Labor will pressure the federal government to upgrade remaining National Broadband Network (NBN) areas that are planned to receive the inferior fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) connection.
Labor sources exclusively told The New Daily on Tuesday that the party is gearing up for an assault on FTTN, seeking instead a rollout of “future proof” fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC).
It will be the opposition’s first major campaign against the NBN rollout.
Labor wants residents, local groups, chambers of commerce and businesses in FTTN-designated areas to push for a scale-up to FTTC by contacting their local Labor MP.
This follows NBN Co chief Bill Morrow admitting at a NBN Joint Standing Committee meeting earlier this month that the 2018 Corporate Plan, to be announced on Thursday, has not allowed for any expansion to the FTTC network.
Fibre-to-the-curb will service fewer than one million homes and businesses by the end of the rollout.
“There’s nothing that we are submitting in the plan that takes it [FTTC] above the million,” Mr Morrow said.
Labor will urge the government to reject NBN Co’s “shortsighted” upcoming corporate plan, and instead scale down copper [FTTN] and expand FTTC where it remains feasible.
The campaign will rely on the local knowledge of Labor MPs and NBN Co’s willingness to release its secret rollout database to determine which FTTN-designated areas across Australia are yet to enter the construction phase.
Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland told The New Daily last month that while fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) is still Labor’s preferred policy, the FTTC technology was deemed an “acceptable alternative”.
“The Turnbull government has been afforded the necessary space to retreat from their poor quality FTTN technology, but this window is rapidly closing,” Ms Rowland said.
“Labor will be taking the Turnbull government to task, insisting they take action before it is too late.”
FTTC is one of the latest additions to the NBN rollout’s multi-technology mix, which involves connecting fibre to a distribution point outside each serviced home. This uses a much shorter length of existing copper cable than for FTTN, which means it should achieve faster internet speeds.
FTTC costs about $600 more per premise ($2800), compared to FTTN ($2200), and remains significantly cheaper than the superior FTTP ($4400).
It is also less costly to upgrade from fibre-to-the-curb to fibre-to-the-premises if required in the future.
A NBN Co spokesperson did not offer an explanation as to why it did not plan to further increase the curb rollout.
“We added 300,000 premises to the FTTC footprint in April this year,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the multi-technology mix allows NBN to deploy the most cost-effective technology for each area.
“This enables a faster rollout, and NBN to generate revenues earlier which can then be re-invested into future upgrades,” she said.
“NBN is transparent about which technology types are being deployed.
“NBN’s address check function on its website shows the technology type being deployed to each premises in Australia, while the company reports the breakdown of technologies and their respective costs in its Corporate Plan, Annual Report, and quarterly financial updates.”
She said the additional $600 for every planned node connection to shift to curb would add up to billions of dollars in extra project costs, given there are about six million FTTN premises expected at rollout completion by 2020.