Government says no: Rejects call to mandate NBN switch to FTTC

Releases predictable response to NBN inquiry report

The government has rejected a parliamentary inquiry’s recommendation that NBN be directed to complete as much as possible of the remaining fixed-line portion of the National Broadband Network using fibre to the curb (FTTC) or fibre to the premises (FTTP).

This government today released its response to the first report of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network, which was published in September.

The government’s said that it “remains committed to the Multi Technology Mix” which it said “well see the roll out of fast broadband as soon as possible, at affordable prices and at least cost to tax payers”.

The MTM approach means that NBN can roll out FTTC and FTTP where appropriate, the government argued.

In addition to FTTC and FTTP, NBN is employing fibre to the node (FTTN) and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC). NBN’s use of FTTN and HFC has proved controversial.

Telstra, Optus and TPG last year all revealed plans to refund customers who had purchased FTTN plans with unachievable speeds. Speeds for end users with FTTN connections can vary significantly due to factors such as a home’s distance from a node and the condition of copper used for the ‘last mile’ connection.

NBN has currently suspended the activation of new HFC orders while it works to deal with performance problems. NBN announced the move in November.

NBN has increased its planned footprint for FTTC, with the government-owned company currently indicating it will use it to connect around a million homes and businesses. NBN CEO Bill Morrow last year revealed that the company is “aggressively looking” at how it can further cut the costs of deploying FTTC in order to expand its use.

The government rejected nine of the joint standing committee’s 15 recommendations. The government said it supported the remaining recommendations in principle — arguing that they were already being implemented in some form.

The government said it was “disappointed” that the report of the committee’s majority “indicates a failure to understand the fundamentals of the NBN.”

“While it does not agree with all of the conclusions and recommendations contained in the majority report, the Government does however note that the report highlight the consumer experience and acknowledges that improving consumer experiences during connection and use of the NBN is an important priority,” the document said.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that the Government has arrogantly dismissed the pragmatic pathway recommended by the NBN Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee to deliver more fibre and less copper,” said Labor’s broadband spokesperson, Michelle Rowland.

“This was an opportunity to find some middle ground.”

“The response to the committee makes clear Malcolm Turnbull is not interested in solutions, he simply wants to sit back and watch the experience of consumers and the competitiveness of our digital economy languish under his second-rate copper NBN,” Rowland said.

The full government response is available online (PDF).

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