NBN Co struggles to garner support from first release residents

Extra time aimed at combating uncertainty of election

Residents in the first National Broadband Network (NBN) mainland release sites will have until 8 October to return consent forms allowing wholesaler NBN Co to install fibre at their premises.

The extension, revealed this week by the company, affects residents at approximately 12,200 premises in the sites of Brunswick, Townsville, Armidale, Willunga, Kiama Downs and Minnamurra.

NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, said in a statement that response to the rollout had been positive so far in the areas, but the company was yet to receive the consent forms required to install the optical network terminal (ONT) and fibre cable to the premises.

“I recognise that some people may have been holding back given the uncertainty that surrounded the election, so we have now provided an extra window of opportunity,” Quigley said.

Those properties affected will receive an information pack next week with information about the project, which will likely settle qualms and any misconceptions continuing around the NBN.

“By signing the consent form you don’t have to cancel your existing phone or internet service. It simply gives you a chance to prepare your premises for the opportunity to be part of the NBN at a time of your choosing once the network goes live,” Quigley said.

Construction of the network has begun in Townsville, Willunga, Kiama and Armidale, with expectations it will be completed early next year.

Criticisms still remain around whether uptake of the NBN will be enough to justify the project. Initial expectations from the Tasmanian Government during the first trial rollout in the state suggested take-up would only be 16 per cent, though subsequent statistics indicate around half of 4,000 eligible premises consented to a fibre installation.

Talk has also continued around the possibility of an opt-out NBN, particularly in Tasmania, which would require residents to actively tell NBN Co or contractors not to install the fibre, rather than the current, opt-in method. State Premier, David Bartlett, has suggested passing legislation allowing such activity through Parliament, though any installation as yet requires permission from the owner of the building.

Installation is free for trial sites, as in Tasmania, but the wholesaler may charge a fee for non-standard installation, such as if a resident wants the cable and ONT at the back of the house.

Additional reporting by James Hutchinson

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