Who Deserves To Get The NBN First?

Should the National Broadband Network provide blanket metro coverage before expanding to rural areas?

NBN Co has laid down its plans for the next stage of the National Broadband Network, a Fibre-to-the-Home network designed to offer 100 Mbps internet connections to Australian homes and businesses. The latest rollout plan reveals which towns and suburbs will see the work commence within the next 12 months or three years. You can check the NBN rollout map to see if it’s coming to your street in the near future.

This phase of the NBN is designed to cover roughly a third of Australia’s population, but the grand plan is to reach 93 percent of Australian homes and businesses over the next ten years. Wireless and satellite will be used to fill in the gaps.

While some people will have to wait longer than others, thankfully NBN Co is taking a systematic approach to the rollout. We won’t see a repeat of the hotch potch HFC cable rollouts of the 1990s. Telstra and Optus chased each other through the suburbs with little regard as to who missed out. As a result of the haphazard HFC rollout, some streets got both cables while others got none. ADSL2+ has done a poor job of filling the gaps, as speeds are highly dependent on your distance from the exchange and the condition of the copper line.

The NBN is designed to stop a repeat of the HFC cable fiasco by forcing all of the telcos to share the one network. It’s is one of Australia’s most significant infrastructure projects since the Trans-Australia Railway joined the east and west coasts. Considering the scale of the project, obviously some people will need to wait for the NBN to reach their door.

What’s interesting is the latte-fueled whinging from some trendy inner suburbs about missing out on the next stage of the fibre rollout while supposedly less-deserving country folk get a taste of NBN goodness. Regional Australians have always been treated as second-class citizens when it comes to telecommunications, yet apparently once again they’re supposed to wait their turn while the cities pull even further ahead.

A look at the NBN rollout schedule reveals that it doesn’t play favourites between states or electorates. There is a push to prioritise regional areas, but the big cities still have the lion’s share of NBN deployments — as that’s where most people live.

NBN Co needs the rollout to be as cost-effective as possible, which means that some people will have to wait. Regardless of where they live, who they vote for or how deserving they believe they are. Some of these urbanites complaining about missing out on the next phase of the NBN will be the same people complaining that the NBN costs too much.

Despite their metrocentric sense of entitlement, for once some city dwellers will have to just wait their turn.


2012-04-11

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