Lives are being put at risk and the State’s economy under increased threat because of uncertainty and confusion about the National Broadband Network in WA, warns a scathing submission to a Commonwealth inquiry.

WA’s Chief Information Officer Giles Nunis has also questioned whether the viability of the NBN was in doubt because of the cost and poor service experienced by many WA users.

The submission, on behalf of the State Government, will be examined at a hearing in Perth today of the Federal Parliament’s joint standing committee on the NBN.

Giles Nunis

“If WA agencies are unable to guarantee reliable connections for their services through the NBN, the lives of Western Australians are potentially at risk,” the submission reads.

The Department of Health and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services have complained about long delays in delivery, confusion and “a lack of NBN consultants for troubleshooting”.

“These kinds of frustrations have a direct impact on service delivery, which for the cited examples frequently involves life and death situations,” the Government submission warned.

“Receiving and responding to triggered alarms and ensuring communications between frontline health services are not optional extras, they are critical components of agencies’ operations.”

It was also critical of how the NBN rollout was affecting WA householders, arguing that more than 21,000 properties have been deemed “service class zero”, which means they are not able to be connected to the faster internet infrastructure.

The number of service class zero properties in WA rose almost 7000 in just one month.

“The NBN is in many cases struggling to meet current needs of West Australian citizens and businesses, which gives rise to reasonable concern for its capacity for future usage, which is predicted to dramatically rise,” the submission said.

WA’s Acting Minister for Innovation Simone McGurk said the economy and business development were being compromised.

She said West Australians deserved better than “internet access slower than that of some developing nations”.

File photo Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

Since last year, the Federal inquiry has been examining rollout delays and whether the NBN was competitive against similar high-speed internet services around the world. According to the WA submission, Australia is 50th under a world-ranking system, which puts us behind Bulgaria and Latvia.

It concludes that less than 20 per cent of the Australian population “achieve speeds greater than 15 megabits per second — let alone the 100 megabits promised by full-speed NBN”.

Mr Nunis said his agency has had “limited” success in engaging with the company charged with the rollout — NBN Co.

“As a result of less than ideal engagement with WA, the NBN rollout has progressed in a patchwork and inconsistent manner, often with poor performance, and low levels of sign-up for NBN services as a result,” the submission said.

NBN Co said the national rollout was ahead of schedule with 5.7 million homes ready to receive the service. “There is no direct relationship between NBN and WA agencies, residents and businesses, which is why it’s important any concerns or queries should be directed to their service provider in the first instance,” a spokeswoman said.