My afternoon with Stephen Conroy
It was a day of blistering speeds in Kiama on Tuesday – and I’m not talking about the NBN.
I spent the afternoon “shadowing” the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy, as he sped around on a tour of local NBN highlights including the NBN Futures Expo held there this week.
He set a cracking pace – Kiama punches above its weight in the NBN stakes and more than 25 percent of the eligible 2600 homes with access to the network have signed up, due in large part to the very proactive Kiama Council, the first Council on the mainland to be connected to the NBN. The rollout to the majority of the Municipality is expected by the end of 2012. There was a lot to see and Senator Conroy left no information or media opportunity unturned.
12noon: customer visit
We kicked off at noon with his visit to the home of our first customers, Barry & Judy Spooner. The Spooners got things off to a good start by telling the Minister what a great thing the NBN was for the country, and how they use it to download and practice choral performances with often 40 fellow choristers in their home – one use the Minister hadn’t considered before.
Judy shared her support for the NBN with the Minister, “I really believe in the NBN. I can’t tell you how quick it is, it’s just wonderful. There’s no buffering anymore, it’s just instant.”
Barry told him there were only two 2 people in their street who hadn’t signed up and, “Once you experience the speed, you’d never go back.”
Running 20 minutes late for his next appointment, the Minister’s people struggled to move him along.
The Spooners were left with an impromptu buffet of Telstra cupcakes – a Telstra PR event staple – and the Minister’s favourite, chicken salad sandwiches.
It was a motorcade of West Wing proportions – with me were Gordon Ballantyne (Telstra’s Chief Customer Officer), Kate McKenzie (Group Managing Director, Telstra Innovation, Products and Marketing), Michael Marom (local Area General Manager), and Lisa McTiernan (Government Relations Adviser).
1:30pm: NBN Futures Expo
Next stop was a speech at the NBN Futures Expo where the Minister announced a $317,000 grant to the Council for community consultation on the NBN, which went down well.
2:20pm: Digital Hub
It was a quick visit to the Digital Hub at the Kiama Library which was made possible with funding from the Government’s $13.6 million Digital Hub grant fund, and some Telstra support. It’s central to the Council’s plans to encourage community uptake and giving locals the chance to get hands-on with the NBN.
3:30pm: Telstra Connected workshop
Still fresh, upbeat and interested in everything, the Minister, Gordon, Kate, Michael and I then attended the Telstra Connected workshop held at Kiama High School. Telstra Connected workshops for internet novices have been packed to capacity in Kiama, with more than 160 people in Kiama participating in three sessions over the past month.
Led by Gadget Guy Peter Blasina, these free workshops are offered by us in NBN release areas, as an extension of our Connected Seniors program. They are all about helping people get the most out of the new fibre future, and the students from Kiama High School pitched in to help us run them.
Clearly impressed, the Minister turned to Telstra Government Relations Adviser, Lisa McTiernan and said, “This is just great! Thanks for inviting me.”
4pm – depart to travel back to Sydney
All agreed it had been a great day – and importantly for us, a fantastic opportunity to see and hear first hand from real people – children, business people to retirees – about how the NBN was changing their lives.
I came away with huge respect for the commitment and passion the Minister has for delivering the fibre future and his capacity to engage at all levels on the NBN, especially customers.