Up to 90% of mainland Australians agree to NBN connection

NBN Co has reported a higher level of support for fibre optic broadband in mainland Australia than expected, with a 90% consent rate in some test towns.

The reason this result has been such a shock is because the Tasmanian NBN Co, the first to roll out fibre optic test sites in Australia, saw a disappointing 51% of Tasmanian homes agree to the connection. This caused many to pause and question the viability and necessity of such a massive publicly funded infrastructure project.

Now, the NBN is being rolled out to over 12 thousand homes in five areas around mainland Australia. Resellers of retail-based fibre optic broadband will begin offering both broadband and telephone services in around eight months time. Wholesale pricing of the fibre optic service has yet to be finalised, but it will have to be approved by competition analysts first, which should mean the cost would be affordable to the masses.

NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley recently told BusinessDay: "We are very happy with what we are finding in the first release sites on the mainland … That is a number considerably above what we had anticipated.''

Mr Quigley was referring to the consent ratios in the four towns of Armidale, NSW; Townsville, QLD; Kiama, NSW; and Willunga, SA. Homes within the fifth test area of Brunswick in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne will be receiving consent forms later this week.

Armidale has come out on top as the most ‘broadband hungry’ location thus far, with 87% of all homes in the test zone asking to be connected to a super-fast broadband service.

The area sits in the regional constituency currently governed by independent MP Tony Windsor, who recently sided with the Labor government in the federal election because of the NBN project. Students at the University of New England will also be happy their town has been chosen as one of the NBN’s early adopters.

Following closely behind, around 84% of houses in Willunga, SA want fibre optic broadband, 74% in NSW’s southern coastal town of Kiama, and 54% in Townsville, QLD. Townsville’s uptake rate is expected to increase by at least a further 10% after the landlords of holiday homes bring back their consent forms.

The reason the NBN Co needs a homeowner’s consent form is because the final part of the roll-out process involves laying several metres of fibre on the actual property, as well as connecting equipment near the house.

It’s hard to say why Tasmanians haven’t warmed up to the NBN like the rest of Australia. The Tasmanian state government has been forced to draft laws making a connection compulsory, in an opt-out paradigm where only people who outright refuse are not connected. It is more logical for consumers to sign up for a connection as soon as it’s available, as the initial rollout has a free set-up, whereas later connections are expected to come at a cost to the homeowner.

As the nation moves towards fibre optic broadband, so too will our telephone services. Earlier this year Telstra made a deal with the NBN Co to move customers over from the traditional copper landline network to a fibre optic phone service.