The Federal Government has celebrated the first birthday of its National Broadband Network (NBN) project.
In a statement today, Broadband Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, extolled progress made since the project officially launched 12 months ago, when the Federal Government dropped all commercial tenders by independent telcos to build the network.
Instead, it opted to start its own company, NBN Co, to implement and oversee the rollout. The network will deliver maximum speeds of 100Mbps with selected areas promised up to 12Mbps through wireless and satellite technology. Last April, Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced NBN Co and revealed the cost of the predominantly fibre network would be $43 billion – a long way from the $4.5bn quoted during Labor’s election campaign. The infrastructure project was labelled “reckless” by former Shadow Communications Minister, Nick Minichin, while his successor, Tony Smith, claims it is an “ill-conceived adventure”. The NBN price tag, according to the Opposition, also needs to be justified.
"It’s been a year that has demonstrated Labor’s total disregard for responsible policy making and a complete lack of concern for the interests of taxpayers," Smith said in a statement. "It has been a year when Labor has ignored countless warnings about the irresponsibility of its ill-judged plan."
Meanwhile, the telecommunications industry has mostly embraced the NBN with open arms. The exception is Telstra, which is fighting tooth and nail against the Government’s proposal to split its retail and wholesale arms under a reformed Telecommunications Act. The move would not only quash the telco giant’s dominance, but also allow NBN Co to absorb its backhaul infrastructure and expedite the network rollout.
The Opposition has since succeeded in delaying the proposed telecommunications legislation.
While Senator Conroy pointed out several examples of NBN work over the past year, including fibre rollouts in several locations and the appointment of the first retail ISPs, the public hasn’t yet trialled the service. Wholesale pricing also remains a mystery. So what has the NBN project achieved so far?
Late last year, Tasmania became the test bed for the first fibre network and backbone links. The rollout continues and in March, the Federal Government announced the first retail ISPs for the state: iiNet, Internode and iPrimus.
The Government also assigned $250 million to the Regional Backbone Blackspots program for over 100 rural locations with little to no Internet connections. The Queensland town of Mt Isa was the first area to get a taste of the NBN when the rollout commenced in February. NBN Co also announced the first five mainland Australian sites to trial fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) broadband in February. These sites will be used to test network design and construction methods, according to the Department of Broadband, and include part of the suburb of Brunswick in Melbourne, and Kiama Downs south of Wollongong.
With an eight-year timeline, there is still a lot to be done on the nationwide NBN rollout. The Federal Government continues to plough ahead with the fibre project and all eyes will be watching its every move.