Latrobe Valley NBN divide likely

Related coverage: Waiting to connect


The likelihood of Latrobe Valley households outside of Traralgon actually receiving fibre optic broadband direct to the doorstep are slim under a Coalition Government, according to an Express analysis of opposition broadband policy.

Despite major delays to the National Broadband Network rollout, homes in Traralgon, Morwell, Churchill and Rosedale, and more recently Mirboo North, remain among five million households Australia-wide scheduled to see Fibre To The Premises constructed or completed by 2016.

However, should an Abbott government come to power in the September election, the broadband rollout will be changed drastically, with FTTP playing only a small part of the opposition’s national broadband rollout strategy.

While Shadow Communication and Broadband Minister Malcolm Turnbull has committed to honour all current contracts with major suppliers performing Labor’s NBN Co rollout, only a small percentage of households currently scheduled for FTTP will actually receive it.

According to the Coalition’s ‘Fast Broadband and Affordable NBN’ policy background paper, only 2.8 million Australian premises will have FTTP under a coalition rollout, scheduled for completion in 2019.

About 1.6 million of these connections will be found in new residential developments, leaving 1.2 million existing households the recipients of FTTP; 565,000 are projected to be connected by June 2014, with the remaining balance prioritised for single dwelling units with “degraded or maintenance-intensive copper”.

The Coalition predicts it would take 12 months from a successful September election for the rollout to fully reflect its changed policy, which will amend rollout contracts – currently held by Transfield and Visionstream in Victoria.

“This (12-month transition period) reflects supplier commitments in place and the general proposition that in most instances value for taxpayers will be best served by finishing work in progress,” the policy paper states.

According the NBN Co website, works are set to begin in Traralgon ‘brownfield’ sites (existing residential areas) next month.

However with construction in Mirboo North (June 2014) , Morwell (September 2014), and Churchill and Rosedale (June 2015) set to commence well into a potential Coalition Government’s term, the likelihood of other Valley towns sharing in the 1.2 million ‘brownfield’ homes nationwide to actually receive it, are slim.

While a Valley-based ISP provider acknowledge there was still a “chance” some Valley households would scrape in under the current rollout schedule, he said “I will believe it when I see it”.

In response to The Express’ analysis, Mr Turnbull said it had no visibility on which houses would get fibre to the premise, “having not seen the contracts signed by Labor and having little faith in their ability to actually deliver”.

“Some sites have been under construction for almost two years, without any houses being ready for service,” Mr Turnbull said.

“In the recent budget, they have reduced the equity injections to the NBN by $3.5 billion over the next three years, reflecting the delay.”

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said it was clear homes and business currently scheduled to receive FTTP would miss out under a Coalition Government, creating a “digital divide” “that wasn’t fair”, forcing users to pay extra if they wished to receive Labor’s superior version.

Read NBN under Turnbull for a local look at the range of broadband services the Latrobe Valley is likely to receive under a Federal Coalition Government.