Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has clashed with backbenchers over his paid parental leave scheme. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
When Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced 3.5 million premises would be connected to the national broadband network by mid 2015, people flocked to the NBN Co's website to check if their home or office would be in the path of the rollout.
Among them were politicians of all persuasions, hoping to find out if they and their electorate would be lucky to be among the first connected.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who has led the Liberal Party's relentless negative campaign against the NBN, may be pleased he will not be able to connect to the network for at least three years, as his Forestville home in Sydney's Northern Beaches is well outside the suburbs included in the recent announcement.
However, our straw poll of NBN-related politicians and telco figures found the rollout plan created general enthusiasm, albeit sometimes grudging, amongst people on both sides of the NBN merit argument.
In Sydney's Eastern suburbs, Malcolm Turnbull, shadow minister for broadband, will have the opportunity to have an NBN Co network termination unit installed at his Point Piper home sooner than most. Unlike the millions of Australians who will continue struggling with dial-up, wireless or slow ADSL speeds, Turnbull will have the option to migrate his existing ADSL2+ service to a fibre connection running at up to 100Mbps.
But he is not happy about it: "alternative fixed lined networks will be switched off, so the NBN has hardly given people a choice," Turnbull's spokesman pointed out when contacted by Fairfax's IT Pro.
In fact, since NSW has failed to introduce opt-out legislation, the NBN Co will need Turnbull's consent to hook up his house, but his spokesman said in any case there was "little choice with the NBN if you want a fixed line network".
Michael Malone, CEO of internet service provider and NBN reseller iiNet, lives in the suburb of Victoria Park, less than 2km from the Perth CBD, but cannot get ADSL at his home because he is connected with a Telstra RIM (Remote Integrated Multiplexer) that blocks his broadband access.
"All going well, I would expect a connection early next year," he said, well aware of the irony that as CEO of a major ISP, he is prevented by the Telstra network from using his own company's services at home.
Even more ironic is the fact the home of communications minister Stephen Conroy, who remains a key political force behind the NBN, has been overlooked in the current rollout. He will have to wait until late 2015 or later to have fibre services connected to his home in Melbourne.
That puts Conroy in the queue behind political rivals like Senator Simon Birmingham, whose South Australian home is slated to receive services within the next three years. However, Birmingham – a Liberal Party member who sits on the Joint Standing Committee on the NBN oversight panel – isn't holding his breath.
"While my house is in an area where the rollout is expected to commence within three years, I certainly do not expect my house will be passed in the next three years. The numbers presented in this announcement are no more than a smoke and mirrors trick.... I'm not making any plans to switch my personal broadband service anytime soon, simply because I don't believe there will be anything to switch ato," he told IT Pro.
Senator Mary Jo Fisher, a fellow South Australian Liberal and Joint Standing Committee member, wasn't sure about her NBN eligibility either way, since she was in the process of looking for a new house. She was however a bit warmer to the possibility of accessing NBN fibre.
"Will we be passed by the NBN? I hope so," she said.
"I'd be wanting to let the NBN get a few runs on the board – which I hope they do, but I'm not so confident they will – before I jump right in myself. I don't need the NBN right now, so I'll be sitting back and hoping it delivers what has been promised before I jump in."
Labor's Ed Husic – the federal member for Chifley in NSW who became a vocal critic of the NBN rollout plan after he perceived it had bypassed broadband black spots in the Chifley suburbs of Woodcroft and Doonside – won't see the NBN rolled into his present home. He's moving into a new development near Dean Park, NSW, where the developer is already working to roll out Telstra's Velocity fibre-broadband service.
While he happily noted the inclusion of Woodcroft and Doonside in the three-year plan and said he's been "impressed" with Telstra's efforts to alleviate local supply constraints, the self-confessed "basketball tragic", said "I can't wait to stream NBA League Pass Broadband on the big screen".
Senator Scott Ludlam, who as Greens spokesperson on broadband, communications and the digital economy has been a staunch advocate for the NBN, will see it arrive in his area in North Fremantle in approximately two years from now.
"I look forward to taking up the service and hope by then to be able to reduce air travel by Skyping into some committee hearings," he said.
"One of the most prospective applications will be reduced travel and increased telework by video conferencing."
But not everyone who sees potential in the NBN will get it soon. Simon Hackett, founder and managing director of Internode, an ISP recently acquired by iiNet, has been overlooked in the three-year plan.
"That actually means first connections in my area will commence in June 2016," Hackett said. "And that's assuming, of course, that there's no change of government and/or policy, neither of which seems especially likely in the coming four-plus years between now and June 2016."
"In general, that's one of the deep points about these plans," he added. "They're not dates at which a service can be ordered; they are dates at which you have only got another year or so to wait, after which you can start hoping that your street might get enabled soon. The build is a long way behind original expectations at this point, and an awful lot of catching up has to be done."