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Selling Skymuster bandwidth to Qantas doesn’t fly with connectivity-starved farmers

Beef Central, 21/11/2016

The Federal Government says its rollout of the NBN is on schedule and exceeding revenue forecasts.

However at the same time the Telecommunications Ombudsman has reported a rise in complaints about the NBN.

In its annual report for 2016 the ombudsman said there were 13,406 new complaints about services delivered over the National Broadband Network (NBN), representing 11.9 per cent of new complaints.

This was almost double the number in 2014-15 (6,715).

However, the ombudsman added that the increase in complaints was to be expected given the accelerating rollout of the NBN.

“As at 30 June 2016, more than 2.8 million premises were serviceable on the NBN and services had been activated at more than one million premises.

“It is positive that the rate of growth in the number of active services on the NBN is greater than the growth in complaints about services delivered over the NBN.”

The most significant issues consumers raised in their complaints about NBN services in 2015-16 were:

  • Faults: this category includes slow data speeds, unusable services and drop outs. The Ombudsman recorded 7,480 fault issues for NBN services, which made up 38.5 per cent of all the internet and landline issues we recorded in 2015-16. Fault issues for NBN services increased 147.8 per cent compared to last year.
  • Connections: this category includes connection delays and missed appointments. The Ombudsman recorded 7,948 connection issues for NBN services, which made up 20.4 per cent of all internet and landline connection issues we recorded this year. Connection issues for NBN services increased 63.2 per cent compared to 2014-15.

The Ombudsman said the majority of NBN complaints are registered against retail service providers because these are the organisations the consumer deals with to order the connection and report faults with the service.

Geographically, the most NBN-related complaints were from consumers in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

NSW Farmers has called on the Federal Government to step in and stop the sale of NBN Sky Muster satellite bandwidth to Qantas.

Qantas announced in February that plans to equip its domestic Airbus A330s and Boeing 737s with internet wi-fi, with connectivity to be provided by ViaSat’s global satellite network and the National Broadband Network’s Sky Muster satellites.

NSW Farmers’ President Derek Schoen said selling precious satellite capacity to Qantas was a slap in the face to farmers who can’t even get a reliable signal.

“It tells regional Australians loud and clear that they don’t matter, that they are nothing more than an inconvenience.

“These satellites are supposed to end the digital divide between rural and urban Australia. Instead, we are just seeing it entrenched.

“Watching cat videos while you are flying doesn’t add to the productivity of the Australian economy.

“Making sure that regional Australians have sufficient internet speed to run their businesses does.

“The issues that have surfaced today are yet another example of why we need a new universal service obligation that guarantees minimum standards for voice and data services.”

Communications minister Mitch Fifield said under the Coalition, the NBN was on schedule, ahead of its revenue forecasts and had met or exceeded its key rollout targets across two financial years.

The Minister announced on Friday that the Federal Government will provide a loan to NBN Co Ltd on commercial terms in order to complete the rollout.

He said the Government’s equity contribution of $29.5 billion to NBN Co (NBN) was expected to be fully utilised in the current financial year.

The NBN’s 2017 Corporate Plan assumes it will source private debt funding for the remaining $19.5 billion needed to complete the rollout.

“To help ensure that nbn can fully focus on the remaining rollout as it significantly ramps up, the Government has decided to provide the remaining funding required to complete that rollout through a Government loan to NBN Co Ltd on commercial terms.

“In anticipation of a future privatisation of nbn as provided for in the NBN Companies Act 2011, it is expected that this loan will be re-financed by nbn on external markets in 2020-21.

“A Government  loan  on commercial terms represents the most cost effective way to raise the debt and secure funding to complete the rollout of this important national infrastructure project.”

Mr Fifield said NBN has recently obtained strong indicative credit ratings from credit agencies, which shows that nbn’s business case is strong.

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