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Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Federal Minister for Communications: To use existing rural fibre-optic cables instead of wireless towers for NBN

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Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Federal Minister for Communications: To use existing rural fibre-optic cables instead of wireless towers for NBN


Why this is important

We live in a hilly rural landscape which has two fibre-optic cables running up valleys to the local primary schools from the nearest Telstra exchange. The National Broadband Network (NBN) has lodged a Development Application (DA) to build a 40m tall wireless 4G broadband tower on a watershed ridgeline in a Scenic Escarpment zoning, to broadcast out over the two valleys. This is unacceptable to us for three reasons.

Firstly, we protest the undemocratic lack of community consultation regarding whether we want this tower in the first place. Most of us have excellent Internet access via ADSL modems on the existing copper infrastructure, and it is not clear that the new tower will give us any better service in this difficult terrain for microwave transmission. The site was chosen secretly by approaching suitable landholders until one agreed to host the tower on a contract to NBN. The rest of us had no idea this was happening, until receiving a letter from NBN after they had lodged the DA. We have no recourse to stop the construction of this tower but to submit objections to the DA which requires intimate knowledge of the planning regulations or the employment of an expensive planner.

Secondly, it is an incredible waste of the thousands of dollars which previous governments have invested in providing the ideal fibre-optic solution to our primary schools, not to open them up to residents along the lines of the cables. NBN representatives at a Community Information Session gave no reason as to why they could not get access to the existing Telstra cables. Any residents unable to be reached by the cables can gain access to NBN via the satellite being launched in 2015.

Thirdly, we are concerned at the increase in the level of microwave radiation occasioned by the 24/7 transmission from the tower. In contrast, there is no radiation whatsoever involved in using fibre-optics, not to speak of the superior bandwidths possible. There is concern that continuous exposure to microwave radiation may cause long term health problems, so it is a better solution to avoid increasing the existing background level.

We call upon the Minister of Communications to negotiate with Telstra for access to existing rural fibre-optic cables in order to prevent the proliferation of unsightly metal towers on our scenic ridgelines and the resultant unnecessary increase in background microwave radiation.

Posted March 7, 2014
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