Qld towns build their own goddamn NBN


blog They weren’t getting much joy from the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network and were only slated to receive satellite services under the plan, so half a dozen Queensland towns have reportedly decided to build their own fibre backhaul network connecting the region to the main NBN infrastructure. The ABC reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“… the Barcoo Shire and the neighbouring Diamantina Shire are going it alone. They are planning to roll out 700 kilometres of optic fibre between five of the region’s towns, including the popular tourism destination Birdsville, to link the region to the national network.”

Now that’s showing them. However, it doesn’t seem clear whether the councils have fully thought through the ramifications of their plan. Sure, if they deploy fibre backhaul out to the region, they might be able to attract competitive telcos such as iiNet, Optus and TPG into installing their own ADSL infrastructure, but it seems as if their existing copper network will have to remain intact, with NBN Co unlikely to switch the towns onto fibre just because they now have their own backhaul. Still, you can’t blame them for wanting to do something about poor broadband services in the region. To my mind, this is further demonstration of the enduring demand for faster broadband services in Australia’s rural and regional areas.

Image credit: Timo Balk, royalty free


  1. NBN article analysis report:

    Satellite bandwidth insufficient.
    FttH hot item in demand.
    NBN could be profitable and a success due to demand.

    Coalition clown spin multiple-choice options:
    1. NBN has failed these regions spin.
    2. This government has fail spin.
    3. Use a mix of technologies spin.
    4. The private sector spin.

    Deploy Turnbull.

    Item selected today 1.

    Ask Turnbull: So FttH is what these regions should be getting? What about this “mix of technologies” thing?

    Turnbull hides.

    Deploy Hockey.

    Hockey says something about 4G.

    Deploy Abbott.

    50 bazzzzzzzzilllllllions! yay!

    Deploy Fletcher

    bubububububu gimme turnbulls job… oh yeah poor country sods.

  2. I’m sure Turnbull will jump on this as a “failure” of the NBN, despite the fact that we have no idea whether the Coalition’s plan will actually do anything for this town anyway. They had 9 years in power to do something after all.

    Mr Turnbull, if you have any comment to make on this story, it should be to clearly explain how the Coalition will do better. Not vague platitudes and hand-waving.

  3. All I can say is WTF?? At least they don’t need to bother burring most of the fibre to the same extent that would be normally required, and the land is flat with minimal bedrock to cut through. I’ve been to Bridsville before, its the same size as your average caravan park in a major town.

  4. This sounds like a funding grab from a local government. The local councils will put $6 million out of $22 million for backhaul, while making grant application by press release. There is also a shade of political opportunism, but that almost a given for NBN coverage right now.
    The backhaul will allow NBN network fiber or fixed wireless extensions, but based on the NBN policy documents, there will still be additional payments required typically arranged at the council level.
    So. this is a council begging for half the money to do half the job, with other citizens being expected to cover the $18 million + cost.
    My personal thoughts for this could be to have a slight increase in the regulated rate of return of the NBN, with the excess return retained to eventually subsidize the network expansions. Say 0.5% rate of return for $100-200 million a year to gradually cover the costs of the network expansions.
    Fiber for everyone eventually may suck as a slogan but should be the NBN’s eventual goal.

  5. Actually I think it is great, Suggested it on Rural Publication sites, I believe the cost when first looked at was in the order of $20Mill. Suggested business/Corporate , State Govt., Fed Govt., Community and NBN involvement. Ideally snaking through as many communities as possible.
    Maybe FTTH as they have put in their equity, or at worst Wireless instead of Satellite. Telstra, Optus Vodaphone could lease or share fibre and possibly towers with NBN for 4G.
    Win for Tourism, National Security, Regional Business, education, health and the miners, aquaculture etc.

    Demonstrating what the soul less Liberals and Corporates and Media cannot grasp, The NBN is about enabling the Nation, about opportunity, about Australia, for the future of us all. The can do.
    The Rural Sector are showing that by wanting the fibre, even if not all will or can use it now, it is there for when it is needed, unlike the option that does not and cannot provide that enabling capacity and seeks to have our opportunities strangled for the benefit of the Markets and vested Private Sector interests which by definition will be at taxpayer cost in subsidies and grants and handouts for what.

  6. Mmmm….they want someone else (NBNCo.) to build their fibre backhaul so they can get FTTH. When they can’t, they say “we’ll build it ourselves!”….but only cough up $6 of the $22 Million required….hence they STILL want someone else to build it for them…..

