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Doorstop—Danny J Photography, Wodonga

E&OE

Bridget McKenzie:
It gives me great pleasure as Deputy Leader of The Nationals and the Minister for Regional Communications to announce the 4 millionth connection for NBN. We are seeing more and more Australian's connected, not just by the NBN but also by our mobile black spot network, than ever before.

Right across rural and regional Australia almost 100 percent of those living out in the regions are connected, and that's fantastic news. We've seen nearly 5500 new jobs and businesses created since the NBN began rolling out and when we go towards 2021 that is going to grow to nearly 80,000 new businesses as a result of that increased connectivity.

It is the Coalition Government, and The Nationals in particular, that prioritised rolling out the NBN in the regions as a priority, something which I am incredibly proud of, because as I said we have nearly 100 percent of regional Australia covered and that means we create more jobs and more businesses just like Danny Jones locally here in Wodonga being able to use that increased connectivity to grow their local businesses like never before.

Journalist:
What is so special about this region?

Bridget McKenzie:
Really? I was born here. What is so special about this region is we know that the Wodonga Shire in particular, but also the Hume region is one of the youngest, we're growing at an expediential rate and that means that expectation for increased connectivity comes without saying. We also know that we're a growing tourism region, you look at Bright and Yackandandah, Beechworth etcetera Rutherglen as a wine district, we are getting much more of that traffic outside of Melbourne and Sydney and that Wi-Fi connectivity is not an added extra any more, people expect to be able to take their Instagram coffee photos. And increasingly I would like to see more of our Chinese international visitors visiting the North East to taste our fine wine and our fabulous food and send those photos via WeChat back to China to grow our local economies.

We know that with this increased connectivity that we are connecting our local businesses to the markets of the globe. You don't have to live in Melbourne, and you don't have to live in Sydney, to run a globally competitive business you can live in Wodonga thanks to this increased connectivity that we've been able to deliver as a Coalition Government.

Journalist:
What has the uptake been like here?

Bridget McKenzie:
It's been phenomenal. We have had a 68 percent uptake and we have had increasing rollout, and you can hear from Danny Jones, people are using it not just to download movies, if you think when we came to government it would take you all weekend to download an episode of the Simpsons where now you are able to livestream your World Cup soccer and indeed grow your local business which is fantastic.

Journalist:
And will other areas like Ballarat and Shepparton also benefit?

Bridget McKenzie:
Yes as I said nearly 100 percent of regional Australia will be connected by the NBN and we have got our 4 millionth connection that we are announcing today. But that is making us well on track to having the entire of Australia connected by 2020. But as I said having regional Australia connected is an incredible achievement when you think that when we came to government we lagged so far behind in what was considered normal in the cities in terms of connectivity.

As a government we've invested $1.9 billion in our satellite Sky Muster and $2.1 billion in a fixed wireless network through the NBN, which when we are out and about as we are in the regions, often driving 100 kilometres just to play a game of footy it is important that we are able to stay connected, not just to grow our local businesses and to showcase our fine food and wine, but to keep safe and to stay connected with family and friends.

Journalist:
We are pretty far into the rollout shouldn't the uptake be higher than 68 per cent?

Bridget McKenzie:
I think the uptake is incredibly powerful, and I think as more people begin to understand the benefits of getting connected, like Danny will be able to explain in a moment, you will see that uptake speed up, absolutely.

Journalist:
With nearly 100 percent of rural and regional signed up, not all of that is to the satisfaction of the customers, what do you say to those people?

Bridget McKenzie:
Well I think you are always going to have issues, and I am sure Ebony can go to specific technical concerns, but when you look at where we were six years ago it is a phenomenal increase in connectivity and people are using it. I mean that stats speak for themselves. We know in this local Hume region by 2021 there will be more than 550 new businesses as a result of the NBN connectivity. Now that is phenomenal. That is more local jobs, greater economic stimulation in the local economy. That has got to be a good thing and it's the way we in the regions are adapting to this new technology and taking it up.

