On the ground with the NBN rollout: Part 1 - Brunswick

ARN gets exclusive access behind the scenes of the National Broadband Network’s first mainland sites

  • (Second from L to R) The men in charge of rolling out the NBN in Brunswick. Telstra project manager, Matthew Taylor, Telstra project director, Ben Systermans, and NBN Co construction manager, Mike Grant.

  • NBN Co in Melbourne's CBD.

  • One of Telstra’s many tasks is to make sure traffic management goes smoothly.

  • With so much digging, drilling and road closure going on, home-owners often find themselves entirely marooned for hours at a time.

  • You may not know what a pit is by name, but you’ve definitely seen them all your life. Small concrete ovals or rectangles embedded into footpaths sit at regular intervals along the street. Beneath these covers are boxes linked directly to the copper and fibre cables with the equipment needed to plug a house into the network.

  • “The issue with this area here is they’ve encountered a lot of rock as they cut the trenches and they’ve now got the excavator digging. It’s been really, really bad,” Telstra project manager, Matthew Taylor said.

  • The old style of pit is too small to handle NBN Co’s equipment and that more than 550 must be dug up and replaced by the newer boxes.

  • Old pits are often made with asbestos, requiring specially trained workers wearing full-body suits and head gear.

  • As ARN walked through the sites where new pits have been installed, Telstra contractors were opening dozens up to attach tags with construction dates.

  • Other dangers include drug users dropping syringes into keyholes, which require a second cover to prevent workers being accidentally pricked.

  • More than 40 were completed before the tagging idea became standard practice so each and every one was being re-opened in two man operations.

  • The art deco Telstra exchange that acts as the project’s HQ is a world away from central Melbourne, where NBN Co’s main office occupies the 40th and 41st floors in a gleaming steel and glass edifice. Once staffed by a small army of workers, it was all but abandoned when automation made their jobs redundant.

  • Telstra project director, Ben Systermans, and his entire staff now work in what was once the Exchange’s employee tea room along with two NBN Co liaison officers.

  • The map with all the pit replacement locations is pinned on the main wall.

  • Café owner and operator, Tod Myles, has run La Paloma for over six years and makes a sandwich the locals love. He’s also a resident and enjoys the prospect of faster Internet, but notes his business has no wired connection of any kind.

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