NBN

The National Broad­band Net­work is here but many ques­tions re­main unan­swered, writes

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Nicholson

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 .

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