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Labor $2.4 billion plan to expand suburban and regional access to full-fibre NBN

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese is promising a Labor government would invest $2.4 billion to boost the NBN, expanding full-fibre access to 1.5 million homes and businesses.

With the faux election campaign in full swing, although the election isn’t until next year, Albanese on Wednesday will release a policy designed to push fibre deeper into the suburbs and regional areas.

Labor will pledge that more than 90% of premises across Australia in the fixed line footprint – more than 10 million premises – would have access to “world-class gigabit speeds” by 2025.

“Labor will also keep the NBN in public hands, keeping internet costs for families affordable while ensuring improvements in the network,” Albanese and shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland say in a statement.

The opposition says its proposed investment would be funded by a combination of Commonwealth loans, free cash flows and equity if deemed appropriate. The mix would be determined in government.

The plan would run fibre into the street, giving those relying on copper wire the choice of having fibre connected by NBN without extra cost to their premises to get faster speed.

“Owners of these properties, mainly in the outer suburbs of our cities and in regional areas, were dudded by the Coalition when it took an axe to Labor’s original NBN design in 2013,” the policy says.

“It is estimated 660,000 premises in the regions will benefit under this plan, and 840,000 in the suburbs.”

The policy says 7.5 million households and businesses would be on a full-fibre connection or have access to one, and nearly seven in eight premises in the fibre to the node footprint would have fibre access.

Labor says its plan would create 12,000 jobs for construction workers, engineers and project managers in the regions and suburbs.

Albanese and Rowland condemn the Coalition’s oversight of the NBN as “a masterclass in technological incompetence and mismanagement causing Australia to trail behind other developed countries, slipping to 59th in the world on average broadband speeds”.

They say this has been “a drag on our economy. It has undermined the competitiveness of small businesses and left our health care and education sectors reliant on patchy, outdated technology”.

Under Labor’s original plan, unveiled by the Rudd government in 2009, the NBN was set to install fibre-optic cables to 93% of Australian homes and businesses, as part of a wholesale replacement of the existing copper network.

This “fibre to the premises” network would have delivered speeds of 100 megabits per second and above to almost the entire population, with wireless and satellite internet connections covering the remote areas not covered by the new network.

But the plan was significantly scaled back by the Abbott government in response to concerns the $37.4 billion price tag, including $30.4 billion of public funding, was too high.

The replacement NBN plan involved a mixed approach in which , while others would make do with “fibre to the node” – optical cables to a central hub from which the existing copper network would service individual premises.

The rollout of the revised plan was beset with technical problems in many areas, while some experts decried the mixed-technology plan as short-sighted (see https://theconversation.com/expert-panel-the-state-of-the-national-broadband-network-56073).

While other nations have uniform 100Mbps broadband, Australia has languished in the international league tables, offering speeds of 25Mbps across much of the NBN.

Telecommunications firms such as AT&T in the United States have begun designing networks capable of delivering 1 gigabit per second (1,000Mbps) as part of efforts to future-proof their infrastructure for the coming decades.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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