In September 2017, the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network released a comprehensive report detailing the issues with the NBN and recommendations for the Government to improve the service. One of the chief recommendations was to complete much of the remaining fixed line network using, at a minimum, FTTC technology.
The Government's response to the first report has largely rubbished those recommendations.
The initial report, The rollout of the National Broadband Network provided the Government with 23 recommendations surrounding the future of the NBN. Among them, switching the rest of the rollout to FTTC at a minimum, forming regional support groups and giving end users clear information about the maximum obtainable speed of their NBN on a per premise basis.
The Government is disappointed that after considering 191 submissions; holding 15 public hearings; receiving testimony from 179 witnesses; and undertaking three site visits, the Committee's majority report and recommendations indicates a failure to understand the fundamentals of the NBN.
You would assume that after considering that amount of submissions and hearings, the Committee would be somewhat well-placed to make a statement on the future of the NBN rollout, even if the Liberal members that were a part of that Committee didn't necessarily agree with those recommendations.
Now, the Government has taken an official stance and responded in kind: Many of the suggested recommendations will not be supported.
In the face of today's news, 'Recommendation 1' may be the most damning. In The rollout of the National Broadband Network report, this recommendation states that "the Australian Government direct and enable nbn to complete as much as possible of the remaining fixed line network using FTTC at a minimum (or FTTP), and require nbn to produce a costed plan and timetable under which that would be achieved."
In the Government's response article, in bold, they clearly state that they do not support this recommendation.
They are backing in their controversial Multi Technology Mix (MTM) and suggest this will see the rollout occur as fast as possible and at affordable prices to the tax payer. The Government, as the Chair of the Committee did, highlights that the cost to taxpayers of changing direction in technology would be substantial, both in terms of delay and spend in excess of another $30 billion.
Sadly, this won't be great news to users stuck on FTTN technology. By the time the rollout is complete in 2020, only one in four users will have access to speeds of 100Mbps or more if they're using Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) technology. On the other hand, 100% of FTTC, FTTP, FTTB, HFC and 50% of Fixed Wireless users will have access to 100Mbps or better.
Complicating matters is the fact that NBN Co report the FTTN and FTTB numbers together - a figure that stands at 4.6 million premises ready for service and 3.4 activated. Thus, it's impossible to tell exactly how many customers will fall in that 24% that cannot achieve 100Mbps by the time the rollout is complete in 2020.
With retailers already providing refunds to NBN users for inadequate speeds and many unwilling to pay the exorbitant fees to ISPs for the extra speed in the first place, there may seem to be merit in the Government suggesting MTM is the way forward.
Yet, it's hard to imagine that this mixed technology approach will pay dividends in the future, when users clamour for higher and higher bandwidth.