State to miss out on fibre NBN after 2014

TASMANIAN suburbs will not be hooked up to a fibre-only National Broadband Network after this year, NBN Co executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski has revealed.

Dr Switkowski told ABC radio in Hobart yesterday that the fibre-to-the-premises rollout would continue until the end of the year, when it would be replaced by an undetermined mix of new fibre-optic network and the existing Telstra and copper wire networks enabled to carry higher-speed broadband.

Premier Lara Giddings is labelling the revised plan a broken election promise, saying Prime Minister Tony Abbott went to the federal election promising a full fibre-optic NBN.

She criticised Mr Abbott and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull for leaving Dr Switkowski to make the announcement, two months after the strategic review Mr Turnbull requested that sparked the change of plans was released.

Opposition Leader Will Hodgman said he spoke to Mr Turnbull yesterday and said he would ``argue strongly'' for fibre to the premises. 

Mr Turnbull said the network would still provide the majority of Australians with higher-speed broadband access.

Dr Switkowski told the ABC that  the contract with Visionstream to roll out the NBN to 225,000 Tasmanian homes did not specify the technology that had to be used, meaning a lesser technology could be used if it fulfilled the requirement of a national high-speed broadband network more quickly and at less cost.

He said higher-speed internet on copper wires could deliver speeds of 50mbps, less than the 100 to 250mbps promised under an all-fibre NBN but more than the vast majority of Tasmanian homes and businesses required.

``I think the incoming government appreciated the economic reality of all that, I think believed, as I do, that the broadband experience of existing infrastructure is fit for purpose for the next five to 10 years at least and provides us with a steady upgrade path, so I am not sure that I would see the current proposal as a reversal,'' he said.

TasICT chief executive Dean Winter said the best case scenario would see between 90,000 and 100,000 Tasmanian premises gain access to the NBN by the end of the year, leaving 125,000 to be covered under the modified rollout.

Mr Winter said businesses that  did not yet have the NBN were still not clear on when they would get it and, after yesterday's announcement, in what form.

Those who can technically access the network are also having problems - he said the average wait time for an NBN connection was three months, and one company had been waiting 13 months since putting in its request.

Ziggy Switkowski

Ziggy Switkowski


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