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Byron Shire
February 26, 2021

NBN coming to a pole near you

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Many readers may have noticed that representatives of NBN Co and Visionstream Telecommunications have been doing the rounds of Byron Shire’s hinterland recently.

They are here to promote the National Broadband Network and the government’s plan to build towers to spread fixed wireless broadband networks instead of underground fibre optic cable to our homes, or ‘to the node’.
I recently attended an information afternoon at Kohinur Hall where a number of young energetic reps were more then happy to spread information and literature to all and sundry explaining how much better fixed wireless networks would be for us than fibre to the node (or home), as the towers are linked interdependently back to the fibre network so we get fast, efficient broadband.
Well, not that fast!
These towers will emit radio frequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME).
There is a plan to build one on Red Hill at The Pocket on private land.
Many people have grave fears about the effects of RF EME on our bodies as we have seen recently with the opposition to wi fi within the Mullum CBD. 
I also have concerns about RF EME but not as strongly as some.
My concerns are about the efficacy, as well as safety, of fixed wireless broadband in the hilly hinterlands where there are many ridges and large trees. 
My understanding is that RF waves must travel in a straight line, although I was told the other day ‘they can bend a little’, but I am not so sure.
The RF EME waves are picked up by devices fixed to the exterior of your house or via a dish fixed to the roof, similar to pay TV if you have that, and transmitted via a modem to your computer iPhone etc.
Now, if a tower in your area has a certain radius of transmission over an area of say 100 homes and only 50 of those homes can actually receive the RF EME broadband, and only 25 of those homes want to take up RF EME broadband (ie actually pay for it), then it is not going to be cost effective for NBN Co and so a waste of money.
I don’t think I would, as I have a very good service provider and get ADSL2 broadband, and anyway where I live in Upper Main Arm there are lots of trees and ridges between my place and the proposed tower so I am unlikely to receive it anyway.
I don’t know if this is common knowledge to folk living in The Pocket, Billinudgel and the Main Arm, but we already have a fibre optic cable underground.
It goes up Main Arm Rd to Main Arm Upper School and down the Pocket Rd to Billinudgel. It was installed years ago, long before Kevin and Julia came up with NBN Co.
So why can’t the fibre be extended up the Main Arm valley, including Palmwoods and connected to the nodes of our Telstra phone lines?
The same could be done in The Pocket all the way to Billinudgel.
Other areas may have fibre optic cables to their local schools as well. Check it out.
If NBNCo and Telstra can do this, and it could, it would be more cost effective in the long run, and safe. More people would have the option to take up fibre optic broadband and NBN Co would be more profitable.
If that option was open to me, I would probably do it.
Peter Leishman,Upper Main Arm

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