The National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) will allow communities in Tasmania to fund a "network extension process" in a trial that would see NBN fibre delivered to areas outside the 93 per cent footprint of the fibre component of the network.
At a Parliamentary inquiry in Sydney this morning, NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley revealed that the seven sites in Tasmania — at which NBN Co announced yesterday Conneq would start construction in May — will be part of the trial where councils outside the 93 per cent could opt to pay to have fibre installed.
"We are going to be trialling what we call a network extension process. That is, if an individual or a group of people say 'look we're not inside the fibre footprint but we would like to get the fibre anyway, what is the process for doing that?' and we have had approaches from some councils that have said 'we are prepared to fund the difference'," Quigley said.
The executive warned, however, that the costs for fibre connection outside the 93 per cent footprint are "very expensive", and went in to bat for the wireless and satellite services that will cover the remaining 7 per cent of the population.
"These are radically improved services from what people are getting today," he said. "People in the bush ... will get services that are at least equivalent to what they can get in the cities on ADSL2+ today."
Quigley stated today that NBN Co is restricted by engineering limitations from reaching every community, but said that it is unlikely that regional towns near NBN fibre backhaul will miss out.
"If there's 1000 or more premises then we will fibre it; if a town is on one of the backhaul routes and it has more than 500 premises we will fibre it," he said.
At a similar inquiry held in Brisbane earlier this month, the government's own Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee expressed disappointment that the fibre is only being rolled out to 93 per cent of premises.
The committee said that a pay-for-connection process had been discussed, but that it had concerns over whether communities that funded the fibre extension will own that fibre, or whether NBN Co would retain ownership.
When asked about whether NBN Co will own the fibre for the extension, NBN Co told ZDNet Australia today that as the communities are only paying the difference in the cost to install fibre compared to the cost for installing fibre to the rest of Australia, the ownership will remain with NBN Co.