Lobby group Internet Australia says a report produced by Western Sydney University – and commissioned by NBN – highlights the need for “an urgent change in our broadband strategy.” Namely, we need to scrap Fibre to the Node, and switch to Fibre to the Distribution Point.
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Gen NBN: 2020 And Beyond, calls the NBN “an essential piece of national infrastructure that enhances connectivity throughout Australia’s vast continental landmass.” It also calls connectivity “arguably the quintessential resource of the new century.”
Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton says the most critical point of the report is that “optimising Australians’ ability to make the most of the digital age will require considered, continued, and co-ordinated investments”.
Patton says this is “firmly in line” with IA’s belief that a short term focus on the cost of the NBN has resulted in the adoption of inferior technology.
“We are not building the NBN simply for today. It is a project originally designed to last for many decades to come,” Patton says. “Unfortunately the current model using ageing copper wires will not go the distance. Internet Australia’s world renowned technical experts say we will need to junk the FTTN network in 10 to 15 years’ time, if not sooner. It simply will not deliver the speeds required for the applications that will be available to consumers by then.”
Patten says we urgently need bipartisan support for a move to fibre to the distribution point (FTTdp), which has been announced for around 40 suburbs across NSW, Victoria and Queensland. That’s about 450,000 households.
“Every week that goes by they are wasting money building nodes (the big green cabinets that sit on the footpath) and supplying them with power,” Patton says. “These will all be redundant when we inevitably move to FTTdp.”
Another current focus for Internet Australia is what it describes as an attempt to “spin the facts to look like we don’t really need high speed broadband universally available”.
A statement from IA point out the latest report from the ACCC has found that the 25/5 Mbps speed tier has had the highest customer take-up, and that there has been a 28 per cent increase in consumers opting for the 100/40 Mbps tier.
“There are a number of reasons why it might look like people only want lower broadband speeds,” Patton says. “Firstly, the RSP’s [NBN’s retailers] make better margins selling lower speed tiers so they don’t benefit from upselling. There’s a flaw in the NBN’s wholesale pricing regime, which communications minister, Senator Mitch Fifield, has acknowledged and undertaken to have reviewed.”
“Secondly, the feedback we get from NBN customers is they’re not confident about signing up for higher speeds on the copper wire FTTN network because they’ve heard that it can’t deliver. In fact, only this week I spoke to someone who’s just been connected to the NBN and paid for the 100Mbps tier only to see their speed max out at 12Mbps”.