Committee for Echuca-Moama chief executive Hayden Cock says the region has been put on the 'backburner' in terms of the National Broadband Network rollout.By Jess Craig
The district may have left its run too late to secure an early National Broadband Network rollout, according to Committee for Echuca-Moama chief executive Hayden Cock.
His comments follow a Regional and Rural Committee public hearing in Echuca yesterday, which was investigating best practice in e-business and remote working policy.
Mr Cock said the region should have been ‘‘making noise’’ when the NBN was first announced in 2010.
‘‘As a community, we needed to be more vocal and advocating strongly when the NBN was first announced,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve been left on the backburner a little now.
‘‘There are some that will say we did enough, but we’re not front and centre and we still don’t have a date for the NBN rollout in this area.’’
NBN Co stakeholder relations manager Joe Dennis said while there were no time schedules set for a rollout in Echuca-Moama, the community is guaranteed a ‘‘comprehensive service’’ because of its location and population.
NBN towers are set to be ‘‘switched on’’ in Shepparton, Bendigo and Ballarat in the coming months.
While larger centres are naturally going to be high on the rollout list, Horsham, which will receive the NBN within three years, is proof smaller towns could also get in early.
Wimmera Development Association executive director Jo Bourke told the Riv in August last year there was room to influence the timeline.
‘‘I think the rollout is pretty well scheduled, but some of the things they were interested in is ‘are your councils thinking about it’, ‘are you preparing for things like statutory planning’,’’ she said.
Then-Campaspe Shire mayor Kevin Simpson told the Riv while the NBN was on the council’s list of advocacy roles, it had not been a ‘headline act’.
Mr Cock cited another initiative in Bendigo, which he believed helped secure an early NBN rollout for the city.
‘‘About two and a half years ago, businesses, organisations and groups got together and formed a group called NBN4Bendigo,’’ he said.
‘‘They made a tremendous amount of noise and they were very active in trying to secure an early roll out, which they did.’’
Campaspe Shire Council is developing a similar group to bring the NBN to the region as soon as possible.
At a meeting in July, councillors said they wanted the community to self-advocate for the early rollout of the NBN.
Councillor Paul Jarman was appointed NBN leader and said the group would aim to help council’s advocacy efforts to achieve early rollout of NBN infrastructure across the shire.
Expressions of interest to take part in the group are expected to open in coming weeks.
Mr Cock said there should be a formal strategy going forward.
‘‘I’d like to see groups like Campaspe Shire Council and C4EM working collectively to develop not just a strategy for NBN, but a strategy to see high speed, reliable internet access in remote areas of the district that won’t get NBN access,’’ Mr Cock said.
‘‘The NBN will be fantastic, but we also need to look at ways to increase internet speeds and accessibility in our remote areas.
‘‘Things like wi-fi and satellites are all considerations and we need to investigate them.’’
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