Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has claimed a win with the largest apartment block connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN). However, as a brand new apartment block, it did not face the same obstacles for installing fibre that have plagued NBN Co with other multi-dwelling units (MDUs).
Conroy today visited the new "Art on the Park" 36-storey apartment complex in Melbourne, with 376 units that will be able to connect to the NBN when residents begin moving in next month.
Labor's policy would be to deploy fibre into every apartment block, flat, and townhouse; however, NBN Co has found that multi-dwelling units represent a significant challenge for NBN Co, because each unit block is different and in varying condition.
Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has suggested that NBN Co should instead employ fibre to the basement, and then use the existing copper cabling in existing apartment complexes to deliver services. NBN Co itself recently admitted that it had assessed this option, but the company is bound by government policy to continue to deliver fibre to the premises (FttP).
Today, Conroy boasted that Labor's policy would deliver fibre to every apartment.
"Unlike the Coalition, Labor's NBN will deliver fibre all the way to all apartments in Australia for free," he said.
"The Coalition's inadequate broadband policy ignores people living in flats and apartments, leaving them to rely on the ageing copper for their broadband."
In response, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull pointed out that the Coalition's policy has stated that new apartment complexes, such as the "Art on the Park" building, would get fibre because it is cost effective to install it there, unlike in existing apartment complexes.
"As to existing apartment buildings, Conroy claims the NBN Co is going to deliver fibre to all of those premises — battling with body corporates, drilling holes in apartment walls, nailing conduit to the side of the building if there is no room in the riser ... oh, it will be a fun old time running FttP into every apartment in Australia."
He said that it is "widely believed" that NBN Co had urged the government to change policy to fibre to the basement for apartment buildings, but this had been rejected by the government.
"Politics trumped common sense — not for the first time with this minister," Turnbull said.