Brisbane drops residential fibre project

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Brisbane drops residential fibre project

Updated: Scales back greenfields requirements.

Brisbane City Council has begun to tear down the last vestiges of a years-old plan to build its own fibre-to-the-premises network, seven months after contracts with a third party collapsed.

The plan had been broken into two parts. Existing homes were to receive fibre connections run through sewer ducts, while homes in new estates received fibre at the housing developer's expense.

The council has now started scaling back requirements for new housing estate developers to roll out pit-and-pipe infrastructure and symmetric fibre services for council's private use.

Revised development guidelines were due to be put out to public consultation in coming months.

The sewer fibre plan had also now been pulled with council content to wait for NBN Co to arrive.

i3 finished

Brisbane had, under former lord mayor and state premier candidate Campbell Newman, also announced plans to build the network with contractor i3 Group Asia Pacific.

i3 Group planned to use existing ducts in the city's sewer network to build a relatively low-cost fibre infrastructure.

Though i3 executives and the Department of Broadband said the network was complementary to the National Broadband Network, it would have effectively duplicated efforts by NBN Co as well as Telstra's rollout of fibre to homes in the South Brisbane area.

i3 had trialled the system to the council but a planned rollout ultimately collapsed less than seven months after the contract was first put in place.

At the time, Newman reportedly said the council would look to other potential internet service providers in order to continue build of the network.

The council had earmarked the project as a medium-term objective in an interim update to its four-year corporate plan, published last year, but the telecommunications project had since been removed from subsequent quarterly financial and annual budgetary documents.

A source at the council said the plans had effectively died with i3's failure. "We're waiting for the NBN, just like everyone else," the source said.

A council spokesman had not responded to iTnews' questions by the time of publication.


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Developers win reprieve

In addition to i3 Group's sewer installation plans, the council had retained a six-year-old provision that developers build two telecommunications conduits at every property, in addition to infrastructure required by utility Energex.

The provision, introduced in a 2005 revision of subdivision and development guidelines from the council, required developers to install fibre capable of 100 Mbps or more symmetric at each lot in "major developments and public projects" for the council's private use.

The provision continued in a 2008 revision [pdf] of guidelines and was yet to be revised, despite the announcement of the National Broadband Network and the failure of i3's plan.

It was believed the provisions had remained unenforced on developers until a recent development at Rochedale, south-east of the central business district.

Under the provisions, the infrastructure and fibre would be handed over to council for its own planned optical fibre network and for use by other telcos.

"Council intends to license the fibre optic network to a suitable operator to provide common services within the community, and facilitate open access to all content and service providers, including provision from the customers themselves, on a cost effective and equitable basis," the guidelines, so far unchanged, read.

The privately held fibre would also be used for traffic management at major developments as well as closed circuit television cameras installed at bus stops and "interactive community facilities".

Sources at the council alleged that only one developer had complained so far about the guidelines.

However, developers appeared to receive a reprieve in July when current Brisbane Lord Mayor, Graham Quirk, told Queensland members of the Urban Development Institute of Australia that they would no longer be required to provide additional pit-and-pipe solely for the council's use.

Council had instead sought private access to the infrastructure being installed by developers for NBN Co's use.

The wholesaler was yet to offer this to councils elsewhere and a spokesman for the company there were "no plans to share pit and pipe infrastructure with council or others in new developments as we require our own conduit for a range if operational, legal and financial reasons".

Sources and correspondence between the council and developers, sighted by iTnews, confirmed the council had planned to revise its next development guidelines to remove these requirements.

They would be replaced by interim provisions that required developers to provide a "certificate" from a telco providings arrangements for service to each property.

They would still be required to install a second conduit, for the council's uses, on one side of "neighbourhood access roads".

Consternation continued among some developers over the definition of which roads were required.

Development consultant Robin Russell estimated the provisions could ultimately account for 90 percent of roads in some developments.

UDIA had yet to receive written advice from the council detailing how the provisions would work.

However, sources at the council maintained the majority of developers were happy with the interim guidelines, which would be made permanent once a revision to development guidelines was finalised.

"Brisbane City Council's telecommunications proposal makes as much sense as if it proposed to construct an alternative electricity network to supply its street lights and traffic signals, instead of running the electricity through Energex's network of transformers and cables," Russell said.

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