Australian Industry Group hungry for high fibre broadband diet from Turnbull

By Julian Bajkowski

New Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s key election promise to build cheaper National Broadband Network (NBN) faster using existing copper wire assets is picking-up initial static on the line to the business sector.

One of Australia’s most powerful industry associations, the Ai Group, has called for Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) connections for commercial broadband customers to be fast-tracked through a looming overhaul the government owned network after a survey it commissioned found that “the vast majority of Australian businesses do not have a high-speed broadband connection.”

In an argument sure to resonate in the Coalition’s ranks, Ai Group wants the government and the NBN to look at “giving greater priority to rolling out infrastructure to poorly served businesses and industrial estates in outer suburban and regional areas.

In a statement ahead of the launch of the Ai Group’s report 'The Business End of Broadband: What business users want from high-speed broadband', Ai Group’s chief executive, Innes Willox, cautioned existing infrastructure was meeting expectations.

“Our research also found that nearly 40 per cent of businesses rate their existing telecommunications infrastructure as inadequate. The problem is particularly acute for businesses in outer metropolitan and regional areas,” Mr Willox said.

“Accelerating access to better infrastructure for these businesses should be a priority in any revision of the rollout timetable.”

The Ai Group’s push for government to give it a head start over households is based on the fairly straight forward logic that prioritising businesses produces greater and faster economic benefits because this is where the potential for more immediate growth is.

The report features frank input from business owners clearly frustrated by the connection of domestic premises over commercial ones.

“The policy is about Mums & Dads not businesses.Our business is in an industrial estate but most homes in our city will be connected before we are. We have just signed a 3 year contract for a 20Mps service with another supplier because we don't believe that we will see the NBN here for 5 years. Businesses should be first because we employ the mums and dads who without a job won't be able to afford the NBN connection,” one unnamed business proprietor complains.

There is also visible concern over how long it will take to get FTTH into commercial premises under the hybrid copper and Fibre to the Node (FTTN) model.

The Ai Groups want the government to ensure there is “affordable access to FTTP services for those businesses that desire it and the release of key details about these services such as availability, provisioning and pricing.”

It has similarly called for the identification of “how a revised model will allow for an upgrade path to FTTP services in the longer term.”

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