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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Faster internet for Canberra – but Labor wants more

Internet will soon be 20 times faster for 10 Canberra suburbs, the NBN Co. announced this week. Federal Labor politicians, frustrated with what they say is the ACT’s second-rate NBN infrastructure, think this is well overdue, but believe more must be done.

Residents of Banks, Campbell, Conder, Dickson, Gordon, Hume, Lyneham, O’Connor, Reid and Turner are among more than 2 million Australians whose internet will be upgraded from Fibre to the Node (FTTN; 50 megabytes per second) to Fibre to the Premises (FTTP; almost 1 gigabit per second) by 2023.

The local fibre network between the local telephone exchange (or Point of Interconnect) and the node (the cabinet or pillar in the street) will be extended to the kerb outside customers’ premises, an NBN Co. spokesperson explained.

“I’m very pleased that the Morrison Government has finally acknowledged that Canberra has substandard NBN, but they need to finish the job,” Alicia Payne MP said.

“This announcement names several suburbs in the ACT for upgrade, but many others have missed out, so it only goes part of the way to improving the NBN in the ACT.”

Ms Payne and other Federal ACT Labor politicians, Senator Katy Gallagher, Dr Andrew Leigh MP and David Smith MP, campaigned this year for a faster internet connection, claiming Canberra had the worst NBN of any Australian capital city. More than 70% of internet connections, they argued, were FTTN.

Internet connections in the ACT. Taken from Alicia Payne’s Facebook page.

Dismayed that no ACT suburbs were included in the first two rounds of the federal government’s $4.5 billion investment in faster NBN, the politicians wrote to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and NBN Co. CEO Stephen Rue in February for funding to fix Canberra’s internet.

Ms Payne said there was no consultation; Canberrans from excluded suburbs such as Calwell and Monash had already contacted her to ask why they had been left behind.

An NBN Co. spokesperson said that the 10 ACT suburbs were chosen for the upgrade because the NBN anticipated strong demand in these areas for higher speeds; it could deploy with speed and agility; it could provide maximum benefit to the most customers; and its multi-billion dollar investment was most likely to spread and multiply economic activity across the nation.

The Queanbeyan suburb of Jerrabomberra will also be upgraded to FTTP. Liberal Senator for NSW Jim Molan said this would provide a much needed boost to economic activity and employment there.

“The commencement of these works by NBN Co will create jobs for the Jerrabomberra community and support local businesses by allowing them to take advantage of the benefits that ultrafast broadband can provide,” Senator Molan said.

The NBN would make further announcements about additional towns and suburbs later this year.

Customers living or working in premises served by FTTN that could not currently access the higher speed tiers would need to order a plan based on wholesale speed tiers of 100/200 Mbps or higher to qualify for a full fibre upgrade. Fibre lead-ins would only be installed where they were needed to help achieve the desired speed.

The launch would be small-scale to begin with. The first customers would be able to place orders with internet retailers from November; more premises would be eligible from March 2022.

The NBN Co. said it would not charge eligible customers for the cost of installing the fibre lead-in. The upgrade program would be funded by selling higher speed tier plans.

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