Spreading the word about NBN

TWO public forums in the Kiama area regarding the National Broadband Network have attracted a mixed response.

Residents in Kiama Downs and Minnamurra have less than three months to move their phone and internet services to the NBN before copper services are retired.

Copper-based services will be wound down from May 23.

A public briefing session for residents took place at North Kiama Neighbourhood Centre last Thursday afternoon, as well as one for businesses at the Kiama Family History Centre later that same day.

Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis organised the forums, attended by Telstra and NBN Co representatives. After the meetings, Ms Sudmalis said "the entire exercise was a win for the entire community".

"The whole problem has been this system, and the NBN has been a catastrophic situation, rolled out without a lot of thinking," she said.

But ISP and computer business technician Michael Foye disagreed.

"[I take issue with] the conflict between a federal member promoting a private company in what was billed as an information session, when it was basically an ad for Telstra," he said.

"All they wanted to do is sell product to the last remaining people who haven't signed up yet."

He questioned why other service providers were not invited.

Mr Foye also suggested a "glaring gaffe" contained in a Ms Sudmalis letterbox drop had confused elderly residents.

"The copper phone and internet services will be switched off on May 23 and it is important that you are aware of the changes ," the letter read.

Mr Foye said he had since received "hundreds of calls" from concerned Kiama residents.

"The NBN Co website lists the cut-off dates, which in some cases is more than a year off the date stated by Ms Sudmalis," he said.

Ms Sudmalis said she invited NBN Co and Telstra because the government still owned part of Telstra and wholly owned NBN Co.

She said the government was committed to sorting out issues arising with those entities.

"This was about resolving problems, not about recommending one provider over another," she said.

"Telstra own the copper so they needed to be part of the information sessions."

Ms Sudmalis said she had organised letterbox drops in Minnamurra, Gainsborough, Kiama Downs and a small area of the Kiama CBD.

However, she said a countdown in the Kiama Telstra shop window had confused some and her brochure was not responsible.

Kiama Downs resident Christina Bunfield attended the first session, which featured residents airing grievances.

A Telstra customer for more than 50 years, Ms Bunfield said she had experienced problems communicating between NBN Co and Telstra.

But after the forum, she felt that her concerns had been alleviated.

"I think a lot of people's problems got aired, and will hopefully be resolved," she said.

"It sounds like a lot of people have been having similar problems.

"I have a pacemaker and I have to ensure my monitor stays connected."

NBN Co spokesman Tony Gibbs said more public briefings could occur if required.

"Contact your service provider, find out the requirements that you need for your home or small business, order your service before May 23 and you won't be disconnected," he said.

"There's obviously a range of issues that have been raised today.

"I think some of the things that we're picking up pretty early on, obviously, is frustration around time ... but also relates to getting connected and the service provider as well."

Telstra spokeswoman Pamela Georgiou said, as the region's leading provider of fixed line services, Telstra was obligated to keep its customers informed about changes to their services.

"Participating in these types of forums is just one of the activities we're undertaking to ensure our customers understand the transition to the NBN," she said.

"We're also door-knocking, calling, texting and writing to our remaining customers to remind them of the upcoming deadline."

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