s position, what they have done and the future of the service. Chris Taylor, to his credit gave an honest account of Telstra’s actions and provided information about the service and Telstra’s activities leading up to the meeting.

The third and final speaker was David Forman from the Competitive Carriers Coalition. Mr Forman provided a perspective of the Broadband issues from the non-dominant ISPs who are in competition with Telstra and Optus.

In my opinion that both David Forman and Chris Taylor’s talk provided a good balance with each party allowed to put forward their perspective. My intention was to put into people’s minds the reality of poor broadband and telecommunications. I wanted to remind people of the hardships the community faced while they listen to the other speakers. Ultimately I was there to hear from Telstra and get outcomes, I wanted Telstra to do the majority of the talking.

Once the floor was opened to questions a number of residents made their feelings known. Many of the community who attended made sure they got their point across. I was glad that people got to take their issue straight to Telstra and I was pleased to see that Chris took details after the meeting. The expectation has been set by Telstra that something will be done. I hope it gets followed up.

I provided Chris Taylor with 60 odd pages during my talk. This consisted of letters I sent to the MLA, Federal Ministers and others. It also included reports I have generated and posted on this site as well as other speed test results and trace routes. I also included a handful of stories sent to me by people in Gungahlin. These stories detailed some residents experiences and how it affected their lives. I asked these people’s permission before I included them and nearly everyone I asked were happy to oblige. This campaign is about the representing the community and I felt it was important to include some of these stories.

I encourage you to visit the GCC website and view the video when it is released (if your connection is up to it).

Gungahlin to Get NBN Fast Track

July 8th, 2010

What can I say? I am not sure I really know what to say other than WOW.

The NBN Co announced today that Gungahlin will be included as one of the 14 locations where the NBN will be rolled out in early to mid 2011. The announcement, which can be seen on the NBN Co site here states that Gungahlin will start to receive the upgrade as early as March next year.

This announcement is a great boon for our community. For too long we have struggled with bad service and broken promises with regard to phone and internet services in Gungahlin and it is great to finally have our issue acknowledged.

The broken promises started on the 31st of August 1995, almost 15 years ago when Telstra representatives stood in front of my local primary school in Palmerston ACT. At that time Telstra promised to invest $20 million for “…connecting each of our [school] buildings with optical fibre, using a hub and router system to connect the school then into the university’s file server … other schools but also the World Wide Web and Internet.” Reference -The Media Report

The $20 Million dollar telecommunications investment was also to trial new technologies.

“There was no pre-existing infrastructure in Gungahlin, and in terms of choosing Gungahlin we were able to try out various infrastructure opportunities.” Reference -The Media Report

Unfortunately for Gungahlin, Telstra quietly withdrew the investment and decided to only “trial” Pair Gain and RIM technology. People moved to the area with the belief they would get the best in schooling for their children and world leading communications services. It was not until later people realised they had been mislead.

The reality of the broken promise crystallised on the 15th of February 2002 when the then Chief Minister Garry Humphries was quoted by the Canberra Times as saying

“…it was almost impossible for ACTTAB to be moved to Gungahlin due to costs, particularly the installation of new communications lines/systems.” Reference – Canberra Times

Only at this point, the true impacts of poor communications infrastructure became clear. Government Office space and the associated office workers will not be setting up in Gungahlin. The under investment in phone and data services in Gungahlin had become a major disincentive to business and Government departments moving into the area.

Still to this day only one Government department has located in Gungahlin. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship temporarily located a small number of workers at Gungahlin. The Department has since vacated the site and no other large private entity or Government Departments have moved in.

As Gungahlin has the largest rate of population growth in Canberra it is hard to believe very few employment opportunities exist within the area. The local business that provide support and services like coffee shops are suffering for lack of clientele. Our local economy has suffered with many businesses closing or moving to other locations.

The NBN will bring a new infrastructure service to our area providing what has been lacking for 15 years. The NBN will enable big businesses and Government Agencies an affordable telecommunications solution to support their businesses. Residents will be able to get the benefits of usable internet access for the first time. People who run business from home will be able to service their clients effectively.

No longer will our beautiful area be shunned as a “Technology Ghetto”

In an Interview today Mike Quigley stated community dissatisfaction with services had made a difference.

“… the inclusion of Gungahlin was partly thanks to community dissatisfaction over its poor Internet coverage.

“I’d say it certainly is a factor in our consideration,” he said. “It’s clear Gungahlin has a problem – it has a bunch of RIMs serving large parts of it, they can’t provide broadband.

“So it makes good sense if you can pick an area in the ACT to pick one that’s got problems with broadband.”

Reference – arnnet.com.au

The article links to this site and proves that some of the people who make decisions are listening.

To the community within which I live, thank you for all your support, emails and feedback. It was what kept me going and fighting for a better deal. The system does work some times. It was this campaign and other work done by Alan Kerlin at the GCC and Senator Kate Lundy who helped make this happen.

Thank you Kate Lundy and Pia Waugh for finding my site, listening to my story and supporting this campaign.

Thanks to Alan Kerlin and the members of the GCC who also put in time and effort to improve services for community.

Thanks to the MLA members who took time to respond to my letters and represent our community. Special thanks to Caroline Le Couteur (Greens) who responded to my letters and posted comments on this site. Thanks also to Katy Gallagher, Deputy Chief Minister who also responded to my letters and represented the issue at the Federal level.

I am not going to call this campaign over just yet. This is just the beginning of a journey we have not yet completed. It is not a victory until the first home is connected but still, today is a great day :)

Some additional links and information

NBN Company website – NBN Co announces next rollout locations

Senator Stephen Conroy – Media Release

Kate Lundy Website – Warm Welcome for Initial NBN Rollout

ITNews.com.au – Broadband Battlers Get Their Dues

ARN – update: nbn co announces 14 new mainland australia sites

Gungahlin Community Council Facebook Page

Canberra Times – Super-fast internet for Gungahlin