Canberra’s NBN Delays Are Bad, But Not As Bad As They Seem

The “NBN has abandoned Canberra”. That’s the strong proclamation from the ACT’s Riot Act website, even if it’s not entirely accurate. A former Labor candidate for the ACT’s legislative assembly in the 2016 election is saying that some areas in the territory have had their NBN connections delayed by as much as 2.5 years.

In her article, Kim Fischer claims a “complete lack of interest in prioritising robust broadband” by the Federal Government for its “largely Canberra-based public servants”, what she calls a “baffling” oversight. Fast, reliable broadband can improve businesses’ bottom lines by as much as 20 per cent due to productivity boosts from telecommuting meaning more hours worked and higher morale.

Early this year, NBN delivered its most up-to-date rollout schedule yet, showing a range of dates by which the NBN says it will complete construction in areas around the ACT. Those figures are, she says, a full 2.5 years later than the ones suggested by NBN in early 2015 plans — and Fischer recommends “healthy scepticism” about NBN’s newest figures, suggesting even they will prove inaccurate. The rollout, she claims, “isn’t likely to be completed until 2025” — although without the figures to back up this suggestion.

In reality, the delays in rollout delivery between NBN’s older 2015 forecast and its 2017 forecast are around a year and a half.

The main difference in NBN’s rollout schedule is that in early 2015, the government-run company listed ‘start of construction’ dates — where work begins on replacing and installing fibre and nodes and remediation work on pits and ducts. In its most recent early 2017 rollout schedule, which is now delivered through a search tool, dates are listed as windows in which the NBN will be ready for service.

On average, NBN tells Gizmodo, there is around a 12 month wait after the start of construction for homes and businesses within the rollout area to be ready to order a service.

With that one year window added to the estimated start of construction dates that Fischer, who stood for the Labor Party in the seat of Ginninderra during the 2016 ACT election, listed in an accompanying document, the estimated availability dates provided by NBN show that most areas listed will be ready for service within 18 months of their original 2015 plan.

The majority of suburbs in the region of Belconnen, for example, will be ready for services to be ordered by homes and businesses on or before June of 2019 according to NBN’s latest figures. A June 2018 start of construction date for those areas, then, is around 18 months after the outside of the September of 2016 to December of 2016 window for construction flagged by the 2015 NBN rollout plan.

Half of all the suburbs listed in Canberra have this date, which is at the outer edge of any NBN availability date listed in the rollout tool. Some street addresses across the nation, of course, still do not have any ‘start of construction’ or ‘ready for service’ estimates listed against them. Some areas in the ACT like Tuggeranong have had service dates listed in the 2017 tool that were previously unavailable in 2015.

A spokesperson for NBN told Gizmodo that it expects construction of the NBN to be completed within the Australian Capital Territory to be completed in the next 2.5 years: “We expect that the ACT will be completed by mid-2019.

“Currently 61,500 homes and businesses in the ACT can order a service. We expect another 38,000 premises to go live this year.”

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