Speaking at the Australasia Satellite Forum organised by CommsDay in Sydney this morning, Labor’s Spokesperson for Regional Communications, Stephen Jones MP, has called for an independent expert review of the NBN Satellite service, Sky Muster.
Sky Muster should have been a good news story for rural and remote Australia.
However, the deployment of Sky Muster and the chronic lack of transparency meant it has been nothing short of abysmal.
As a result, confidence in the delivery of broadband services via satellite has taken a hammering.
It is no wonder that only 17% of eligible premises have taken up Sky Muster, compared to 35% for Fixed Wireless and 47% for Fixed Line.
There’s a myriad of problems with Sky Muster, including installation issues, frequent outages and a frustrating lack of transparency between NBN Co and Retail Service Providers, not to mention the severe data restrictions.
Some short sighted decisions are being made now to put more customers onto Sky Muster – driven largely by the Turnbull Government’s panic about cost and rollout timeframes of the fixed line network.
Over the long term, this will surely crowd out others in remote areas with no alternative.
An inquiry would established what assumptions are being made about data needs, usage and allocation.
To their surprise – and dismay – many more customers in outer metropolitan areas and outer regional centres are now finding themselves being allocated to Sky Muster for their NBN services – whereas previously under Labor’s NBN plan they were allocated FTTP or Fixed Wireless.
As a consequence of a collapsing business case and diminishing rate of return on the investment by Australian taxpayers on Mr Turnbull’s NBN, the Government has created an incentive for NBN to shift customers from fixed line services onto satellite and fixed wireless. That is why I believe that an independent expert review is needed to understand exactly what is going on.
To be conducted at an arm’s length from the Government, the review would seek to address significant concerns raised by consumers, retail service providers and engineering experts about the deployment of the satellite service.
I am also calling for a new approach to the current “Fair Use” policy to see an increase in data for customers – particularly in the under-utilised satellite areas of very remote Australia.
A ‘Fair Use’ policy is a reasonable approach to take at the commencement of a new service but I don’t believe that all of the settings are right.
Many premises in remote Australia not only have a need for data to cover residential needs but also to operate a business.
We should not start with the assumption that regional Australians have lower expectations.
For regional Australians, access to the NBN is more important, not less.