Kathleen McGarry has been told her Watson unit will be connected to the NBN next week. She says she'll believe it when she sees it. Photo: Melissa Adams
A 12-unit apartment block in Watson, overlooked when neighbouring buildings in the greenfields development The Fair were hooked up to the national broadband network last year, could be connected as early as next Tuesday.
Resident Kathleen McGarry received the good news at 3.55pm on Tuesday of this week, just 24 hours after she had been told by NBN Co that ''at this stage the estimated first order date for a connection through your selected service provider is [the] end of May 2013''.
The second email, from Jon Grahame, NBN Co's general manager for new developments, northern region, was sent within hours of a request by Fairfax for an explanation as to why hooking up the last of three blocks of units in The Fair was taking so long.
''My apologies on the delay in getting back to you. We are now in the final throws [sic] of Quality Assurance and are looking forward to bringing Building 138 into service by Tuesday next week,'' he said in an email to Ms McGarry.
The earlier email, which had no personal attribution, stated: ''The Fair, Watson, will be one of the first new developments in the ACT to connect with the national broadband network. There has unfortunately been a delay in rolling out the NBN in your estate. We regret any inconvenience caused to you by this delay, we are working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.''
Ms McGarry, who said nobody had been able to tell her why two of the unit blocks at The Fair had been connected to the NBN while the one she lived in was not, told Fairfax that because it was a greenfields development there was no existing copper landline. It had been assumed by the time residents moved in the NBN would be available for internet and phone services. ''But I've been living here for eight months and we've still not been connected to the NBN,'' she said. ''Residents were informed the estate was NBN-ready but that's not true.''
NBN Co's response had been to offer mobile phones at landline rates under its universal service obligation.
''You may be eligible for a universal obligation phone service from the universal service provider, Telstra,'' residents of Block 138 have been told. ''For more information visit the Australian Communications and Media Authority's website.''
Ms McGarry said this was no help. ''Given the capped [mobile] plans most of us are on are cheaper than landline phone calls, this doesn't offer a benefit,'' she said. ''We want the NBN for internet access and there is no universal service obligation for that.''
Mobile phone reception for some service providers was poor and wireless broadband could be sporadic.
''I had to break my contract with Vodaphone and reconnect with Virgin on the Optus network to get reliable phone reception,'' she said.
All Watson residents were supposed to have NBN access ahead of Gungahlin, which went live earlier this month. Ms McGarry said she would be delighted if the connection proceeded as promised next Tuesday. ''But I'll believe it when I see it,'' she said.
An NBN Co spokeswoman said when Block 138 was connected the residents would have a lot of options to choose from. ''The first stage of Watson was connected at the end of 2011 and there are now 17 different providers,'' she said. ''In Gungahlin there are currently nine providers, but it is likely that number will increase over time.''