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NBN adding 'ready for service' areas to rollout map

Along with listing areas with services available, build commenced, and build prep, NBN will now make RFS premises searchable by the end of 2016.

The company rolling out the government's National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia has announced that it will be adding another category to its rollout information, with addresses that are ready for service (RFS) to be searchable by the end of the year.

"We're quite excited -- by the end of the year, we'll have a new web page that anybody can type in their address and find out exactly when they're RFS -- when their home will be ready for service," NBN CEO Bill Morrow said in response to a question during Senate Estimates on Tuesday evening.

"The three-year plan that you referred to is when construction will commence, not necessarily when they'll be able to order a service.

"We've heard from this committee that you're looking for greater transparency, we know your constituents are interested in this, and so by the end of the year we'll have that available.

"By the end of the year, they can type in their address and identify when they can expect service."

NBN currently provides information on its rollout map on areas that have "services available", "build commenced", and "build prep" -- although NBN in August confirmed that it has removed areas from its "build prep" maps that are not being serviced with fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) network technology.

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(Image: Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

NBN's rationale behind removing all areas from the build prep map that are slated to be connected using other network technologies -- including fibre to the node (FttN), fibre to the basement (FttB), fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FttDP), hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), and fixed-wireless -- is that since streets and driveways are not being disrupted by construction, residents do not need such lengthy notification.

"We don't do build prep on maps anymore," an NBN spokesperson said in a tweet at the time.

"Only new devs. We are not digging up drive ways, and [it's] not seen til construction."

New housing development areas, which receive FttP, will continue being shown on NBN build prep maps.

Build prep maps were added back in 2014 in an effort to make the NBN rollout more visible.

During Senate Estimates on Tuesday, Morrow also revealed that due to the costs associated, NBN does not seek out information about phone line faults registered in a given area prior to receiving confirmation that an end user would be pursuing a different network technology under the technology choice program.

"We would typically go to Telstra and ask for that information once we proceeded further, but we would not because that costs us money when we have to go ask Telstra for that information," Morrow explained.

"We would not ask it until we knew that there was a commitment that somebody was going to pay for the technology choice or for the upgrade from satellite to this approach. Then we would collect that data."

This is despite charging high amounts for applications concerning the technology choice program, which offers Australians a pure fibre alternative to NBN's FttN, FttB, FttDP, HFC, fixed-wireless, and satellite connections -- if they pay an application fee, a field quote fee, and then the cost of installing the fibre.

There are two options for the fibre-on-demand product: An Area Switch, covering between 150 and 350 premises; or an Individual Switch, covering one. Application fees for an Individual Switch cost AU$330, as does the quote fee, while Area Switches cost AU$1,100 per fibre distribution area, with the quote fee specified "upon application".

The cost of installing the fibre would then cost an average of around AU$4,300 per premises.

In April, NBN revealed that just three FttP connections were made under its technology choice program in the first year after launching it. ZDNet understands that less than 500 applications for fibre on demand were received, with NBN reviewing fewer than 100.

In February, one Tasmanian council said it would be requesting a refund on the fee it was charged by NBN for a cost analysis of upgrading two regions from FttN to FttP, because it was not detailed enough to warrant a AU$10,000 fee.

The estimate was between AU$2.75 million to AU$3.3 million for the Westbury and Hagley region upgrade, and AU$2.2 million to AU$2.75 million to upgrade Hadspen and Traveller's Rest.

Rockhampton Regional Council and Burnie City Council have also received cost estimates, while Goulburn Mulwaree Council, Greater Shepparton City Council, and Flinders Council also made applications.