Constructing a national broadband network (NBN) is a nationbuilding project on the scale of freeways and railway. Like most grand schemes, it requires vision and promises benefits to consumers into the future.
Anthony Albanese is now the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. His department told CHOICE that the Rudd Labor government sees the national broadband network as essential infrastructure, like electricity and water.
It's clear that the NBN is one of the election battlegrounds and voters are faced with a choice between two different plans:
- The federal government is building a fibre-to-the-premises network for most premises around the country.
- The Opposition plans to build the network with fibre-to-street nodes and then connect to the phone network for the last section for most connections. Users who want fibre to their premises will have to pay for the fibre connection and that could run into thousands of dollars.
While both sides of politics agree the network is needed, the scope, timing and cost of their respective plans are different.
There's also been criticism of both plans. The NBN rollout has been criticised for delays and the use of contractors. Yet others say those who benefit from maintaining the copper network and supplying ADSL technology present obstacles to a complete fibre rollout.
Snapshot of the current NBN
The federal government has been building a broadband network using fibre for the majority of premises around the country, and fixed wireless or satellite for the rest.
- The NBN is being built by NBN Co, a government enterprise like Australia Post.
- You won’t need to pay phone line rental on the NBN with some providers.
- The NBN Co has fixed wholesale prices until 2017.
- Internet providers such as Telstra, Optus and iiNet will sell plans with different connection speeds and data allowance.
- To compare plans, see nbncompared.com.au.
- It may be some years before you can get the NBN, depending on where you live. Find out when it will reach your street on the rollout map at the NBN website.
- A connection box will be installed on the outside of your house for free.
- There were 48,600 users as of the end of March 2013.
- Internet speed, reliability and e-services will benefit from the NBN.
- The government’s NBN website nbnco.com.au has more details.
- The ACCAN's NBN consumer guides can help answer any further questions.
The two NBN plans at a glance
Fibre to the premises (FTTP)
- Network cost: $43bn
- Timeline for completion: 2021
- Speed (download/upload): from 12Mbps/1Mbps up to 1Gbps both ways
Fibre to the node (FTTN)
- Network cost: $29.5bn
- Timeline for completion: late 2019
- Download speed: 25-100Mbps/No upload speed provided publicly
Compare the speeds of the FTTP and FTTN networks at howfastisthenbn.com.au and howfastisthenbnreally.com.au.