World news – AU – The NBN is getting an upgrade, but does that mean your internet’s about to get faster?


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Millions of Australians are set to get access to high-speed internet as the NBN is upgraded over the next three years, under a plan announced on Wednesday.

As part of the expansion, more people will receive it directly to their house, marking a backdown from the Government’s previous positions.

That depends on what kind of network you’re on at the moment, but the Government’s plan is to upgrade most that are currently operating to get speeds of « up to » 1 Gigabit per second.

If you’re in one of 2 million houses on a Fibre to the Node (FTTN) network, the upgrade means you can ask for the NBN to be connected directly to your house.

The Government is going to create « local fibre networks » along street fronts, but connecting to houses would be a « principle of demand » and people would have to ask to have it installed.

There will also be a program to resolve in home cabling issues for houses on the FTTN network.

While a hodgepodge of technologies are behind some of the NBN’s tech woes, it’s an overvaluation of the network that’s the biggest short-term barrier to faster internet speeds.

For 2.5 million houses on Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) (or pay TV cables), the capacity of the network is being upgraded so « all customers » will have speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second.

The 1.5 million homes on Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) are also getting some attention, with a program planned to make sure consistent speeds of up to 100 Megabits per second are available across the network.

The Government also wants to make sure people on those plans have access to capabilities to boost their speeds to 1 Gbps.

There’s also $300 million in funding for NBN Co to work with governments and local councils to improve services in regional Australia.

As well as getting quick internet, you might also benefit from the 25,000 jobs that are expected to be created in the next two years as the upgrade’s rolled out.

If you’re one of the houses who can upgrade to the faster speed, NBN Co has confirmed you won’t be charged a connection fee, but you will have to sign up to a more expensive plan.

« What we’re simply doing is providing more options for people to buy higher speeds, to the extent that they choose to do so we’ll put fibre to the home, » NBN Co chief executive Stephen Rue.

He said currently 18 per cent of the company’s « footprint » of customers could access the 1 Gbps speed and the goal was to raise that to 75 per cent.

« The economics for NBN, the financial modelling has been done not for charging the customer for the upgrade but on the basis of [that] we’ll be able to sell people higher speed plans, » Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said.

When it comes to footing the bill for the entire upgrade plan, the Government said NBN Co would fund the $3.5 billion plan through private sector debt markets, meaning it won’t impact the public purse.

As for when the cable is laid in the ground and people can call and ask to be connected, that’s still to be confirmed.

But NBN Co’s chief operating officer, Kathrine Dyer, said she expected people with FTTN connections to be have connections to their houses and be able order high-speed plans « around the middle to the end of next year ».

She said the company would have more updates on the rollout’s timeline in the months ahead.

In 2013 the Government scrapped a plan by the Labor Party to connect people’s houses directly to the NBN, instead opting to connect the fibre to a node at the end of people’s streets, and then use pre-existing cables to connect to people’s houses from there.

The technology mix now being used to roll out the National Broadband Network means some users are getting fast speeds and reliable service, while others are not.

Mr Fletcher said the planned upgrades were always on the cards and rejected suggestions that the announcement was a backflip on the Government’s original policy.

« What we had always had in mind was that as demand increased, if there was a case to upgrade the network we’d be interested to do that, » Mr Fletcher said.

He also said that while the plan came at a good time during the coronavirus pandemic and economic fallout, it was not timed specifically to help as part of the recovery.

This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.

AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)


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