The National Broadband Network (NBN) could become prey to dodgy installers seeking to rewire people's homes, just like the government's home insulation scheme, according to Australian Telecommunications Users Group managing director Rosemary Sinclair.
At a telecommunications roundtable in Sydney today, Sinclair said there was a real danger that the NBN could go the way of the Federal Government's home insulation scheme, with fly-by-night installers offering deals to rewire people's homes on the basis of reports which have said that rewiring costs could be up to $3000 per home.
"That whole debate has created the possibility in people's minds that it's going to cost $3000," she said. "I've said to Liberal Party people 'stop saying this' because all those pink batts people who found themselves out of work will now be retraining themselves. They'll turn up knocking on doors and saying 'look you've heard it's going to cost $3000; boy have I got a deal for you: $500 and I'll do it today'."
"Are we better off if they don't do anything and just take the money?," she added. "They'll be fiddling around with people's wiring. I think we need to grab this issue by the throat and very early get some message out there to people to check trading accreditation."
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said that advertising campaigns, such as one the government intends to run in areas undertaking the switchover from analog to digital television, could be used for the NBN. The government is planning to run a number of ads explaining what devices consumers will need to get access to digital TV. He said there will be a link provided in the ad which will lead to a website listing registered suppliers. This, he hoped, would prevent extortion based on the switchover.
"We need to ensure that [people] do not come and try and exploit this. You are dead right. We have to ensure people aren't getting ripped off," he said. Conroy also admitted that the $3000 cost was in Sydneysiders' minds already.
"The damage has been done. Particularly here in Sydney, it gets picked up and drummed in on one particular radio station," he said. "It's more of an issue here in Sydney of misinformation."