Monday, 24 July 2017 05:43

Only bipartisan NBN policy switch can save us: IA's Patton Featured

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Internet Australia executive director Laurie Patton has repeated his call for the government and Opposition to come together and commit to using fibre-to-the-distribution-point for as much of the possible of the remainder of the NBN rollout.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Patton said the non-profit believed that NBN Co, the company rolling out the broadband network, must abandon its "flawed policy" of using the copper-based fibre-to-the-node and move to FttDP (what NBN Co calls FttC or fibre-to-the-curb). Patton said the move "is essential for Australia's economic and social development".

Patton has been a constant critic of the multi-technology mix option - which includes a small number of FttP connections, FttN, FttDP, HFC, wireless and satellite - adopted by the Coalition Government for the rollout, after it came to power in 2013. The Labor Party, which began the rollout in 2009, had a policy of fibre-to-the-premises for 93% of residences, with the remainder to be served by wireless and satellite.

"It's a shame NBN Co won't admit their use of aging copper (FttN) is a mistake that will cost billions to replace," Patton commented, "Meanwhile, Australians are suffering with inferior broadband, customer complaints are rising and the worst is yet to come".

He reiterated the fact that the rollout was only half completed, and NBN Co still had to deal with many of the more rundown sections of Telstra's copper network.

"The issues already plaguing the rollout will be exacerbated as they rush to complete the project. The sooner we abandon FttN the better. So we call on the Government to switch to FttDP immediately, in the national interest," Patton said.

Internet Australia has called for a bipartisan policy rethink, with Patton pointing out that it had now become plain that many residents were reluctant to switch to the NBN even though their premises had been pronounced NBN-ready.

"Halfway through construction, less than 50% of premises passed by the NBN have actually been connected up. This is no coincidence. They keep hearing complaints about the difficulties getting connected and then people's disappointment at the slow speeds being experienced," Patton said.

He pointed out that when the project was completed in 2020, NBN Co would face the need to "upgrade" all premises which were connected through FttN "as it becomes increasingly obvious customers are not being delivered what they want or need".

"It's not really an upgrade anyway because they'll have to rip out all the copper wiring and the so-called 'nodes' will be redundant. Nobody knows exactly how much this will cost us all, but we're talking billions of dollars," he claimed.

Patton said the same problem would be faced, no matter whether the Coalition or Labor was in power in 2020. "FttDP wasn't an option when Labor launched the NBN in 2009, nor when the Abbott Government rejigged the plan by introducing FttN," he said.

"So, it makes sense for both sides to put their guns away and jointly figure a way out of the current mess. Abandoning FttN would be a good start."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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