NBN delay in Bellingen

Men at work in Macksville, where FTTN installation is underway
Men at work in Macksville, where FTTN installation is underway

If you live in the parts of Bellingen township that are slated for the Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) service, you might be wondering why you haven’t spotted any workers digging up the footpath outside your home.

At the beginning of March, the NBN rollout web page https://www.nbnco.com.au/ was indicating that the town would receive FTTC “progressively from April to June 2018”.

Now, although there has been not a peep from NBN Co about the delay, the same page is advising planned availability from October to December 2018 instead.

The areas in brown are now supposed to receive FTTC from October. The purple areas have fixed wireless.

The areas in brown are now supposed to receive FTTC from October. The purple areas have fixed wireless.

“No explanation, no detail, no respect,” fumed Andrew Woodward in a Labor for Cowper media release. “Under this government, the NBN has become the no broadband network.”

Asked to explain why there was a six-month delay, given that Urunga got its network installation on time, NBN Local spokesperson Lynette Keep said it was because NBN are less experienced with the FTTC technology.

“Urunga did get their install on time – because it was FTTN technology; a technology we have been rolling out for some time,” she said.

“Bellingen’s rollout dates for the NBN broadband access network have been moved out because of the introduction of FTTC technology.  This has impacted the FY18 build times and the resources required to build this newer technology type.

“What this means is around 1,300 Bellingen premises are expected to be ready to connect to the  NBN broadband access network from around October 2018.”

Ms Keep also noted that “Currently 1,740 premises in the Bellingen Shire area can connect to the NBN broadband access network over the fixed wireless technology.”

Mr Woodward (and many others) have been vocal about the shortcomings of the fixed wireless technology in Bellingen, citing problems with premises not having the requisite line of sight to the tower and towers being overloaded.

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NBN Co and the federal government had previously stated that people would eventually be able to access speeds of 100Mbps on fixed wireless, but they retracted this promise last month, saying it would be too expensive to upgrade towers to handle peak time congestion.

“The cost of rolling out the required technology to enable Australians living in all regional areas to access 100Mbps speeds is so high, the NBN Co has ‘killed’ any plan to provide it and has taken it off the road map,” NBN CEO Bill Morrow told a Senate Estimates hearing.

A week later  he put forward the idea that “extreme users” such as gamers were overloading fixed wireless networks, adding that fair use policies to throttle their data usage may need to be introduced.

However, this is at odds with a finding by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in 2016 that “increases in the amount of data transferred in Australia appeared to be driven by video content downloading”.

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