Labor to ‘facilitate’ full fibre to the premises NBN in the North

NBN: Opposition leader Rebecca White unveiled Labor's Northern Development Package in Launceston last week. Picture: Neil Richardson
NBN: Opposition leader Rebecca White unveiled Labor's Northern Development Package in Launceston last week. Picture: Neil Richardson

A majority Labor government will help facilitate a full rollout of fibre to the premises NBN to the North and North-West of the state.

The promise was listed in the party’s Northern Development Package, released last week, with no additional information.

Further details were confirmed by The Examiner and put to IT Minister Michael Ferguson, who said the pledge was an “unfunded thought bubble moment”.

The fibre to the premises model is the superior broadband technology, involving fibre optic cables directly to a household.

The alternative, and cheaper, fibre to the node option sees fibre optic cables connected to a street cabinet and connected to individual households with copper wire. 

While 100 per cent of Launceston is connected to fibre to the premises, much of the state is not.

Labor outlined its vision for the future of the NBN in its Northern Development Package stating it would “support initiatives across all levels of government and the private sector to complete the NBN fibre-connection rollout… as originally promised to Northern Tasmania”. 

Labor IT and Communications spokeswoman Madeleine Ogilvie said she was in discussions with her federal ALP colleagues on the future of the network.

“Labor is engaging with service providers in the telecommunications sector to identify and support opportunities for further enhancements of the network,” she said. 

“We are aware of proposals from private sector players regarding upgrading fibre to the node to fibre to the premises.”

Mr Ferguson questioned what Labor’s role would be in an extended rollout.

“We understand that there are about 49,000 fibre to the node connections in Northern Tasmania,” he said.

“At an average cost of $4400 per connection for fibre to the premises [connections] there is a cost of $215 million to do this work.

“Is Labor suggesting that householders pay or will Labor commit to paying these costs?”

Tasmania’s peak IT body and the private sector applauded the pledge to facilitate a full rollout of fibre to the premises broadband.

Chief executive of TasICT Dean Winter said the NBN rollout was critical for Tasmanian businesses to innovate and grow. 

While the NBN is a federal government responsibility, Mr Winter said there was scope for the state government to provide assistance. 

TasICT’s vision was always for a full fibre to the premises NBN rollout for Tasmania.

TasICT chief executive Dean Winter

“TasICT’s vision was always for a full fibre to the premises NBN rollout for Tasmania,” he said.

“The private sector may choose to selectively upgrade fibre to the node connections to fibre to the premises, but it’s hard to see that being done anymore than a case-by-case basis without significant government support.”

Launtel director Damian Ivereigh said there are “a lot of very good reasons” for a future state government to fund the rollout. 

“The state government could pay for the upgrades and the NBN would give the state government back revenue over the next four years,” Mr Ivereigh said.