Armidale to pay for NBN fibre extension to airport

Armidale council has voted to spend up to AU$250,000 extending the fibre network in the town out to the airport and the new industrial land development using existing sewer trenches.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The council for regional NSW town and one of the first National Broadband Network (NBN) launch sites, Armidale, has voted to pay NBN Co up to AU$250,000 to rollout fibre cable to the town's airport and new industrial land development, after a lengthy fight from businesses in the area to have NBN Co pay for the fibre installation.

The Armidale Dumaresq council announced yesterday that the council had unanimously voted to spend AU$250,000 on the infrastructure needed to expand the fibre network out to the locations not currently passed by fibre, serving the airport and up to 200 premises in the development. Staff in the council had already found that money could be saved by locating the fibre in the shared sewer trench that is being built as part of a water and sewer upgrade for the airport.

Businesses in the Acacia Park industrial development had long complained to the former Labor government, and former Independent MP Tony Windsor about the fibre network bypassing the development, with NBN Co originally planning to offer its fixed wireless LTE service instead.

Armindale acting mayor Cr Jenny Bailey said that installing fibre at the industrial land development next to the airport would make it an attractive location for businesses.

"Armidale is in the national spotlight as the first mainland city in Australia to have the NBN rolled-out. It would be foolhardy of council to not offer the latest high speed fibre broadband to businesses potentially looking to relocate to our region," she said in a statement.

The council had been in discussion with NBN Co to extend the fibre to the airport in the early days of the rollout, according to Council executive director of strategic projects and infrastructure David Steller, but the airport was outside the footprint, and NBN Co said that the cost of extending the network would be up to the council to meet.

"While there was discussion about shared costing and there was some verbal indication that such an arrangement may be possible, no formal commitments were ever formulated," he said.

The cost of the project has been estimated to cost up to AU$200,000, but detailed design work will need to be completed before the true cost can be determined.

The council has indicated it could recoup some of its costs from future connections to the NBN through NBN Co.

NBN Co told ZDNet that contracts for the construction of the fibre extension had yet to be signed.

"NBN Co is still negotiating the details of Armidale Dumaresq Council's proposed network extension to Armidale Regional Airport and industrial land development. No contracts have been signed," a spokesperson for NBN Co said.

The Armidale extension is just the second to be undertaken by NBN Co since the formulation of its policy of user-pays fibre extension beyond the original 93 percent of Australian premises covered by fibre under Labor's NBN model. A business in Tasmania was the first to pay for the fibre extension in May last year, at a price that NBN Co declined to reveal.

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