Wednesday, 30 August 2017 23:33

Labor demands government pull back from copper for NBN Featured

By
Michelle Rowland, Labor Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, Labor Shadow Communications Minister

The Labor Party has called for the federal government to direct NBN Co, the company building the national broadband network, to scale down copper and scale up fibre-to-the-curb, where it remains feasible, on the network.

Michelle Rowland, the Shadow Minister for Communications, says at a minimum, the government should take fibre “deeper into the network to provide consumers with a faster and more reliable connection”.

Labor’s demand for a scale back of copper in favour of fibre comes with a call for the government to also reject the 2018 NBN corporate plan for the network build, scheduled to be completed by 2020.

Controversy over the NBN build has been raging over a number of years with concerns raised by industry players and interest groups about the rollout, the technology mix being used, poor speeds and services over the NBN.

According to Rowland, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has opposed fibre-to-the-premises for years and “we don’t expect this to change at this stage of the rollout”.

“For this reason, at several key junctures since the 2016 election, Labor has afforded the government the necessary breathing room to retreat from FttN and, at a minimum, scale-up FttC.

“However, when the NBN Co chief executive (Bill Morrow) was recently asked how many FttC premises beyond one million would be committed to in the 2018 corporate plan he said: 'I'll make it easy on you. There's nothing that we are submitting in the plan that takes it above the million'.

“This short-sighted proposal crosses a red line, and Labor’s patience is at an end,” Rowland says.

And, according to Rowland, the constraints on changing the NBN technology-mix are considerable for the next Labor Government, adding that “from Opposition, our immediate task is to limit the damage by calling for fibre to be taken deeper into the network where it remains feasible”.

“This won’t fix the NBN but it will salvage something better for those households, guarantee better speeds and modestly improve the long-term economics of the NBN," Rowland claims.

“Further, Labor has become aware that NBN Co has been pulling some FttN premises already in the design phase and replanning them for FttC.

“This is no surprise given the sustained pressure by consumers and broadband advocates, in addition to NBNCo revealing that six per cent of FttN consumers cannot achieve speeds of 25Mbps, and 35%t cannot achieve 50Mbps.

“There were 1.4 million FTTN premises in a design pipeline as of 8 June, and the data indicates a further half a million FttN premises are not in either design or construction.

“Time-limited opportunities exist and they should not be wasted.

"The government needs to end its face-saving charade and take the necessary steps to scale up fibre for consumers.

"Should Malcolm Turnbull continue to lock households into copper, Labor will ensure he pays the price in affected suburbs across the nation."

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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