NBN Co should focus on passing every premises: Hackett

New NBN Co board member Simon Hackett has said that while he prefers fibre to the premises as a network design for the NBN, the focus should be on getting high-speed broadband out to everyone in Australia.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

In one of his first interviews since being appointed to the NBN Co board, Internode founder Simon Hackett has admitted that while he would like fibre to the premises, getting the National Broadband Network (NBN) out past every door should be the focus for the government-owned company.

Hackett's appointment to the NBN Co board last month was broadly welcomed by the industry and fibre-to-the-premises advocates. While Hackett had long been seen as a "constructive critic" of the NBN project, he has in the past pointed out methods for the company to speed up the rollout and cut costs, while avoiding a switch to a majority fibre-to-the-node model.

In an interview on ABC radio in Adelaide this morning, Hackett — who stepped down from his board member position at iiNet to join NBN Co — said that he has already attended one board meeting in person, and is set to attend another in the coming days ahead of the release of NBN Co's strategic review to the public.

While Hackett did not reveal the findings of the review, he said that at least some premises will continue to use the existing copper line in the future.

"I love fibre to the house, but I also love getting the NBN to everybody, so it is going to be a fascinating ride. We are right on the cusp of figuring those things out," he said.

Hackett said that the rate of the NBN fibre network construction has been below everyone's expectations, and that the recent removal of map data was not a sign that the new NBN Co is stopping the construction of the network.

"It's actually some very big promises that weren't very real were taken off to take it back to reality. What we're hoping is that in the next six months is things starting to go back on that list as we start to figure out what the new build order is," he said.

He also indicated that NBN Co would soon renegotiate with Telstra and Optus over their hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network deals in a way that could see the HFC networks opened up to wholesale access. He also indicated that NBN Co is not concerned that the AU$450 million TPG buyout of AAPT and its fibre transit network will lead to the company "cherry picking" by building fibre networks out in profitable areas.

Hackett said that is just a "legal and normal way to operate" for a telecommunications company.

"The challenge for the NBN is of course to make sure they're there to provide service to everybody. It's something we're certainly mindful of. The intention of the NBN is to get everyone connected to high speed. If you've got alternatives in your area, I would say as a consumer that is a good thing," he said.

"One of the things that disappointed me about the previous term of government really is that the NBN wasn't built in places of greatest need; it was built in the places that were kind of easy. The trick for us, I think, is that we need to build in the places that are hard."

He indicated that NBN Co would be heavily focused on ensuring that upload speeds on the network are improved.

"As we go into the new era of those things, more and more we become the people sending out things into the world, so that upload speed matters hugely," he said.

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