While some were celebrating the recent ‘win’ in negotiations with NBN Co to enable Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) technology into parts of the shire, there are still many who are not.
For campaigners Arne Hansen and Jason Errey, who are the driving force behind the Bellingen Shire NBN Facebook (which now has close to 200 members), the MTM or Multi Technology Mix planned for the shire, is more like a ‘Swiss Cheese’ than a carefully planned modern technology upgrade.
“Prior to October 2016, everyone was set to get Fibre to the Node (FTTN), which while it is far from the best of technologies, it would have at least offered an equitable service to everyone,” Arne said.
“Now we have the mixed model that divides towns and creates huge equity issues.
“Certainly there are the areas that will get FTTC but we also have one third of Bellingen with fixed wireless (FW) plus a third of Dorrigo and then there is Urunga staying on FTTN.”
Arne says the decision to put Sunset Ridge in North Bellingen on FW was driven more by the need to boost subscriber numbers than proper planning.
“Sunset Ridge declines off the ridge and people are in a radio shadow with no line of sight or reception to the tower up on Scotchman’s Rd.”
Jason adds the design specs for the town highlight that FW technology cannot be used without line of sight to the tower.
“If they were going to put FW anywhere, it should have been on the other side of Bellingen, which has clear views of the tower,” Jason said.
He said both he and Arne had bought homes under the assumption they would have access to wired communication.
“I work with high resolution virtual reality 4D models – I will never be able to do this with FW,” Jason said.
“Just down the road a competitor is being given FTTC … yet if I want that, I have to pay between $25,000 to $50,000.
“The NBN is making my business choices for me and costing me money. They are a monopoly and they are the most expensive layers of fibre in the world. Why do I not have access to a competitive market?”
This lack of equitable access to the latest technology and its affect on property values are at the heart of what they and other residents continue to argue must be remedied by the Federal Government.
NBN Co’s General Manager, State and Corporate Affairs, Sam Dimarco, refutes these claims.
“We did testing in Sunset Ridge before the meeting with the council in Bellingen on June 27 and found the signal exceeds the minimum level we have to guarantee to provide,” Mr Dimarco said.
“In our statement of expectations, NBN Co must provide the connections on time, on budget with a minimum of 25 megabits (MB) download and 5 MN upload speeds. We guaranteed to give our wholesalers those speeds … and if not, we guarantee to get them up to scratch. We sell our product to the service providers – if people are having problems, they should talk to their providers.”
Next week in the Courier Sun and online: Urunga’s NBN