A couple living less than 100 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD has been told they will have to pay up to $1.2 million to get the National Broadband Network’s best service connected to their home.
Alistair Stewart, an IT consultant who often works from his Jam Jerrup home south-east of Melbourne, wants to upgrade to the NBN’s fibre optic technology because he is unhappy with its wireless service.
But the company in charge of rolling out the service, NBN Co, has told him that because his house is seven kilometres from the nearest connection, he would be charged between $800,000 and $1.2 million for the installation.
Mr Stewart, who revealed the issue to Jon Faine on ABC Radio Melbourne, said he was shocked by the figure.
“Outrageous, absolutely outrageous,” he said.
“The best way to put this is that NBN want you to shut up and live with what you’ve got. ‘Anything but fibre’ is the motto. That’s how I feel.”
But a spokesman for NBN Co told the ABC that running fibre seven kilometres for one property was unrealistic.
He said the farthest the company had ever run fibre for an individual property was about two kilometres.
“In this case, Jam Jerrup is covered by a fixed wireless tower which is active and is working within specifications,” he said.
“It is possible for individual premises to switch to a different kind of technology — but it is wholly a user pays system.”
The NBN came to their neighbourhood 18 months ago, and Mr Stewart had hoped it would be an improvement on the ADSL connection his business relied on.
But instead of an optic fibre connection, which is the NBN’s best technology, the Stewarts were given a fixed wireless connection.
NBN Co offers every home in Australia an NBN connection of some description and where fixed line connections are unavailable, customers are given fixed wireless or a satellite connection, which offer far slower speeds.
Mr Stewart said the service has been “terrible”.
“We’re getting 25-30 megabits on a 50-megabit service at best. The average is between nine and 20 megabits per second,” he said.
“It’s inconsistent and drops out.
“In my work I connect to client sites and do remote work. I require service consistency that doesn’t drop out and is low latency.”
Mr Stewart said fixed wireless could never match the performance of a fixed-fibre connection.
“Wireless may support one person using the internet with current technology, but it’s just not fit for multiple people using multiple products at the same time,” he said.
“It’s a good supplementary network for low usage and typical web browsing, but that’s not why we need our internet. Our data use is only going to go up exponentially.”
NBN Co said it was working to improve the performance of its fixed wireless system.
NBN Co denies claims it inflated installation costs
Mr Stewart had hoped NBN Co could use the existing infrastructure that delivered his old ADSL connection, but the company said it was not that simple.
It has confirmed that running a new fibre connection to his property would probably cost more than $800,000.
Last year, it was revealed that one customer in Shaw, Queensland, paid more than $217,000 to have NBN fibre connected to their property.
The next most expensive options, paid for by NBN Co, were $91,000 to connect a single premises in Ravenswood, $87,000 on a bowling club in Invermay and $56,000 on a house in Kingston — all in Tasmania.
Mr Stewart said the $800,000 quote was designed to dissuade customers like him from pursuing fibre-to-the-premises technology, because it was in the “too-hard basket”.
But NBN Co has flatly rejected accusations the quote was inflated, telling the ABC the figure was realistic and that taxpayers could not be expected to foot the bill for customers who already had access to NBN technology.
NBN Co said it costs up to $30,000 to run a fibre line even a few hundred metres.
“It reflects the significant cost of undertaking civil works and a new fibre rollout of many kilometres from our nearest fibre infrastructure to the subject premises,” the NBN spokesman said.
But Mr Stewart said he did not expect anything for free.
“I’m more than willing to work with NBN Co to come to reasonable conclusion. I don’t expect them to provide me something for no cost. But it shouldn’t be entirely privately funded,” he said.
“My understanding the whole project is a social infrastructure project … but it seems to be more of a for-profit, private company now.”