It is not just about the Internet of Things on farm, it's about running businesses and I think making for the first time the real idea of true decentralisation happen. Yes as government state or federal you can make public servants go live in the regions, that is one way to grow the economy, but I think giving connectivity to the existing community and making sure people can come and live here. In a place like Wodonga you have got waterways, you have got the ski fields not far, you have food and wine, you have a safe place for your children to grow up and access to great schools it makes realising that dream, that you can have that type of country upbringing and lifestyle without decreasing your global competitiveness.

Danny Jones (photographer):
So three years ago when I bought here in West Wodonga I couldn't even get internet, there were no ports available, so I was one of the first I think to get NBN in the region in Wodonga anyway and I love it, it is amazing. The speeds that I get are phenomenal and it has been a very positive experience for me.

Journalist:
No problems?

Danny Jones:
Nope, not at all. It is super speed, we run up to eight or nine devices here, the kids never complain about it. The only trouble right at the start we had was our house is quite large and we had a brick wall and we couldn't get the Wi-Fi through the back wall so we have added another modem down that back that we have had hard wired in and the phones just switch pretty seamlessly between that, so a super experience really.

Journalist:
You run your own business how has it helped with that?

Danny Jones:
Yes well I can now email out wedding photos and that sort of thing to people. I had to google things on my phone and the data I was using on my phone was costing me a fortune. So now the package that I am on is nice and cheap and just easier I don't have to worry about it.

Journalist:
On the cost was it more than you were expecting initially?

Danny Jones:
Not really no, I just wanted the fastest package because I knew, you know, I am happy with it. It is still costing me a lot less from what it was to run a couple of mobile phones on it with mobile phone data.

Journalist:
And what are your maximum speeds?

Danny Jones:
I am on the 100mbps and the 40mbps package. I am getting 72 or 73mbps and about 32mbss or something like that.

Journalist:
And the same at peak, what is it like at peak times?

Danny Jones:
It never varies, I never notice a difference. Yeah I am really happy.

Journalist:
Do you know if the connection is to the curb here?

Danny Jones:
No I am to a node.

Journalist:
And productivity and all that sort of thing has that certainly improved?

Danny Jones:
I don't know I haven't really got a website but I am getting pretty busy with weddings and that sort of thing, so I must be getting the message out there somehow.

Ebony Aitken (NBN):
I think just one of the important points that Danny makes about his connection, with regard to the brick wall in his house, we often see that there can actually be things within the home that may have an impact on your service. So what we certainly encourage people to do is to go to our website, look at the information, we have a whole heap of tools and tips on there, including if you have got brick walls, and some of the best modems to look at. So again I encourage people to make sure they are doing their research, just as Danny has done, when signing up to a plan and ask those questions around what type of peak speeds you can expect to get during peak times.

Journalist:
I was speaking to someone not too long ago and they are pretty happy with their NBN now, but initially they said the techs that came out are way overworked and they rushed through everything. Is it fair to say that they are under a bit of pressure to roll this out?

Ebony Aitken:
I think when you look at the scale of what we are rolling out we are essentially connecting the first fully connected continent. It is a huge task and one of the things that we are really committed to doing is ensuring that customer experience is the best. And we have introduced our monthly progress reports which capture everything from connections right the first time, right down to what the bandwidth and congestion is on our network so we have essentially seen that go from five hours per week down to twelve minutes. So I would certainly again encourage people to visit our website. We want to be as transparent as possible to the community and give them access to the information that they want to read about.

Journalist:
Is there a way to make sure that techs have more time out there because I know he ended up getting his service provider to fix the problem because NBN couldn't fix it?

Ebony Aitken:
I think again importantly for people to understand that their first point of call is always going to be their provider. And again it is important to make sure they are doing the work and to make sure there is not an issue on the providers' side. I think that what is important to note is that we are one part of that puzzle, there can be a number of factors, but certainly as I mentioned we are doing a lot of work with our retail service providers to make sure that that end customer experience is positive.

Journalist:
What has been the uptake like here in Wodonga as opposed to other regional areas?

