A parliamentary report has deemed the Government and NBN Co’s efforts in educating communities on the National Broadband Network (NBN) as ‘ineffective’.
The Joint Committee on the NBN presented its third six-monthly review of the rollout of the NBN. The report examined areas such as rollout of wireless and satellite services, performance reporting, and regulatory matters.
As well as finding the NBN rollout is behind by eight months, mainly thanks to delays in finalising the NBN Co-Telstra agreement, and NBN Co’s consolidated half-yearly financial loss of $221 million reflected the company is still in start-up mode, the report also considered the community education on certain aspects of the NBN so far to be ineffective.
This includes shortcomings of community consultation on the timing of NBN services to be delivered, how to connect to the NBN, and the network’s potential benefits to rural areas.
NBN Co has regularly publicised its efforts to inform the public on the NBN. It has invested funds in advertisements in different media and the mobilisation of NBN discovery trucks which demonstrate the network’s practical applications.
The Committee credited NBN Co for its work so far but picked at some of the company’s methods to engage the public about the NBN.
“The importance of demonstrating equipment as a method of informing the public was discussed,” the report said. “However, the demonstration of equipment does not itself lead to genuine engagement with community, nor does it demonstrate community involvement in the NBN rollout.”
The Committee highlighted the NBN rollout schedule website only provides information to residents in areas where network deployments have been scheduled in the next three years. Residents outside those areas are left in the dark about when they will be receiving NBN services.
“NBN Co’s activities in fixed-wireless and satellite service areas should also clarify for residents the continuing provision of voice services and existing infrastructure,” the report said.
National leadership is needed for coordinating public engagement activities pertaining to the NBN in order to motivate the development of projects to take advantage of the $36 million network, according to the Committee.
“If Australia is to maximise productivity increases, clarity and leadership are vital,” the report said. “This may require more detail than general statements of ‘enhanced productivity’.”
Other recommendations made by the NBN Joint Committee include the preservation of the Consumer Service Guarantee (CSG) in the NBN wholesale broadband agreement as well as how NBN Co should investigate its options for considering equity and debt financing early in the network build.