The inevitable progression of Australia’s National Broadband Network from public to private ownership is one step closer today, with the government declaring that the network is “built and fully operational”.
Earlier this morning, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher made the announcement, despite the NBN still being actively built in some areas. Coming into the new year, there’s some 35,000 premises still not connected to the NBN, of which they’re hoping to connect around 30,000 by mid-2021.
The announcement is probably quite upsetting to those who’ve had a bad experience with the NBN. Not only are there 35,000 premises not yet connected to the network at all – almost 7 years after the rollout began – but there’s also almost a quarter of a million premises that can’t reach 25 mbps speeds.
While many – including myself – have had a generally positive experience with the National Broadband Network (I write this now on a 400mbps fibre link), not everyone has been so fortunate. Being stuck with a connection – as many in my part of northern Sydney are – that can’t reach 25mbps is insulting. These speeds were possible on cable networks 20 something years ago across Australia, and that we’ve not been able to deliver these speeds universally with a brand new network is embarrassing.
For its part, the government says:
[The NBN] “is supporting 50Mbps to more than 90 percent of the fixed line footprint and 25Mbps to approximately 98 percent of all premises, with ongoing proactive and reactive programs in place to resolve the remaining lines.”
The 2 percent of premises impacted by shoddy speeds are almost exclusively those on Fibre to the Node connections, which relies on last century’s aging (and not fit for purpose) copper phone lines. In my own suburb, there’s almost daily reports of woeful internet speeds over the NBN, and a never-ending stream of NBN vehicles coming into the area to carry out works … sadly it doesn’t seem that they resolve much, as the complaints continue.
In time, NBN Co has already indicated it will overbuild the majority of the FTTN footprint with more fibre, so that premises desiring faster speeds will be able to get Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) at next to no cost (beyond a more expensive plan).
For now, NBN Co maintains that those who can’t reach 25mbps typically “can access more than 20mbps”, but from my perspective, that’s not something to be proud of.
Whether the speed performance is up to scratch or not, the move towards privatisation seems underway .. whether it will ultimately reach that state is still unclear.
Beyond being declared built and fully operational, NBN Co must past further hurdles, including:
- A Productivity Commission report, presumably which must recommend privatisation;
- A Parliamentary joint committee review of the above report; likely to be a rubber stamp if the coalition is in power when it’s delivered;
- Approval by the Minister (see above); and
- Approval by the Parliament (somewhat less certain).
What do you make of this? Should NBN Co continue to privatisation? Should it be forced to repair and improve all underperforming connections and get rid of the woeful FTTN/FTTB networks first?
Let us know in the comments.