NBN fibre reach 'disappointing': committee

NBN fibre reach 'disappointing': committee

Summary: The government's own Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee has expressed disappointment with the government's decision not to extend the National Broadband Network (NBN) fibre to 100 per cent of Australian premises, warning the decision will continue inequity of services.

TOPICS: NBN, Broadband

The government's own Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee has expressed disappointment with the government's decision not to extend the National Broadband Network (NBN) fibre to 100 per cent of Australian premises, warning the decision will continue inequity of services.

"The committee is quite disappointed with the interpretation of the government's underlying broadband policy objectives, the current lack of clarity on retail pricing in relation to the seven per cent non-fibre premises and this entrenched inequity for those seven per cent," Committee member Mark Needham told a Parliamentary inquiry on the NBN in Brisbane this morning. "These deficiencies will continue to challenge the adequacy of telecommunication services in rural and remote Australia."

The committee was established by the Federal Government in 2007 to investigate how best to improve telecommunications services in regional and remote Australia. Needham said that there had been little action on the committee's recommendations since it handed its report to the government back in 2008.

"To date, there has been very little significant improvement in all aspects of telecommunications," he said.

He said the government has yet to address the issue of providing fibre backhaul into regional and remote areas, which would address a lot of the problems with inequity of speed and service.

Needham suggested that some of the $400 million provided to the committee to spend on regional broadband should be used to fund bringing fibre to regional and remote communities not included in the 93 per cent coverage.

"There is a definite problem in relation to the availability of NBN backhaul to rural and remote locations. I think many people would like to have fibre to their community at least as a start before even considering fibre to the residences," he said. "In not having fibre to the community to begin with is a very significant issue."

"There is considerable debate at the moment whether towns of a significant size will have the ability to access the service from the fibre that goes past their community. So again even though we've seen the stats about how many it will benefit, having access to the fibre that goes past their community would make it far better for a lot more."

Needham highlighted that laws surrounding the NBN allows groups such as communities to pay NBN Co to install fibre into certain areas but he said it was unclear whether NBN Co would then own the fibre that the groups had paid for.

"Hopefully those things will be explained in better detail as time goes on," he said.

He was concerned that regional residents might find themselves moving onto a wireless or satellite service that is worse than what they are receiving over current communications infrastructure.

"Is the NBN service in those areas in a waste of money? In that it hasn't been engineered to deliver the outcomes that are necessary at an appropriate price using the appropriate technology. The stifling of competition in relation to the seven per cent is a concern."

Needham added that it would be alarming for some residents to be stuck with wireless or satellite services on the NBN while neighbours only a kilometre away would get fibre services.

Topics: NBN, Broadband


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I've got a good idea!

    How about foreign labour. China, India at 10cents an hour?

    Wait a tick. Nah, let's go better, how about we recruit aliens to do the work. That way they will build in a nansecond at a fraction of the cost and we'll get 2 trillion terrabytes download. We'll also get 1:1 xxxPON technology that will save the world's problems.

    Beam me up Scottie, and all the believers so we can avoid all reality and so we can watch another episode of "Star Trek"....
    • Very intelligent comment [sic]...LOL!
  • I would think NBN Co would be required to run in the fibre to those places to the nearest POI. I wonder what why Mr Needham is talking about Backhaul. I understood that was the responsibility of an RSP.
    Knowledge Expert
  • That's the problem with trying to ensure 100% universal fibre broadband coverage in Australia. The country is too big and the population densities are too small to make it economically achievable over such a short time frame.
    The rollout needs to be similar to the way the electrical grid was first established. Large population centres first, followed by smaller regional centres, followed by smaller communities. Some communities are so small and remote that they are still self reliant for power generation.
    I live in a city and accept that it means I have to put up with congestion, pollution, higher crime rates, higher realestate prices and a range of other less desirable elements when compared to living in a regional area. Lack of services is just one of the trade-offs in living in a remote or regional area. Get over it.
    • Oh you will now attract the attention of the rancorous posters on this forum!
      Knowledge Expert
    • You make a very valid point there that there are trade offs and benefits no matter where you live. I don't have a problem subsidising regional Australia's comms to an acceptable level but expecting us to fibre up 100% of regional Australia is like expecting regional taxpayers to subsidize the higher real estate costs of those living in the city.

      That is not to say they don't deserve better comms than they currently have, but we need to adhere to some economic reaility, even if it is an Infrastructure project.
      • So should we rural australians stop feeding you because you cant grow your own food too,We've been supporting your lifestyle a lot longer than you realise
        • Good points, but the way things are going with the major food retailers is seems we will be fed from imports?
          Knowledge Expert
          • maybe so,but not without a fight
          • I am with you on that one!
            Knowledge Expert
        • Pete, I'm not trying to have a shot at farmers just prove a point that there is a tradeoff depending on where you choose to live.
          • thats good,but a reliable ph service is essential in a rural area,esp. if its a farm not in a small town,what happens if your 3 yr old is bitten by snake and you cant call for help because the wind is blowing the wrong way for the wireless signal?,(I pose this because NBN dont guarentee continuous service to all areas).In these types of situations that may constitute a breach in duty of care
          • A very valid point. A major concern that would also be likely is during bush fires when electrical and fibre cables could easily become damaged.
  • This is exactly what pete1966 has been suggesting...100% FTTP

    Interestingly, he copped it from both sides!
  • Meanwhile, back at the ranch the illustrious United Nations' International Telecommunications Union seem to think that Australia is the test bed for broadband. It seems Conroy sold the same pup.

    Read the article which i deem out of step with reality. Perhaps someone can translate it for me!

    Vasso Massonic
  • Well I dont know what pete1966 has said but I have always said 100% should be the ultimate goal, whether the NBN goal should be 100% coverage is a completely different matter.
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • It certainly is out of step with you and the FUDsters version of reality (in other words your BS world).

    He basically believes you guys are FOS...

    There it unanimous... done!
    • VINDICATION AT LAST !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      It (100%),could be done with reasonable cost by building a FTTN network nationally 1st,then 1 distribution area at a time, extending to 100% FTTH,using income from the FTTN network and the balance of the $26B-$50B,(depending on who's cost estimates you take), to partially self fund and partially public fund the extention to cover 100% of aussie homes and businesses, I honestlt believe this would not only help to future proof australia's comms but foster the ability of rural oz to keep people thereby decentralising population growth,and relieving infrastructure pressure in cities and major centres which would put the need to create new infrastructure in rural areas,creating jobs in all sorts of occupations in those places,not just construction,but in supermarkets,petrol stn's,mechanics, builders,roads,plumbers,etc
      because if young people stay in rural areas to work and live,they'll raise their families there too.So the spin offs just keep accumulating.
      The up front cost while granted is rather a lot,cannot possibly be worth the lost future jobs for our kids & their kids,+ the added GNP,to not go 100% would be almost a criminal injustice to our future
      • yes, well I can see why he "copped it from both sides" now.
        Hubert Cumberdale
      • But Pete196600, FTTN was found to cost $15 billion in 2008. In addition, because it meant appropriating the last-mile copper from the street to premises, Telstra would have been entitled to at least $15 billion in property rights compensation. Telstra confirmed on Four Corners last week that it planned to spend this $15 billion building its own fibre to premises, stranding 70% of the inferior taxpayer-built FTTN.

        So, unless you want to spend over $30 billion delivering expensive power-hungry switches to every suburban street and then see it overbuilt with FTTP by Telstra, you must agree that public FTTP for $27 billion is a better deal, especially as it becomes a permanent cash-cow for government as the public wholesale provider to all comers.