While some of the National Broadband Network (NBN) infrastructure was damaged during Tropical Cyclone Yasi, one pole was held in place by the strong fibre cable, Townsville Council has said.
"Several of the lines were down," Doug Haywood, Senior Economic Development Officer Townsville City Council told a Parliamentary Inquiry into the NBN in Townsville today. "One of the poles that went down during the cyclone was held up by the fibre optic cable: apparently it's a very strong cable and it held the pole up."
Haywood said that the council had warned NBN Co of the dangers of cyclones before the company began rolling out cable above ground in the first release site prior to Tropical Cyclone Yasi hitting Northern Queensland in February.
"In our discussions with NBN we advised them that Townsville was a cyclone-prone area and I can understand why they went to an above-ground option in terms of that," he said.
He said that power in Townsville is supplied by a mixture of overhead and underground cables, with new premises generally supplied power through underground cables. The council's preference was for NBN cables to go underground.
"Our ongoing discussions with NBN is trying to encourage them to go underground as much as they can and obviously there's a cost factor there to be taken into account for them but in terms of reliability of service and its ability to do what it's supposed to do, we'd prefer it to be underground."
Haywood said that the NBN roll-out in Townsville was sprung on the council unexpectedly, and the council has since scrambled to develop a digital economy policy to examine the benefits that the NBN can bring to the regional community.
We weren't prepared for it so it's been a matter of catch-up for us," he said. "The first we heard that we were a first release site was in the press release."
But since the announcement, the council has been developing proposals on teleconferencing for developers seeking development approvals, as well as the establishment of a mayoral video blog to explain council policies to ratepayers.
"The NBN has probably been a facilitator in our thinking in that regard," he said. "It's driving the changes, it's caused us to have a think about how we're doing business and how we're engaging with the public."
Encouraging take-up of the NBN in Townsville should rest with the locals rather than being entrusted to Federal parties, he said, because locals would be best at selling the benefits that the NBN can offer to Townsville.
"I think the local government, the local business organisations and the local community [are] key to that. It needs to be driven from that level. It needs to be drive-up rather than down."