Proposal to force telcos to give regions better internet or face fines: Helen Haines

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: Helen Haines says it's time to stop letting telcos treat regional communities as second-class citizens. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: Helen Haines says it's time to stop letting telcos treat regional communities as second-class citizens. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

TELCOS would be forced to provide regional areas with the fast high-quality standard of internet metro areas enjoy or face financial penalties, under a new proposal by independent politician Helen Haines.

If passed, the bill would legislate a new national standard for the National Broadband Network and other telecommunication provides to provide an average download speed of 25 megabits per second every hour of the day.

At the moment, the government only requires the NBN to deliver download speeds of 25MB per second once a day.

"Once per day! It could be 2am, or 2pm, for five minutes, or five seconds," Dr Haines said.

"That's how low the government is setting the bar for the NBN, and that's not good enough for me, and it sure as heck isn't good enough for my constituents."

The bill would require a maximum of a one-day wait time for all fault rectifications requiring a technician in rural areas and a maximum five-day wait time for all new connection in rural areas.

The independent MP for Indi said the government allowed telcos to treat regional communities like second-class citizens.

"The government wants to mandate a one-day wait time for network faults to be rectified in the cities, but up to three days in the regions and remote areas," Dr Haines said.

"Right now, the government wants to let NBN take up to 19 business day - essentially a whole calendar month - to connect some new homes or small businesses in the regions, even if it's close to a fixed line facility.

"It's clear the government has backed away when it comes to holding telcos to account in the regions. We deserve communications excellence at all times, just like the cities."

The bill also a proposes a number of other new standards around enhancing internet speed, fault rectification and connection times across urban, regional, and remote Australia.

"Just last week, a constituent of mine in Taggerty told me how she sends her work emails after hours because the network is just too slow during the day," Dr Haines said.

"Now that's simply absurd in our modern age, and it's hurting our regional economies. It doesn't matter whether you live in Brighton or Benalla, or Woolloomooloo or Wodonga, access to fast, high-quality, and reliable internet should be the same all across the nation."

Dr Haines introduced a separate bill designed to make home batteries cheaper. Under the scheme, home batteries would be eligible to earn renewable energy renewable energy certificates, which they can sell to electricity retailers to offset the installation cost of new batteries.

Dr Haines said the legislation would lower the cost of household batteries by up to $3000 and triple the number of batteries in Australian households within three years.