Tasmania offered possible pay-to-connect for NBN fibre

Also: NBN Co adds no-battery option to migration program

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NBN Co boss Bill Morrow has told Tasmanians that communities might be able to preserve the fibre rollout – if they're prepared to kick the can for the installation.

In an interview with The Mercury, Morrow said the network builder was investigating the possibility of using co-funding models under which “everyone can jointly pitch in a little bit of money to give them this fibre all the way to the premises”.

The option – which to Vulture South looks suspiciously like testing the community reaction to such an idea – would probably draw on local government or groups rather than hoping individuals would stump up a few thousand dollars to drag fibre from nodes to the homes.

The comment was made as Morrow told The Mercury he was getting ready to announce new contracts to speed up the Tasmanian rollout. The island state was nominated by the previous government as the first fields for the NBN, partly to provide a proving ground for the rest of the country. However, partly because it was the very first rollout, the Tasmanian build has been troubled by late delivery and disputes with contractors for some time.

Contractor UCG has been signed to help get the rollout back on track – but at the same time, Tasmania will be pulled into the multi-technology mix that means fibre-to-the-node will be included in the build.

In other news, NBN Co has added “no-battery” connections to its list of migration incentives for retail service providers (RSPs).

The issue of battery backup has long been controversial in the fibre part of the NBN, since by eliminating the copper, the network also killed off the old-style 48V dc power supply that used to keep corded PSTN telephones alive when there were blackouts (at least as long as the Telstra exchange's batteries lasted).

The ACCC has now published a letter from NBN Co, dated July 2014, detailing variations to its wholesale agreement. The variations cover the migration incentives it offers to RSPs to encourage end users, where fibre is available, to make the switch from copper. The incentives are designed to avoid a late rush of connections when the fibre rollout is complete and the mandatory 18-month copper retirement begins.

The July letter, published last week by the ACCC here, proposes offering a migration incentive for services without a battery backup.

This puts the “no-battery” option – which was first announced by NBN Co in February 2014 – on the same footing as other services that receive a migration incentive.

The letter notes that the RSP “must obtain informed consent from the end user, and comply with any guidance or requirements issued by the ACMA [Australian Communications and Media Authority – editor] in respect of informed consent”.

The ACMA has issued a determination covering battery backup, designed to bolster the informed consent so that customers that need battery backup – for example, for medical alarms – aren't pushed into the wrong product. ®


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