Labor’s welcomes today’s release of the Joint Standing Committee report into the National Broadband Network in rural and regional areas.
Of primary concern to the Committee was evidence given about the deterioration of NBN’s Fixed Wireless service, most likely due to congestion issues.
The regrettable decision by NBNCo to reduce its fixed-line footprint and instead over-subscribe the fixed-wireless network has compounded this problem, leaving regional Australians worse off in the short-term, and taxpayers worse off over the medium-term.
In response to these issues, and with regard to potential future USO pathways, the Committee has made several key recommendations which include:
better utilisation of Sky Muster’s capacity to provide increased data for customers through expansion of NBNCo’s “layer three” capabilities across its fixed-wireless and satellite networks;
a rethink of how NBN fixed-wireless products are structured to improve experience, recognising consumers may be better served by a structure that reflects the characteristics of wireless technology and moves away from replicating fixed line product structures; and
renewed focus on infrastructure sharing in regional Australia to support improved quality of NBN services.
In a clear policy rebuke to Minister Fifield, the Committee has unanimously endorsed Recommendation 21 which declares the Government’s poorly designed Regional Broadband Levy does not constitute a sustainable funding mechanism for regional Australia — a criticism which aligns with the arguments made by Labor, the Productivity Commission and the ACCC.
The Committee has also acknowledged the very raw deal regional Australia has received under the Coalition with respect to the rollout of superior “Fibre to the Curb” under the Coalition with too few regional areas receiving this fibre-rich fixed line technology.
What is clear from this report is that the task of delivering fast, reliable and affordable broadband to the regions is being poorly executed and that the delivery of the NBN project under the Coalition Government has fallen far short of expectations and not matched promises made.
If elected, Labor will seek to work with all sides of Parliament to achieve progress on this important objective.