First NBN fibre extension completed

A business in Tasmania was the first to take up NBN Co on its user-pays offer to extend fibre beyond the 93 percent footprint.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

NBN Co has gone ahead with its plans of extending the fibre rollout beyond the 93 percent footprint if customers are willing to pay, confirming that it has completed its first fibre-extension upgrade in Tasmania.

In recent weeks, Labor has trumpeted that its fibre-to-the-premises National Broadband Network (NBN) does not cost the end customer any money to have the fibre installed, unlike the Coalition's proposal, in which Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that customers in fibre-to-the-node areas would pay to have the fibre rolled out right to their premises.

But Labor's fibre network does not reach 100 percent of the population. A total of 7 percent of premises will be served by fixed-wireless or satellite services instead of fibre, because the company has said that the cost for installing fibre to those locations is prohibitive. The same 7 percent would also continue to receive fixed-wireless or satellite services under the Coalition, but Turnbull has suggested that more regional communities could receive fibre to the node.

In 2011, in response to expressions of interest from people living in those areas that would miss out, NBN Co began formalising a policy to allow those outside of the fibre footprint to get fibre, provided that they pay the difference in the cost.

NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley said at the time that it would be "very expensive" to deliver; one estimate that a business owner in South Australia received quoted that 1.3 kilometres of fibre would cost him AU$150,000.

In answers to questions on notice from the April joint parliamentary committee hearing on the NBN, released earlier this week, the company confirmed that since formalising the policy, one extension has been constructed, and eight are currently under "commercial discussions".

NBN Co told ZDNet today that the extension was for a single business based in Tasmania. The company would not reveal the cost or the length of fibre that was required for the extension, stating that it was a matter for the business itself.

The responses from NBN Co also confirmed that construction contracts include a "regime for liquidated damages" to be paid to NBN Co if, as NBN Co has now confirmed to be the case, the construction of the NBN is delayed.

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