The National Broadband Network is here but many questions remain unanswered, writes
Coming soon to a street near you.
THOUSANDS of households across mainland Australia now have access to the highest of high-speed internet connections.
After years of planning and heated debate, the multibillion-dollar National Broadband Network has been connected to homes in five towns in four mainland Australian states as well as Tasmania.
Users from inner-city Melbourne to regional Queensland are now accessing the internet at speeds up to 100 megabits a second – more than five times the speed of current ‘‘ high-speed’’ internet connections.
Work also has begun on fast satellite connections to remote areas, promising a minimum speed of 12 megabits per second, while fixed wireless connections are due to begin in June next year.
Despite the NBN’s long-awaited arrival, however, debate is still raging over the cost of the network, with internet providers finally revealing their prices and the company behind the network pitching future price rises.
The NBN’s arrival in some areas also has been postponed significantly with its completion now due in 2021 at best, rather than 2017.
E Guide covers what you need to know about the NBN and when it could arrive in your area.
HOW MUCH IS IT?
The question of cost has haunted the NBN but it is now more commonly asked in relation to household expenditure, rather than the network’s $ 35.9 billion construction.
Internode created a stir when it released its proposed commercial pricing for NBN connections, starting at $ 59.95 a month for the cheapest package ( 30GB at 12mbps) and rising to $ 189.95 for one terabyte of downloads at full 100mbps speed.
Smaller internet providers Exetel and Dodo have since countered with basic NBN plans priced below $ 40 and peaking at $ 99.50.
Those prices may drop even further, however, after NBN Co last month caved in to pressure and waived one connection fee for internet service providers.
Leading ISPs, including Telstra and Optus, have yet to show their hands.
However, NBN Co is already factoring in price rises causing more controversy.
In an undertaking to be lodged with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission later this year, NBN Co will propose to freeze its entry-level price for five years. Controversially, it is also seeking to raise prices by up to 5 per cent over the CPI each year.
Shadow communications and broadband spokesman Malcolm Turnbull says this indicates that prices under the NBN ‘‘ will go up’’ rather than follow current industry trends down. The ACCC has yet to rule on the proposal.
WHERE IS IT GOING?
Homes in five centres now have a direct, fibre optic connection to the NBN after the areas were selected in the first round of mainland NBN sites.
Work is starting on the second round of sites, and to expand connections in regions including Townsville, Brunswick and Armidale.
NBN Co has yet to announce the third round of installation sites but the company did reveal locations for its fixed wireless broadband connections.
Areas outside Ballarat, Geraldton in Western Australia, Toowoomba in Queensland, Tamworth in NSW and Darwin will receive connections offering at least 12mbps. Services are due to be switched on next year.
IS IT HERE YET?
The NBN was initially due to be completed in only eight years, though that figure has since blown out to a date of June 2021.
That due date could be pushed back even further, however, after the ACCC last week warned that parts of its $ 11 billion Telstra deal could hurt competition in Australia’s internet industry and required ‘‘ important changes’’.
The ACCC will decide later this year whether to accept the deal .