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NBN Delays, “Crisis” Looms: Turnbull


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Several new housing estates across the country have been waiting months for the $37.4 bn National Broadband Network’s fibre to be installed, leaving households without a telephone line.

A report in the AFR has cited “several” housing developments including Landsdale, Perth and others in NSW, waiting six months for the NBN to be installed.

Some property developers, including Stockland, are even giving residents smartphones to make up for the lack of in-house communication on their newly purchased property.

Developers are said to be unaware of a new installation date, six months after the fibre was scheduled to be installed.

NBN Co’s corporate plan, released last month, alluded to a six month delay on its rollout and said the construction period for the high speed fibre network would be extended by 6 months, due for final final completion 2021.

Liberal MP and NBN chief opponent Malcolm Turnbull has seized on the delays to the broadband rollout, warning of a “real looming crisis for thousands of Australians,” yesterday in Canberra.

“It is simply not a matter of them not having access to optical fibre, they have no fixed line whatsoever.”

Turnbull claims up to 74,000 households are without no fixed line at present, due to the “extraordinary incompetence” of NBN Co.

The NBN Co insist it is dealing with the delays and is hiring additional construction staff to get the work completed, a spokesperson told SmartHouse.

The broadband network is one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever to hit Australia, which will cover 93% of the population with high speed broadband by 2021.

NBN Co are obliged to deliver fibre to every housing estate with over 100 premises that received planning approval after January 2011, if they want it.

“We’ve had requests to install the NBN in a total of 132,000 homes over the next decade but the vast majority of these haven’t been built yet,” the NBN Co. spokesperson told SH.

“Without doubt our greenfields responsibilities represent one of the biggest challenges for the NBN – given the geographic spread of the locations and the lack, in many cases, of existing infrastructure,.”

“It doesn’t matter if that development is in the city or the desert or is situated near a telephone exchange or any connecting infrastructure.”

The fibre rollout is no mean feat and requires installing temporary infrastructure that in some cases involves rolling out hundreds of kilometres of new backhaul fibre.

“We’ve taken on extra construction contractors (Leighton’s subsidiary Visionstream and Service Stream) to get the job done,” the spokesperson added.

But developers can choose to employ a private sector operator if they want and the NBN Co is the provider of last resort for new estates, not the provider of first resort.

NBN Corporate Plan states that by the end of FY2012 it will have passed through 65,000 premises in total, with10,000 of those completed this year.

In its plan, NBN Co also admitted its targets for the rollout to greenfield sites had slumped due to lack of demand from developers.

However, with the advent of mobile phones demand for home phones has slumped, so aside from the lack of broadband, it may not be the all-out crisis Turnbull is predicting, providing the installation happens soon, that is.