A CLOUD has been cast over the rollout of the National Broadband Network across many Newcastle and Lake Macquarie suburbs due to be hooked up later this year.
The federal government's announcement of a September election has created uncertainty around the rollout of improvements to broadband access through fibre, fixed wireless and satellite technologies across the region, with the Coalition yet to release details for its broadband policy.
Late last month opposition leader Tony Abbott announced he would conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the network if the Coalition was elected, and instead use existing infrastructure where possible and "end billions of dollars of wasteful spending on the network".
The company in charge of the construction of the network, the NBN Co, announced last month that it surpassed its 2012 rollout target of 758,000 premises.
It has set a target of 93 per cent of the Australian population being hooked up by 2021.
Many suburbs across the Hunter region would have started the network hook-up process come election day.
Work on sections of Cameron Park have already started, while upgrades to Georgetown, Mayfield, Mayfield East, Mayfield West, Sandgate, Warabrook, Waratah and Waratah West are due to start in June.
However, the process in many parts of Newcastle, is not due to start before October while many major Lake Macquarie business centres, such as Gateshead and Warners Bay, are not due to start until December 2014.
Newcastle Liberal candidate Jaimie Abbott said the network was a one size fits-all monopoly.
"Our plan is to improve and encourage competition in the broadband market and to rollout superfast broadband using whatever technology is shown to be the most appropriate and cost-effective for our area," Ms Abbott.
She said any digital divide in the Hunter was due to lengthy network rollout waits.
"NBN Co has consistently been unable to make its own construction timeframes.
"We all saw the false starts of the NBN, first in the promise and now in the rollout."
The Star’s reporter Georgia Osland hit the streets to find out what Novocastrians thought about their internet service providers and if they were looking forward to the rollout of the National Broadband Network.
Stella Comyn, 20, Merewether
"No. It’s meant to be wireless but it only works when it wants to. I am looking forward to it [the NBN], hopefully it’ll fix my situation too."
Joby Huybers, 18, Belmont North
"It’s not too bad, I’m with Optus and sometimes it’s a little bit slow. What is the NBN? I’ve never actually heard of it."
Dean Lock, 39, Mayfield East
"The internet doesn’t seem to be as fast as when I lived in Canberra. No, I’m not particularly looking forward to it [the NBN]."
Oscar Alejandro, 30, Waratah West
"It’s slow like all of them and annoying when it freezes. If it [the NBN] is going to improve the signal, then yes. If it’s a government scam, then no."