NBN delays cause anger

POOR workmanship and shoddy construction work is being blamed for lengthy delays in the rollout of the National Broadband Network in Ballarat.

Neighbourhoods in suburbs including Redan are still waiting for connection to the high-speed fibre-to-the-home network.

Errard Street South resident Brian Coffey dubbed the process a “financial disaster”.

He said his neighbourhood had been waiting since the start of last year for NBN Co to install the network.

“In my street block the first sod was turned in February last year,” Mr Coffey said.

“Two broken mains later and I guess they have only had limited success because we are still without the NBN.”

Mr Coffey said the first contractors employed to install the network in his street attempted for days to drill through the ground. It was only when Mr Coffey pointed out to them that an old mine used to exist in the street and the houses in the neighbourhood has been built on rocks extracted from the mine, that they packed up and a returned months later to dig a trench in an adjacent strip. 

Since then, he has lost count of the number of separate contractors who had visited his street. 

Mr Coffey said an NBN box was due to be connected to his house in May, but when the contractors arrived they found the fibre cable had not been connected to the distribution pit by previous contractors and they left.

“A date was set in June and one group of contractors arrived with ground-penetrating radar whose sole job was to find the location of the services,” he said.

“They marked the ground with a dye but told me the other contractors would not arrive as it was raining and they had gone home.”

Mr Coffey said while contractors were due to return on August 1, rain has since washed the dyed marks on the ground, so the process of marking out the ground to install the network will likely need to be undertaken again. 

“Every contractor has a limited job to do,” he said.

“But when the first people haven’t done (their) job properly it’s a never-ending stream of people who can’t do what they are supposed (to).”

He said residents in the street continued to experience poor broadband connection, including speeds slower than one megabyte per second. 

“I’m lucky if I’m able to watch a YouTube clip,” Mr Coffey said.

“It is absolutely ridiculous.”

Phone lines in the street remain connected to the original copper network rather than high speed fibre-optic cables being rolled out as part of the NBN.

The delay was raised again in a recent City of Ballarat council meeting, after the Ballarat Heritage Advisory Committee put forward a motion expressing its dissatisfaction to the federal Communications Minister about the NBN rollout. 

The motion, which was supported by councillors, expressed concerns that heritage overlays had not been adequately protected from poor workmanship by contractors. 

NBN Co spokesperson Trent Williams said some premises in Ballarat required additional work before residents were able to connect to the NBN.

He said NBN Co was working hard with contractors to resolve the connection issues as quickly as possible.

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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