Malcolm Turnbull isn’t a stranger to invectives flung his way, virtual or otherwise, but his ill-advised interaction with small business owner Julia Keady on the NBN has morphed into something spectacularly unsavoury.
There are no winners here in this debate and while the communications minister may feel aggrieved that his well-meaning inquiry has been unfairly vilified, his critics were never going to be charitable.
Given the minister’s penchant for delivering glib smackdowns to those who don’t quite see eye to eye with him, it’s in fact surprising that he expected any quarter.
Having said that, the imputation that Turnbull’s response was tantamount to him telling Ms Keady to move to another home if she wanted better broadband is wrong.
It might have provided a fresh rallying point for many in the community to berate the minister for his arrogance, but that’s about it.
Ms Keady’s frustration, while justifiable, was unlikely to have been sated if a Labor government were still in charge at Canberra. It’s unlikely that Turnbull’s predecessor would have even wasted a second on a response.
The sad truth is that Ms Keady’s predicament is one suffered by Australian residents across the country, and you don’t have to travel a little under a 100 kilometres from Melbourne CBD to the town of Ocean Grove to see the problem.
Ms Keady said in a blog post that her research into Ocean Grove showed adequate broadband for the needs of her family.
That may seem naïve to those well versed in navigating the telco space but for many consumers the idea that a line needs to be more than just active, that it needs to be qualified by the provider, are not casual topics of discussion. There’s a level of complexity involved and a look at the government’s MyBroadband website is unlikely to lead to a happy outcome.
DSL services may be available in Ocean Grove, but that doesn’t amount to much if there are no ports in the exchange.
And don’t expect Telstra to start putting in extra ports, either -- the NBN may be coming, but when and where is up in the air.
This uncertainty allows the telecoms sector to wash its hands of the problem, while consumers, especially those in regional Australia, stew in their frustration.
Small business owners like Julia Keady are the biggest losers in the way the NBN process has so far panned out and they really shouldn’t be holding their breath dreaming of a swift remedy.
Until then, Ms Keady will need to hang on to that 4G dongle for a little while longer.