Concerns have been raised by Internet Australia, the NFP peak body representing Internet users, over comments made by nbn executives.

In a document distributed to media outlets Network Engineering Chief Peter Ryan and corporate affairs executive Karina Keisler justify the nbn’s decision to continue using fibre-to-the-node technology.  Internet Australia has describe the technology as ‘inferior’ and unable to provide for the long term needs of Australian broadband consumers.

IA’s executive chair, Anne Hurley, said the explanation regarding the future use of the technology deployed in the fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) rollout was “seriously at odds with the advice from our internationally recognised technical experts”.

Following complaints from nbn customers about slow speeds, IA has called for nbn to abandon the use of FTTN, which it says will need to be replaced in 10 to 15 years or sooner in any case.

“Despite what Mr Ryan and Ms Keisler claim, IA maintains there is no upgrade path for FTTN. We have consistently argued that a return to a full-fibre NBN would be the best option, but failing this we support the use of ‘middle ground’ technology called fibre-to-the-premises, known as FTTdp”.

In its case, nbn prefers to use the term fibre-to-the curb.

“It’s not a case of upgrading FTTN, it amounts to a massive rebuild. The ‘node’ (the large cabinets being placed on footpaths across the country) and the electronics inside the cabinet will become redundant. The money and time spent installing an electrical power feed will also be wasted”.

The nbn document states that it will use a new technology standard called Gfast. IA said Gfast is only suitable over short distances of copper wire, as is the case with FTTdp.

“The latest advice from our engineers and from overseas is that GFast will not work over the long cable runs from the FTTN nodes to people’s home and businesses,” Ms Hurley said.

nbn is in favour of the continued use of FTTN on the basis that to change technology will increase delays in the completion of the project.

IA said that efficient planning and fast-tracking construction would minimise any delays.

“Surely just doing FTTDP first up would be more cost effective. Doing it in two stages means a huge waste of public money,” Ms Hurley said.

Internet Australia said that at a Senate Estimates hearing, nbn CEO Bill Morrow conceded that the company had not budgeted for upgrading premises with FTTN, stating the those customers wanting fast broadband would have to pay for their own upgrade.

“Australia needs ubiquitous, fast and affordable broadband. That was the essential purpose of building the NBN in the first place. It is extraordinary to see nbn now saying it will only properly service half the population,” Ms Hurley said. 

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