Home Telecoms & NBN NBN users with medical alarms at risk, says Labor

NBN users with medical alarms at risk, says Labor

The Labor Party has raised the possibility that NBN users may be at danger during the forthcoming fire season if their phone services are running off the network.

A statement from Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the fire chief in Western Australia had, recently, warned that phone services which were running off the NBN could be exposed during an emergency.

Rowland and Shadow Health Minister Catherine King said that the NBN Co itself had pointed out that two of the technologies being used to roll out the network — fibre-to-the-node and HFC — could not be relied upon during a power outage.

They quoted advice from NBN Co as saying: "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 back-up, in which case you will get up to five hours of power provided the battery has been correctly maintained."

The two shadow ministers said the increased exposure of the multi-technology mix to power outages could affect vulnerable Australians, usually the elderly, whose medical alarm devices often depended on a working phone service through their fixed-line connection.

They said while Labor recognised the challenges that any new technology presented, there were concerns that despite known risks, vulnerable users of non-monitored medical alarms continued to be excluded from the NBN medical alarm subsidy scheme.

“Malcolm Turnbull has been advised that the fibre-to-the-node and HFC network he is deploying will not work during a power outage,” 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.”

King said: "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.

“NBN Co 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 Co.”

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.