Making the Interim Satellite Service Accessible

March 25, 2014

Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth—Minister for Communications) (15:02):  I thank the honourable member for her question. The Labor Party promised 250,000 Australians they would be eligible for the interim satellite service, but only bought capacity to service 48,000. They promised the service would deliver six megs down and one meg up for the same price as a city ADSL service.

As the honourable member for Durack knows, most of the 5,600 interim satellite users in Western Australia now are getting no better—and often worse—than dial-up speeds. Kids cannot do their homework, and farmers cannot access the online national livestock identification system, real-time prices or weather services.

The $351 million interim satellite service of Labor has been a train wreck. The 45,000 unhappy current customers are costing the tax payers of this nation $7,300 each indirect subsidy. That is nearly three times the level of the old Howard era Australian Broadband Guarantee subsidy and for a much worse service. It is our job to clean up Labor's messes, including the Conrovian ones. But I have to say that many, including this one, do not lend themselves to an easy or obvious solution. Indeed, the previous minister washed his hands of this in the last few months of his ministry.

Here are the measures that we are announcing today. First, at a cost of $18.4 million, the NBN Co will upgrade the current capacity to all users on this satellite service by one-third. Second, we will institute a new, stringent fair use policy to ensure a minority of very heavy users cannot crowd out the majority. The NBN Co's trials of these changes demonstrate that even in busy periods families will be able to answer the emails, surf the web, do their banking and see their kids complete their homework. It will not be as fast as the speeds promised but never delivered by Labor, but it will be broadband and much higher and certainly not anywhere near the anaemic dial-up speeds experienced at present.

We are also working on additional measures to provide new services so that at least some of those—about 9,000 in total—who have not been able to get on, will be able to do so, and we will have more to say about that in coming days when the arrangements are complete. You might well ask whether these changes—these measures—were not undertaken by the previous minister. Maybe they were suggested to him, but as the former deputy chair of NBN Co said today, Damian Smith gander, when asked whether the board had ever suggested to Stephen Conroy that he should conduct a cost benefit analysis, she simply said think about— (Time expired)

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