A deep divide

Australia might be a vast country but the roll-out of the NBN is showing just how deep the divide is between “urban” and “rural”.
When the Coalition won government and promised a cheaper but equally good infrastructure network to provide access to superfast fibre broadband, it would be fair to say that all except the most tech savvy probably shrugged their shoulders and agreed.
Most accept that it isn’t in the economic best interests of ratepayers to lay fibre to isolated and remote areas and most people understood the perfectly reasonable solution to supply these citizens with an improved internet service by using either satellite or wireless technology.
Sure this was slower and probably more expensive for the end user but it was an understandable compromise – after all, you can’t expect every city convenience living on a cattle station.
However, now we’re finding that the boundaries of what constitutes a “remote” area are surprising.
Communities in the Hills that are labelled “metropolitan” for the purposes of a whole range of government taxes, such as car registration and landfill levies, are now considered so geographically remote they will only receive satellite internet.
But the scale of the problem in the Hills is difficult to gauge.
NBN Co. can tell us exactly how many premises have received fibre to the node (FTTN) or are scheduled to get FTTN in three council districts but can’t say how many premises either didn’t receive the upgrade or won’t.
In fact the total number of premises the business entity is potentially dealing with is also too difficult to supply.
Given the level of planning that would have to go into this roll-out, that seems surprising.
And if the guaranteed “basic” level of service across technologies – FTTN, fixed wireless and satellite – is perfectly adequate, then there doesn’t seem much point in being coy about who is getting what.
The suspicion is that it won’t be a level playing field and many Hills people – most  who live outside town boundaries and who in all likelihood will not receive FTTN – will have to pay significantly more for an inferior service than will be enjoyed by their near neighbors.
There is a real danger of a “cattle station” divide emerging in this region – just a few kilometres from the GPO.