    Sorry, but these shires have about 750 people between them. I feel for them that they want something better than satellite….but 750 people and 200km……come on.

    This smacks of simple political shots to get funding. They won’t. Even if they did, they’ve got no way to then pay NBNCo. ON TOP of that to deploy FTTH.

    Good try, but I’m afraid this isn’t feasible on any level right now. Once NBNCo, starts making money, maybe come back and ask the government to use $50 million to fibre them up. But not now.

  7. I can understand why these towns for now are left off the FTTH grid, but if they have copper, then they have that too, till eventually a fibre replaces the copper by attrition. Maybe a decade or so down the track. Well the NBN should, after it has completed most of the major areas.

    That is also if we continue to keep the NBN in public hands and do not fall prey to the Con Artists that keep repeating the same old cliché that the Market does it better. Never forget Telstra’s proven past actions to understand the Markets priorities are not the same as Societies. They will soon rise up saying to privatize the NBN once the main costs and risks are mitigated. But the Market is an old dog and never learns much in the way of new tricks and just regurgitates continually because it is way to greedy.

    Above of all of this is the hypocrisy of the very people who are screaming for the FTTH are mostly the very people who were supporting those who were against it. It strikes me as the childish tantrums of a 3 year old, who realises someone will get something before them that they would now desire. The fact they chucked a tanty that they didn’t want it originally because they didn’t know what it was in the first place and because some one said they’d lose their pocket money eludes them. Now they realise this is not the case, they have changed their minds and their prime priorities of reduction of public spending on anything to give more to themselves, is to be reversed for just them in this case, as they want Society to cater for their own desires with all due speed. Maybe I was kind in saying a 3 year old and should regress that to a 2 year old.

    I thought we were supposed to wean that trait out of our children, or is it our Society is regressing back to childhood selfishness. It’s horrible when you see Australian’s being badly behaved so transparently. *cringe*

  8. Everyone should get fiber – whether they want it or not.

    It’s a NATIONAL infrastructure, like roads and electricity.

    • @Poo2

      Want to pay the $20-30 Billion extra for tiny little hamlets like this to get it?

      By the way, you know there are several tens of thousands who don’t have a copper telephone line, yeah?

  9. Is that the outer Barcoo, where churches are few, and men of religion are scanty?

  10. “NBN Co unlikely to switch the towns onto fibre just because they now have their own backhaul”

    I wouldn’t be so quick to write it off.
    With backhaul in place, they fall into the same category as smaller towns on fibre routes.
    Even if they still don’t make it over the line for FTTH, they would certainly do so for wireless NBN I would think.

  11. Maybe they would be better talking to Gigaclear. http://www.gigaclear.com/communities/appleton/

    The are doing good work in the UK. I saw it running my big overseas trip recently, in a community fair at Appleton in Oxfordshire. It ran very fast.

    The idea is like Bendigo bank in Australia, in that enough in the community must agree to proceed.

    • @Paul

      Nice thought but, from their own site:

      The community must be within 3kM of a UK fibre backbone provider, or existing Gigaclear community*

      Barcoo is 200km from the nearest NBNCo. fibre.

      Fact is, the ONLY way rural communities like this will get fibre is a combination of council ponying up AND when NBNCo. start to make money, putting some of that into schemes like this to increase the fibre footprint.

  12. I’m kinda surprised the Nats aren’t all over this really, considering a lot of outback towns are dieing slowly as young people head to the cities to access better services, surely putting in broadband would be a good first step in helping to address that bleed?

    • Tinman
      That is one of the reasons for the fuss over the towers in rural areas, they want FTTH.
      There are suggestions that presence or absence of FTTH in a town or areas future is starting to impact on property demand from retirees and tree changers

  13. This is such old news. Mayor Bruce Scott has been campaigning for this since the NBN was announced. I think this is probably the third or fourth time the ABC has run this story in the last 4 years. Nothing has changed in that time. Barcoo shire still have the same amount of funding committed and they still need the state and federal governments to come to the party for the rest. Its never going to happen.

  14. Here’s a little case study if people want to check it out. Small place called Moorland, a little distance outside Taree on NSW’s mid north coast. Right off the Pacific Hwy (as in 50-100m or so), it has a small population around 100 or so.

    Do they get fibre under either plan?

    Main backbone should run straight past them (fairly sure it runs along the Hwy), how hard would it be to plonk a spur up the road and down the two side streets? What would it cost? Is this an ideal candidate for fixed wireless/satellite for the region, or is it easier to just roll out fibre as its so close to the backbone?

