NBN Co has been accused of using its Sky Muster satellite service as a “dumping ground” for premises on metropolitan fringes that are otherwise too hard or expensive to serve.
In a submission to the joint parliamentary inquiry into the NBN, BIRRR (Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia) expressed disappointment that more underserved areas of Australia were only being offered Sky Muster services.
It said that “despite extensive research” it was often unclear why NBN Co made choices about the access technology a particular town or community would get.
“In some cases there appears to have been an ad hoc approach and a wave of a wand for several large communities (already receiving ADSL) with many businesses and fibre running through town, yet [they were] mapped ... for Sky Muster satellite,” BIRRR said.
It was revealed last year that some existing ADSL users would wind up with Sky Muster on the NBN because they were too far from a proposed node location to serve with a copper-based access technology.
Further, BIRRR was concerned that the number of premises in the Sky Muster footprint continued to increase.
Sky Muster is now expected to cover some 428,189 premises, according to the latest NBN weekly report.
While the number of actual premises with active Sky Muster connections remains well under that number, BIRRR is concerned the growing number of premises to be served by the satellite could impact the services of those who need them most.
“This increase in the footprint size will reduce the capacity for Sky Muster enhancements to offer increased benefits to rural and remote users,” the group said.
“It is our view that Sky Muster has been used as a ‘dumping ground’ for harder-to-install and more expensive connection areas on the metropolitan fringes, when it should have been reserved for those that are truly rural and remote.
“BIRRR is concerned with the growing number of residences mapped for satellite and that some of these addresses are not rural or remote.”
NBN Co has previously revealed thousands of premises to be served by Sky Muster are in electorates that are classified as “urban”, although some are on islands within mainland electorate boundaries.
Comment was being sought from NBN Co at the time of publication.