Tuesday, 24 March 2020 11:47

Telsoc VP calls for govt to fund NBN Co to employ those retrenched due to COVID-19 crisis Featured

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ICT industry executive Laurie Patton has proposed that the Federal Government immediately fund the operator of the National Broadband Network, NBN Co, to employ suitably qualified people currently being retrenched as a result of the COVID-19 crisis - and to train and deploy them to start upgrading the FTTN connections to fibre so that everyone has access to fast broadband.

Patton says he has written to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher - and each of the premiers and chief ministers - asking them to support his proposal at the next meeting of the national cabinet.

A vice president of telecommunications industry body Telsoc - and who used to run Internet Australia - Patton says his approach to Government is personal and not being made on behalf of Telsoc.

Patton said on Tuesday that “the increase in people working from home or studying online due to the Coronavirus has highlighted a digital divide - between people with good connectivity and those who suffer from inadequate Internet access”.

“Essentially there are the lucky Australian, who have a 21st Century NBN connection, and the unlucky Australians stuck with an inferior service using old copper telephone wires,” Patton said,

“My proposal would help people on the wrong side of the digital divide while eliminating an underlying technological flaw that severely limits the effectiveness of the NBN. It would also act as an economic stimulus and help maintain productivity.”

“My biggest concern is for the mental health of those unlucky souls battling with a dud broadband connection. It makes it harder for them to send files back and forth with the office, school or university and between colleagues and classmates - and of course it makes video conferencing difficult.,” Patton said.

“It’s frustrating enough when your movie buffers but what about if it happens when you’re trying to send in an assignment or a report to the boss who has been hounding you for the last hour?

“The reality is we don’t know how long the Coronavirus will impact us so we could be still seeing people working from home six months from now or longer.

“Once the Coronavirus issue recedes my bet is we’ll see a lot more companies realising the benefits of allowing people to work from home. We could see a huge transition to more flexible work arrangements.

“So the problems plaguing the NBN have long term and as well as short term implications,” Patton said.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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