    If neither plan gives them FttH/N, what would it cost for the local council to roll it out to those two streets?

    These are the sorts of locations that could raise either of the plans from 90%/93% by a few % points, and get a lot of brownie points along the way.

    So whats the local council to do? These Qld councils arent all that different, and rather than wait, have decided to get the ball rolling themselves. Its a shame they have sensationalised it so much, but it does show that if communities are too small for the NBN plan, there are always options to connect into the grid anyway.

    • @GongGav

      Remember, it’s not as simple as that. A FAN has to have the capacity to add all these ‘little’ towns as well as be no more than 15km from the current FAN or they require a new one. Several FDH’s have to be added and there has to be a redundant link to each.

      Its not as simple as plonk down a node and off you go. There’s a lot of planning involved and many times, in the current rollout, it won’t be feasible for any of the reasons above.

      • Fair points. I’m just channeling the inner armchair expert who thinks it IS that easy…

        Look at a small community, expect them to be within spitting distance of the main backbone, and not understand why they cant be connected. To the mug punter, the NBN is a wire that runs to their house and provides internet.

        Thats as technical as most people get with it, so dont understand the finer details we discuss here. So many in smaller areas, such as that listed in the story (and places like Moorland), expect it isnt a tough process to give them the fibre connection, and that its mostly laziness on NBN Co’s part. We know different.

        Because I happen to know of the area (grandparents used to live there) I just picked Moorland as an example. It would be understandable that someone reasonably intelligent, yet unversed in how the NBN works could look at its location and wonder why it wasnt able to easily be tacked on to the network.

        Having said that, with various other announcements Labor has made, I would actually expect somewhere like Moorland to be tacked on anyway. Places in weaker positions on NSW south coast are getting FttH “because its easier”, and I expect plenty others will as well.

        I can see that 93% being bumped up in the lead in to next years election personally. How does it read if Labor improves that percentage to something like 96% for minimal extra cost?

        • @GongGav

          But it’s NOT at minimal cost. The Implementation study showed beyond 93% it was 3-5 times more expensive per household to do FTTH and beyond 97% it was 10-20 times more expensive.

          It all comes at a cost- where do you draw the line? Labor have drawn it at 93% and said whoever wants to help and stump up themselves can increase that. I don’t have any problem with that AS LONG as future profits are preferably first used to extend the footprint to, say, 97 or 98% minimum.

          • I think there’s a level of semantics here.

            Lets say it costs $10m to roll fibre out to the two streets of residents in Moorland. That’s excessive for 100 residents, fully agree. But what if it costs $3m to give them the FttN they would get anyhow?

            Yes, a line needs to be drawn, but as Renai and others have repeatedly said, there are ways to improve the plans, There are a fair amount of isolated communities that could be included for relatively small cost – relative to $40b, not relative to cost per head. Do that for 100 communities, and there might be an extra $1b or so in cost. Or 2.5% more. To be returned eventually anyhow.

            Only people that would complain about that are people that would whinge that Quigley earns too much…

            Sooner or later these communities are going to get fibre anyhow. Doesnt it make sense to give it to them now if its just that little more effort?

          • @GongGav

            Yes and No. The difference of $7 Million to 100 premises has to be multiplied by however many times you do it- hence cost per premises.

            The implementation study didn’t just use semantics to provide a guideline- they did an in depth study of other countries rollouts. There are some 3000 (or more I can’t remember the exact figure) towns with less than 1000 premises. Let’s say 1000 of them get covered by the “500 premises or more and on a fibre transit line” guideline. That leaves some 2000 that still need to be covered. If we take even HALF that many and add up $7 million for each, or even $3 million for each, you’re not talking $1 Billion, you’re talking $3-7 Billion. And again, where do you draw the line? Who says “no, this town gets it and this town doesn’t”.

            I have no issue with most of these places getting fibre- I just don’t think it’s feasible:

            1- In THIS rollout, because of timeframe and political expediency

            2- Because the wireless and satellites are already well and truly on their way

            It’s great with hindsight, but the fact is, this is the plan we have. It doesn’t mean we can’t tweak it, but rolling out fibre to another 1000 towns of under 1000 premises is not a “tweak”…..

  15. The cunning plan is to build a fibre tail to the region and hope someone buys the service out or leases the link. Much like optus being bought out for HFC

    The main problem for most regional towns in qld if your not near a nextgen fibre or railway. Your going to be waiting awhile before NBN or someone buiild a fibre link into the nextgen backbone

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