News the Latrobe Valley will see high speed broadband in the next three years has come as a bitter pill for Moe businesses and residents, who have missed out on the first rollout phase.
Traralgon, Morwell and Churchill will be the first towns in Gippsland with internet connection speed options of up to 100 megabyte per second, as part of the Federal Government’s first stage of National Broadband Network rollout.
The announcement on Thursday by NBN Co, the company delivering the fibre optic cable rollout, has seen the Latrobe Valley win out over most other Gippsland municipalities, with Cowes and Rosedale the only other towns included in the first stage.
According the NBN Co website, works are set to begin in Traralgon and Morwell in September 2013 and 2014 consecutively, while works in Churchill and Rosedale will begin in June 2015.
“It is estimated that the average time from work beginning, to NBN services being available, is 12 months,” the website reads.
An NBN Co spokesperson, the company delivering the rollout, said while it was unfortunate Moe was not included in the announcement, all areas penned to receive NBN would be serviced within the 10 years. “(Rollout) principles include first extending the network in areas where work had already begun; …. and making use of available exchange and transit infrastructure as it becomes available,” the spokesperson said, however she was unable to give any specific reasons explaining Moe’s omission.
Latrobe City chief executive Paul Buckley said while it was definitely a positive for the region to be involved in the first major rollout, it “didn’t make sense” to exclude Moe.
“We are certainly looking at the reason why only part of the municipality is included; from a cost perspective it would make sense to the patch in the whole area at the same time,” Mr Buckley said.
Mr Buckley said in an interconnected municipality like Latrobe, Moe’s omission would “disadvantage” the area, with “integrated institutions” like Latrobe Community Health Service and the education sector unable to effectively utilise the technology across its services.
Moe and District Resident’s Association’s secretary Cheryl Wragg said highspeed broadband would have been a fantastic tool to counteract the socio-economic disadvantages Moe already faced.
“The NBN is being heralded as a good thing for this region, but by omitting Moe, again the (Federal Government) is showing they are not using NBN in its capacity to build investment in this region,” Ms Wragg said.
“It’s reasonable to expect government to use the NBN as some kind of counter balancing tool in the region, but being omitted just brings out all of those fears that Moe is being left out yet again.”
The State Government said after Thursday’s rollout announcement Victoria had been shunned by the Federal Government, as it was receiving a disproportionate number of rollouts compared to other states.
Federal Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent said he had written to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to point out “Moe was an area in need of support” and expressed “disappointment that it had missed out”.
The federal opposition has pledged to cease the NBN rollout if it wins government in the 2013 election, however it remains unclear whether towns marked for the next rollout stage would have their plans scrapped.
Mr Broadbent said a federal Liberal/National coalition government would not undo works already implemented, however the first stage rollout areas not yet completed, come a potential 2013 election victory, “would be reviewed”.
Mr Buckley said he wanted to send a clear message from Latrobe and broader Gippsland that access to broadband technology was integral to the economic growth of the region.
“We are concerned; if there is a change of government any change in policy should provide similar access to appropriate services, and would need to roll out just as quickly as the current NBN network,” Mr Buckley said.