Labor's early election pledge to offer fibre to "nearly 7 in 8" FTTN users

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Labor's early election pledge to offer fibre to "nearly 7 in 8" FTTN users

Not just the lucky half.

Federal Labor has pledged an extra $2.4 billion of NBN upgrades if it wins the 2022 election, enabling 90 percent of Australians in the fixed line footprint to order gigabit speed services by 2025.

The party also said it would keep NBN Co “in public hands” instead of pursuing the sale of the company and its network, which has been on the cards under an LNP government for some time.

But the major commitment is to provide an additional 1.5 million homes and businesses “access to fibre” and gigabit speeds, effectively within a single term of parliament.

A formal announcement will be made on Wednesday morning; however, iTnews was among media outlets to be given advance details.

“Our plan will give Australians who now rely on copper wire connections the choice of having fibre connected directly into their homes if they want a faster NBN speed than their copper can deliver,” ALP leader Anthony Albanese and shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland said.

NBN Co is currently spending nearly $3 billion overbuilding about half of its fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) footprint with fibre.

Those in the lucky half of the FTTN footprint can order a high speed service to qualify for an “on-demand” fibre lead-in to then be built connecting their home to this new fibre network. Orders can be placed from March 2022.

Under NBN Co’s program, “around 8 million premises or up to 75 percent of homes and businesses on the fixed line network to access nbn’s highest wholesale speed tiers, if they so choose, by 2023.” 

Labor, on the other hand, wants to “allow 90 percent of Australians in the fixed line footprint - over 10 million premises - [to] have access to world-class gigabit speeds by 2025.”

Should it win the next federal election - currently tipped to be held in either March or April 2022 - it would do this by running fibre past another 1.5 million premises, expanding NBN Co’s existing overbuild program.

Labor said the expansion “will particularly benefit regional Australia, which has been left behind by the Morrison-Joyce Government, by providing up to 660,000 additional homes and businesses in our regions with access to optical fibre.”

Labor’s plan would mean 3.5 million of the 4.1 million premises in the FTTN footprint would have the choice of upgrading to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), or staying with FTTN.

There would, however, be about 600,000 premises in the footprint that are not given a chance to upgrade, presumably due to distance or other factors that would make deployment to them expensive.

Labor said it would source the $2.4 billion for the extra upgrades “through a combination of Commonwealth loans, free cash flows and equity if determined appropriate.”

“The optimal financing mix and capital structure will be determined [when] in government,” the party said.

After the upgrades, Labor estimated that greater than 95 percent of premises in the FTTN footprint in the Northern Territory and Tasmania would have access to fibre.

The percentage drops to 93 percent for South Australia, 92 percent for Western Australia, 86 percent for NSW, 83 percent for Queensland and the ACT, and 75 percent for Victoria.

Albanese and Rowland said that “families need reliable, fast connections for school and work, small businesses and entrepreneurs need it to stay competitive, regional communities need it for all those reasons, and as a matter of safety.”

“Reliable, high speed NBN that will allow Australia to seize on the economic opportunities before us,” they said.

“Australians can and should expect to have access to world-leading internet speeds to keep us connected to each other and to the world.”

Labor said that that the Coaliton’s “oversight of the NBN has been a masterclass in technological incompetence and mismanagement” and “a drag on our economy”.

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