TAMWORTH residents have been urged to settle for nothing less than what was originally promised under Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN), a communications expert saying the community will live to regret any inferior option.
As Armidale becomes one of just a handful of areas in Australia to embrace the full benefits of the fibre-to-the-premises fast broadband technology today, regional communications advocate Alun Davies has warned Tamworth risks being left behind if the NBN is watered down.
From today, the decommissioning of the copper network in Armidale begins in large parts of the city, about 80 per cent of which will eventually be connected by fibre-to-the-premises, the original plan for much of Australia under Labor’s NBN.
But, the Coalition government has now changed the technology mix, and fibre-to-the-node – which uses the existing copper network – is now the preferred option in many areas, with fixed wireless for more outlying areas and satellite for remote locations.
Yesterday, member for New England Barnaby Joyce all but confirmed fibre-to-the-node was the future for Tamworth, saying he had been told this week by communications minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office that the technology would begin to be rolled out in Tamworth in the next two years.
When asked if fibre-to-the-premises was a dead argument for Tamworth now, Mr Joyce said the government was looking at the bottomline.
“If we go fibre-to-the-premises ... we will have moved away from the argument that we actually want to fix up the finances of the nation. We would’ve gone back to the position that we can just borrow money forever,” he said.
“The other thing is, too, if we do go with fibre-to-the-premises and get the real cost and put the real charge through to the consumer, they don’t want to pay for it and rightly so because it’s through the roof.”
That’s not to say some of Tamworth’s existing estates don’t already have fibre, and new subdivisions will also be connected with fibre, but Mr Joyce argues fibre-to-the-node for the remainder of the city will deliver the broadband speeds the community needs and is the most cost-effective option.
He rejects any suggestion Tamworth will become a “second-class citizen” to Armidale in terms of communications potential, but Mr Davies, who’s had experience installing fibre-to-the-node systems, says it’s inferior in terms of speed and maintenance, and could influence the decisions of businesses and individuals looking for a tree change.
“If they want to relocate to a regional area, they’ll go where the best technology is and fibre is the best (communications) technology there is,” he said.
Mr Davies also argues fibre-to-the-node will be the more costly alternative in the long run.
“Once you have fibre-to-the-home that’s it. With fibre-to-the-node, you’ve got a whole lot of complications ... and I guarantee, down the track, you’ll be cursing the day it happened.”