Canberra has a digital divide, another front in the long-running rivalry between north and south.
If you live in the far north, in Gungahlin, you enjoy superfast internet, via the National Broadband Network. However, if you live in the far south, not so much. Monash and Theodore have been found to have some of the lowest ratings for availability and quality of broadband in the nation.
The national capital has high usage of the internet. We love our phones and tablets and computers.
Figures released last year by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed more than three-quarters of Australia's 15.4 million internet users now shop online. In Canberra, 81 per cent of internet users booked their travel, accommodation and memberships online in 2012-13, while 53 per cent bought clothes, cosmetics or jewellery via the web.
Apparently, phone books still exist. Another, more recent change than our shopping habits was to company names.
NBN Co spent more than $700,000 to drop the "Co" from its name earlier this year and change its brand for the third time, in an effort to become more "inspiring and aspirational". Now the company is known simply as "NBN" and has taken on the motto "nbn: Bring it on".
On the north side of Canberra, Gungahlin was granted early access to the NBN by the federal Labor government because of the inferior telecommunications infrastructure installed when the suburb was built. Residents were given fibre-optic cable to the home, which delivers internet at faster speeds than fibre-optic cable to the node – a cabinet in the street – the system adopted by the Coalition government.
Installation work is being done in Nicholls, and residents there will also have fibre-optic cable to the home, Gungahlin Community Council vice-president Peter Elford believes.
"It's my understanding – I haven't had anything in writing – but I've certainly been verbally assured by NBN that the work going on in Nicholls at the moment will provide fibre to the home," he said.
However, one part of Casey was forgotten in the original planning.
"There was some oversight or misunderstanding. Somehow that area of Casey was never scheduled by NBN Co to get NBN services, but that error was identified in the last year or so and they are now still working out how they will deliver NBN services to Casey stage one," Elford said.
"They are committed to doing something, exactly what it is – whether it's fibre to the home or fibre to the node – they've certainly not told me yet, despite me asking."
In other parts of the north, broadband has been installed in Civic and new developments, including in Watson and Bruce. Suburbs such as Dickson and Lyneham are on the 18-month rollout plan.
The network is well under way in the ACT, Liberal senator Zed Seselja says, with more than 31,000 premises currently passed, another 14,000 under construction and more than 56,000 premises to start construction in the ACT during the next 18 months.
"We have doubled the NBN footprint since the election and are looking to more than double it again in the next 18 months," he says.
A community forum on Thursday evening, convened by the Labor member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, brought Opposition communications spokesman Jason Clare and member of the Legislative Assembly Meegan Fitzharris to to speak to residents.
The first question was from Paul Healey, of Evatt, who has ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) at home. He wanted to know whether the copper wires to be installed from the street cabinet to his house for the NBN would be off sufficient quality for fast internet.
"That's the million-dollar question," Clare replied.
The forum generated wide-ranging debate, with little rancour. This was, after all, in NBN central.
At a similar gathering on the south side several months ago, also attended by Clare, the mood was starkly different.
"We're not even on the map!" says the member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, who convened the forum.
She is looking at the mass of purple shading on the official rollout map for the north side – indicating the NBN is active, mainly in Gungahlin and Civic – and the absence of any colour on the south side.
People who moved into Coombs and Wright found the suburbs were NBN capable, under the company's policy to cable greenfield developments. However, established suburbs are not doing so well.
"We've got suburbs like Monash and Theodore, which have the lowest rating in the country for availability and quality of broadband. They're still not on the rollout map," Brodtmann says. "We have a digital divide now in Canberra.
"[Minister for Communications] Malcolm Turnbull promised that every home and business would have access to 25 megabits per second by the end of 2016, and he's failed to make that happen.
"In Gowrie, they are getting 1.3 megabits per second, Kambah 2.2, Wanniassa 1.7, Banks 1.5, Monash five to six, Calwell 0.5, Bonython 0.8 and Duffy, 1.25.
"He also promised that parts of Australia that had poor internet access would get the NBN first."
However, any critic of Canberra – that is to say, a large proportion of the Australian population – might argue that the national capital has it good on every other social and economic indicator, so why the fuss about the internet?
Of course, politics has nothing to do with it. Lots of NBN work is being done in Queanbeyan, the largest city in the bellwether electorate of Eden-Monaro, which borders the ACT. The northern section, including Oakes Estate, is cabled and the rest of the city is brown on the rollout map, indicating "build commenced", while Jerrabomberra is shaded green, meaning "build preparation".
The south side of Canberra has no green or brown shading on the rollout map, Brodtmann says.
Last year Turnbull unveiled the Department of Communications long-awaited Broadband Availability and Quality Report, as the next stage of the NBN revamp. It confirmed that people who lived in metropolitan areas were generally better off than everyone else for internet access.
The report showed 91 per cent of premises in the country had access to fixed-line broadband, but less than a third were able to access the internet using high speeds.
It found Canberra had the nation's highest rating, with 94 per cent of ACT premises capable of accessing ADSL. As well, the ACT had the best coverage of mobile broadband.
Turnbull also released an NBN-style myBroadband map, which allows residents to check the current availability of fixed and wireless broadband services in their area.
The government intended to prioritise the new NBN rollout based on the data in the report, focusing on "those areas with the least effective broadband services at present", he said. "There are 1.6 million premises which have either no broadband or very poor broadband connectivity."
That might mean the government's focus for building the NBN will remain away from the ACT and turn to the Northern Territory and Tasmania, which lag behind the rest of country with internet access.
Brodtmann, however, is determined to secure better internet access for her constituents and is collecting signatures for a petition to go to Turnbull.
"First, I want us to be on the [rollout] map and, second, I want us to be prioritised in terms of rollout," she says.
"Slow internet is impeding people's ability to operate a small business from home and to access education . . . If you're not in Gungahlin, it's a problem."
The NBN rollout has lagged badly since Turnbull became responsible, Leigh says. "He has consistently failed to meet his own deadline.
"Canberrans deserve superfast broadband like everyone else and it will make our city more productive, increase the number of internet businesses and give opportunities for tele-health and online education."
The NBN in Gungahlin is having a positive benefit on education, healthcare and business, he says. "It's a great technology. The only complaint I get in Canberra is, `Why does the Coalition want to slow it down?'
"We know the plan has areas around Lyneham, Dickson, Turner, Flynn, Melba, Evatt, Holt and Latham, but there's a range of suburbs that aren't on the 18-month plan, so Kaleen, Lawson, Aranda and parts of Bruce – it's not clear when they'll be connected and what's going on with the 18-month plan for those suburbs."
Those areas will have inferior internet access if they are given fibre-optic cable to the node, he says. "You won't have the same capacity to run a business from home or do a high-definition video conference."
On Wednesday, the most well-read story on The Canberra Times website was The NBN: why it's slow, expensive and obsolete.
The opinion piece was written by Rod Tucker, a laureate emeritus professor at the University of Melbourne, who was a member of a panel of experts that provided advice to the Labor government on the implementation of the NBN.
"The Abbott Coalition government came to power two years ago this week with a promise to change Labor's fibre-to-the-premises National Broadband Network to one using less-expensive fibre-to-the-node technologies, spruiking its network with the three-word slogan: `Fast. Affordable. Sooner.'
"But with the release in August of the 2016 NBN corporate plan and in the light of overseas developments, it is clear that the Coalition's broadband network will not provide adequate bandwidth, will be no more affordable than Labor's FTTP network and will take almost as long to roll out," he said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.