The chairman of a national lobby group has told a Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network (NBN) laying cables underground may increase reliability and decrease health risks.
Peter Downey, the chairman of Sydney Cables Downunder said by laying fiber optic cables underground instead of hanging them overhead would reduce the likeliness of the destruction of communication wires by bushfires and address occupational health issues.
Downey pointed towards massive underground communication networks that are expanding and operating successfully overseas and suggested that Australia should follow their example.
He said reliability shouldn’t be compromised with cheaper solutions because underground cables would increase both efficiency and reduce offset costs such as cutting down trees to build new power poles.
“We should move forward by using the world’s best practice,” he said.
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Cables Downunder estimates burying the cables would increase the reliability of the network by 5 to 10 fold and also cut down the cost by half in the long run.
However, Downey acknowledged these numbers are estimates only and partly based on an unspecified article published in 1998. He added his conclusions were influenced by daily phone calls he received from citizens threatening to tear down the NBN cables if they were hung overhead.
The plan to lay cables underground will allow Australia to keep competitive with the rest of the world, Downey said. He also pointed to underground cables already laid successfully under the Hawkesbury River as an example of what could be done.
The Senate Select Committee said it would look into the benefits of laying cables underground to make the NBN more cost effective and reliable.
Earlier in the day the head of Australia’s peak independent research and policy advisory body told the Committee it had not been asked by the Government to play a part in the NBN rollout.