NBN Co to educate public on network

The company concedes there is a significant information gap

With 40 retail service providers (RSP) now signed on to offer National Broadband Network (NBN) services, NBN Co has flagged plans to significantly raise public awareness of the network.

NBN Co chief communications officer, Kieren Cooney, said there has been a lot of pressure and commentary from the Australian public around the presence of an information gap when it comes to the NBN.

[ In pictures: NBN 3-year roll-out plan announced ]

“This is a huge project which will impact people in terms of the way we live and work but also directly in that their copper line is going to disappear at some point, and we know there’s a high level of people who don’t know that or those that do know, don’t know what that means,” Cooney said.

“Because it’s such a key piece of infrastructure we need to go through quite a journey over the next couple of years to make sure people have the information they need and understand what the migration will look like.

“You will see more advertising, whether it’s on TV or whether it’s online, we haven’t decided yet, whichever is the most cost efficient to reach the most of the 12 million homes and businesses.”

According to Cooney, some of the key areas people are unsure of include the benefits of fibre versus that of copper, what copper actually is, whether signing up to the NBN is optional, and the core benefits the network will provide them.

“The challenge is that we can’t try and sort all of the informational gaps as well as well as the motivational gaps in a single meeting, it’s not about the communications or the advertising instead we need to get the message across with the most appropriate channel and allow involvement in the same channel.”

The company is using multiple advertising channels including radio and online but is yet to determine the most appropriate when it comes to breaking down the information barrier, Cooney said.

The comments follow NBN Co’s three year NBN rollout plan, under which 3.5 million homes will be connected to the network by June 2015.

NBN Co chief operating officer, Ralph Steffens, said the company also currently offers community engagement exercises for areas before the construction begins.

“This not only educates them on the benefits of the NBN but educates them on what to expect on a day to day basis,” he said. “I think it’s important we engage upfront and make sure expectations are met.”

Steffens also sought to clear up any confusion around why certain areas were targeted in the three year plan while others weren’t, noting the numerous factors that came into play in formulating the plan.

“It’s a straightforward exercise but then an incredibly complex one to pull off as we had the first release sites which were announced two years ago and we had to build from there as you can’t build a patchwork across the nation, that would be the most inefficient way to build the network.”

“We had to have an equal spilt between the states and territories and also an even split between the metro and rural areas.

“We also need to make sure we’re rolling out not only the access network but also the transit network and only having islands of access is no good if you can’t connect it to anything so building the transit and getting access to the Telstra exchanges is important and another parameter we had to overlay.”

Steffens also stressed the importance of continuation throughout the regions in order for the network rollout to be efficient.

“If you start somewhere in the region you keep going until it’s finished and that also means some of the parameters we put in are marginally off, like equal share between the states –as in some states we are a few per cent off. The reason for that is to ensure that where we start we keep going till we finished.

“We understand some people are disappointed that haven’t been targeted but you have to start somewhere and you have to finish somewhere so someone has to be first and someone has to be last.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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