The National Broadband Network (NBN) is already under construction in Penrith, but the Coalition has promised local residents it will complete it faster and at a cost more affordable to tax payers if elected in September.
Speaking exclusively with the Weekender on Tuesday afternoon, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the Coalition’s plan to install fibre cables to a node and then rely on the existing copper network to connect each house to the node, is a more responsible use of tax payers’ dollars.
The current Federal Government NBN roll out is connecting each individual premise to fibre cabling.
“Our policy will get everybody onto very fast broadband sooner at less cost to the tax payer and more affordably for the consumer than Labor’s can,” Mr Turnbull said.
“If money was no object and time was no object, you would have fibre everywhere. If you are trying to use public money cost effectively and responsibly and you want Internet access to be affordable; now remember the biggest barrier to access to the Internet is lack of income… what we are trying to do is get the balance right; delivering the services that people want and value, spending tax payers’ money responsibly and making sure it is still affordable.”
Mr Turnbull said that where construction is already underway, there will be no disruption if a change of Government occurs.
“Construction that is contracted will continue, we want to accelerate completion of the network, not hold it up, we certainly don’t want to throw it into a great big hiatus,” he said.
“We are not going to terminate contracts or anything like that. If a contract is outstanding it will be honoured but you have to remember that the NBN has been remarkably unsuccessful in connecting premises to the fibre.”
In the Penrith CBD, Jamisontown, South Penrith, Waterside estate, Agnes Banks, Londonderry and Glenmore Ridge, construction of the Federal Government’s fibre to the home NBN has either commenced or been completed. Construction of the NBN in Cambridge Gardens and Cranebrook is due to start as early as May.
For the rest of the Penrith region, residents wanting to have their house connected to fibre cabling will still be able to do so under the Coalition’s model.
“They would pay the NBN Co an amount of money and we haven’t stipulated what that would be but it would be several thousands of dollars to pull a fibre strand from the node to their house,” Mr Turnbull said.
“I think there would be very little demand for this, very, very little demand. And it is really just catering for the occasional case where someone might have a business that they are running from home that requires it.”
Under the Coalition’s plan, new suburbs that have no infrastructure will still receive fibre connections to each house; as will shopping centres, commercial districts and public facilities like hospitals.
Mr Turnbull said the NBN Co would be responsible for making “a commercial decision” about which areas would be economically viable to support individual fibre connections to premises.
“At any given time at least 30 per cent of homes would be vacant or wireless only and of the remaining 70 per cent, only a handful of them are going to want to have even the highest speeds available on fibre to the node,” he said.
“On the other hand if you have an industrial park or business centre you know you can put fibre into there and get a lot of customers, because businesses will want to access a lot of bandwidth and you can do it very cost effectively.
“We are taking a practical and business like approach to the problem and therefore building the network in a more cost effective way.”
The Coalition’s plan will cost around $30 billion, whilst the Federal Government’s concept will cost around $90 billion.
Lindsay MP, David Bradbury, labelled the Coalition’s plan short-sighted and disappointing.
“The copper network will need to be replaced as it is deteriorating, why not replace it while the rest of the network is being upgraded?” he asked.
“If residents want to have their homes connected to fibre under the Coalition’s plan, the figure is somewhere around $5,000 and who will be able to afford that?
“The Coalition’s policy is very short sighted because in a couple of years applications that rely on high speed Internet will develop but our infrastructure will be outdated.”