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2016-06-24

fibre connections

Labor NBN policy: up to 2 million more fibre connections, ongoing mobile blackspots funding

Labor will provide up to 2 million more NBN Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) connections if it wins the coming federal election. 

But it has also left the door open to deployment of ‘transitional” platforms such as Fibre to the Distribution Point (FTTdP) and will continue with the Coalition’s plan to upgrade existing Hybrid Fibre Coaxial Cable (HFC) networks to deliver high speed broadband to some 4 million premises. 

In the mobile area, it has committed to continuing the current blackspots programme, but refocus it to target areas it says have been neglected under the Coalition’s schedule. 

As anticipated, Labor says that it will honour existing NBN contracts signed under the Coalition, leaving it a limited amount of space to effect a change away from the Coalition’s Multi Technology Mix approach. 

It will, however, ensure a return to a fibre-only policy for greenfields sites. It will also seek advice from Infrastructure Australia as to how best over time to move from FTTN, where it has been deployed, to FTTP. 

Labor estimates that its revised NBN plan will cost, at most, only 1 billion more than the Coalition’s and take, at most, only two more years to complete. And, to give certainty on costs, it says it will in fact cap the total funding cost at $57 billion, irrespective of whether this allows it to complete its maximum FTTP targets. 

As the E-bulletin has commented before – and as is obvious – the NBN is a massive and hugely expensive project which has predictably enough seen delays and cost blow-outs under both Labor and Coalition governments. 

Over and above the implications of these problems for the public finances, the CWU has been concerned about their impacts on those who work on the NBN. Uncertainties in the financing, direction and timetabling of the project inevitably mean pressures on the working conditions and on the financial viability of the thousands of employees and contractors who are actually building the network. 

For this reason, the CWU welcomes Labor’s commitment to honour existing contracts, several of which offer the prospect of ongoing work to our members. 

And come July, the CWU looks forward to a constructive engagement with a future Labor government on key issues affecting the NBN workforce such as training, sub-contractor payments and the use of 457 visa workers on the project.

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