Ebony Aitken:
We generally see post our eighteen month disconnection about a 73 percent increase and as the Minister mentioned we are well on the way to achieving that here in Wodonga. We have just started disconnections in the fixed line network this month, so we have a number of months ahead of us to get connections to 73 percent and as I said that is exactly what we expect within our corporate plan. We know there are going to be some people who will choose a mobile only solution or they might be holiday homes. So Wodonga is certainly well on its way and the uptake so far has been very promising.

Journalist:
And Danny is in a really good situation where he is connected to Fibre to the Node, what is the mix and the ratio like in Wodonga for people who are in that same circumstance?

Ebony Aitken:
So the technology within Wodonga, the fixed line technology, is Fibre to the Node and then obviously on the outskirts with those more rural lifestyle blocks you are looking at fixed wireless technology. So again as I said if people want more information they can certainly go to our website and type in their details in to the address checker and that will certainly give them the type of technology they are on and when they can connect and more importantly disconnection time frames given that this region is going through that from this month.

Journalist:
So is it more than 60 percent or 80 percent of people who are Fibre to the Node in the area?

Ebony Aitken:
So there is roughly around 18,000 residences in Wodonga and I think there are around 22,000 premises within Albury that are on the Fibre to the Node technology, or our fixed line technology. And then as I mentioned across the whole entire Hume region there are about 160,000 premises that can now connect and we have got roughly around 12,000 left to connect just within this region. So it is really exciting.

Journalist:
And what can they do to best optimise their speeds if they are not on fibre to the node?

Ebony Aitken:
A couple of quick tips I would certainly recommend people to do is shop around with providers, there is a lot of choice out there. Ask the questions about what sort of speeds they can expect to get and certainly during peak times as well. Finder.com has done a really great article some of the best modems you can get, and they are not necessarily the most expensive either. So certainly I would encourage people to look at the type of equipment they have in the home as well. I think it really comes down to research and even asking family and friends what sort of provider they have chosen as well.

Journalist:
And how many other areas around the country are as well connected as Albury Wodonga, you talk about it being one the most well connected?

Ebony Aitken:
Yes across regional Victoria there is about 83 percent of the region is now complete and certainly in Victoria alone we have roughly around 880,000 people that are now connected to the network. As the Minister said the regional rollout is very, very far advanced and I encourage people to go to the website and that will either tell them where they are currently under construction or whether they can connect now.

Journalist:
So is Albury Wodonga in the top ten of the most connected areas?

Ebony Aitken:
Absolutely as are parts of Shepparton and Ballarat. Ballarat is very much on the home stretch and we only have a few thousand premises left to connect there as well.

Journalist:
So is that top ten for Victoria?

Ebony Aitken:
Yes correct and across the country as well.

Journalist:
So a further message for people out there is time is running out before their services are disconnected.

Ebony Aitken:
I think importantly within the fixed line area they do have eighteen months and yes in Wodonga we have certainly started that disconnection process. Certainly I would encourage those who are on a fixed wireless or a satellite service we don't disconnect the copper, so it can be a conversation about whether they want to keep that with their provider. But as I mentioned for those in areas that have just switched they have eighteen months, take the time to do the research, don't feel pressured, but certainly we have seen a great uptake here in Wodonga and we are certainly on our way to that 73 percent take up.

Journalist:
And when do you think the disconnection in Wodonga will be finished?

Ebony Aitken:
So we started in June and generally it will continue progressing in areas towards early next year.

Journalist:
Is it the same for other areas in Victoria?

Ebony Aitken:
It will differ depending on your switch on time frame and as I said that is why I would encourage people to jump on the website because that will give them the exact disconnection date for that particular premises and in the areas where we are just switching on the network we encourage people to keep an eye out in the mail, we do send everyone a brochure when the area is switched on and that has got critical information around device compatibility and some of the other things that they might need to consider in their homes and businesses before making the switch.

(ENDS)

Media contact: Kate Woodbridge: 0409 679 924.