NBN woes of councils and businesses to be heard at parliamentary inquiry hearing in Wodonga

LISTENING CLOSELY: Indi MP Cathy McGowan and Farrer MP Sussan Ley will form part of the joint standing committee on the NBN in Wodonga.

LISTENING CLOSELY: Indi MP Cathy McGowan and Farrer MP Sussan Ley will form part of the joint standing committee on the NBN in Wodonga.

Pauline Whiting is trying to run a business out of Tallangatta South, but has one major issue which sets her back from her competitors: extremely poor internet access.

She will be one of the people to front Thursday’s parliamentary inquiry into the rollout of the NBN, held in Wodonga.

Ms Whiting’s business Smart Traffic Australia needs internet access for its work organising traffic management sites across NSW and Victoria, including accessing maps, emailing contracts and communicating with workers on the ground.

But the NBN rollout has not reached Tallangatta yet.

Situated 22 kilometres out of the township, Ms Whiting’s only option is to use a 4G modem and 3G aerial to obtain a “very patchy” connection to a tower more than 30 kilometres over the hills.

NO SERVICE: This map from the NBN Company shows area which (in purple) have an NBN connection and (in brown) have construction underway. Tallangatta is yet to be connected.

NO SERVICE: This map from the NBN Company shows area which (in purple) have an NBN connection and (in brown) have construction underway. Tallangatta is yet to be connected.

“We are at the point now, of total frustration, anger, disappointment, disgust,” she said in her inquiry submission.

“There are a lot of small businesses in the area and each of us rely on connectivity to run our individual small businesses effectively and productively. The no-service and no-mobile reception issue we all suffer is debilitating to not only our businesses, but our personal productivity and that of our children in this day and age of technological communication and interaction.

Albury Council and Albury-Northside Chamber of Commerce representatives will give evidence from 9.30am at Thursday’s hearing followed by council staff from Narrandera, Mansfield and Towong.

Despite hosting the hearing at The Cube, Wodonga Council was not on the list to give evidence.

Farrer MP Sussan Ley and Indi MP Cathy McGowan were part of the 17-member committee and confirmed they would sit at the hearing.

Others members, including One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson, have not been confirmed.

Buzzfeed has reported Senator Hanson claimed she was unable to attend hearings between April 19 and 21 due to "another parliamentary engagement" and requested the committee allow her chief of staff James Ashby to attend in her place.

Ms McGowan said it was “a big win” to have a public hearing in Wodonga.

“Melbourne and Indi are the only stops in Victoria for the joint standing committee,” she said.

“More than 45 people in Indi have indicated they’ve sent in submissions.

“They covered a huge range of issues including transition to NBN phone services, inadequate data with the satellite and delays in implementation,” Ms McGowan said.

“There is also a lot of excitement in the community about the potential the NBN has for telehealth, community services and agribusiness.

“The problems need to be sorted out in the early stages so that the NBN can be part of regional Australia’s success.”

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