We need to do more on NBN communication: Conroy

Communications minister signals further work for Tasmania

ACCAN chairman Michael Fraser launches a consumer guide to the National Broadband Network

ACCAN chairman Michael Fraser launches a consumer guide to the National Broadband Network

Communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has flagged further attempts by stakeholders to improve take-up of National Broadband Network (NBN) services in Tasmania in coming months as the Federal Government moves to support clearer communication of the network’s technical aspects and wider benefits.

Launching a consumer guide about the NBN, Conroy told Computerworld Australia that he acknowledged the government and the network wholesaler had failed to sufficiently communicate knowledge about the network to wider Australians.

“The debate around the NBN gets caught up in a lot of geek language, so the debate tends to be high level in terms of both the political benefits [and] the productivity benefits,” he said.

“There’s no question we need to do a bit more and there will be signs over the next couple of months of a significant increase in activity from NBN Co nationally, NBN Tasmania, the Federal Government and the Tasmanian Government.”

Citing a lull in decision-making processes as a result of key decisions around the network such as legislation and the locations of points of interconnect, Conroy said all parties involved would attempt to do more in coming months to build participation in the network in what he labelled one of the toughest states in Australia to build the network.

Despite launching more than seven months ago in three Tasmania towns at a cost of approximately $30 million, the NBN has yet to attract more than 600 of the 4000 eligible premises for the network. A second and third round of site construction is expected to begin shortly, but consumer advocacy groups and key communities involved have decried a lack of communication from NBN Co and specifically NBN Tasmania around construction methods and exact locations of fibre drops.

In an attempt to better communicate aspects of the network, NBN Co recently appointed local businessman and TasICT founder, Darren Alexander, to the NBN Tasmania board. The new Tasmanian state Minister for Infrastructure, Development and Innovation, David O’Byrne, has also taken up the task left by former state premier, David Bartlett, pledging to take on-the-ground issues directly to NBN Co.

Despite the recent appointment of public relations firm Weber Shandwick by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to drum the benefits of the NBN, the consumer guide launched by Senator Conroy this week was compiled by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and the Internet Society of Australia, without direct involvement from the department or government.

The consumer guide was written by Internet Society of Australia directors Paul Brooks, Narelle Clark and Holly Raiche. ACCAN has made the document available in a quick guide, as well as in audio and Auslan versions. A senior policy adviser behind the guide confirmed the industry body was seeking funding to translate the guide into other languages. A factor in the low take-up rates in the first mainland site of Brunswick, Melbourne, was the lack of information in languages other than English, according to NBN Co.

At least one of the service providers offering services over the network has confirmed it will support and help distribute the guide through social media channels.

For his part, Conroy said he would use the guide as ammunition for the Sydney-based 'shock jock' radio hosts he alleged were partially to blame for much of the negative views about the network.

“I’ll be telling everyone to download this,” he said.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags nbn coSenator Stephen ConroyNational Broadband Network (NBN)NBN Tasmaniatasmanian NBN

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