With Catherine King MP, Shadow Minister for Health.

In recent weeks Western Australia’s new fire chief is the latest to warn that phone services running off the NBN could be exposed during a disaster

This comes off the back of advice from NBN that neither the Fibre to the Node nor HFC network can be relied on during a power outage:  

“Equipment connected over the NBN network will not work during a power blackout. An exception is if you have Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) with battery backup, in which case you will get up to 5 hours of power provided the battery has been correctly maintained.” 

The increased exposure of the multi-technology mix to power outages has potential to negatively impact vulnerable Australians, usually the elderly, whose medical alarm devices often depend on a working phone service through their fixed-line connection. 

Whilst Labor recognises the challenges that any new technology presents, there remain concerns that despite the known risks, vulnerable users of non-monitored medical alarms continue to be excluded from the NBN medical alarm subsidy scheme. 

The decision by NBNCo to exclude non-monitored alarms will have a disproportionate impact on low income Australians and pensioners - many of whom simply cannot afford to spend an extra $480 per year on a monitored alarm service. 

“Malcolm Turnbull has been advised that the Fibre to the Node and HFC network he is deploying will not work during a power outage,” Ms Rowland said. 

“This is no longer speculation – it is stated in black and white on the NBN website.” 

“These two networks are expected to reach 7.7 million Australian households and it beggars belief the Turnbull Government has dragged this issue on for more than four years.” 

“The risks facing users of non-monitored medical alarms on the NBN are not trivial, and Labor is calling on the Government to clarify what assistance will be available for vulnerable Australians migrating to the NBN,” Ms King said. 

“NBNCo should be commended for their ongoing efforts to inform the community about these migration risks, and Labor strongly encourages all Australians with a medical alarm to register their equipment with NBN.”