Labor Promises Faster Internet for More Homes and Businesses

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
November 18, 2021 Updated: November 18, 2021

The Australia Labor Party (ALP) has pledged to bring high-speed internet to 1.5 million additional homes and businesses through an upgrade of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The project will cost $2.4 billion dollars and accelerate ongoing NBN upgrades, giving Australians who now rely on copper wire connections the choice of having fibre connected directly into their homes if they want faster speeds. Labor has also said it would create 12,000 jobs.

In a media release on Wednesday, Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said the Coalition had “dudded these families and businesses in 2013 when it took an axe to Labor’s original NBN plan.”

Under that plan, devised by the Rudd Labor government in 2009, the NBN was set to overhaul the existing copper network by installing 21st-century optical fibre cable to more than 90 percent of homes and businesses around Australia.

When the Liberal Party took office in 2013, they instead ran fibre cables to boxes in the middle of neighbourhoods, and from there utilising the existing copper network to service individual premises.

Albanese criticised this mixed approach that still relies heavily on copper, calling it “a technology of the 19th century.”

Under Labor’s new plan, 90 percent of households and businesses, many of whom are still relying on copper wire for an internet connection, will have access to high-speed fibre by 2025.

“We will set about repairing this government broken system of the broadband network,” he said. “This is about people getting access to education services; it’s about people getting access to health; it’s about making sure that our businesses can compete,” Albanese told SBS News on Wednesday.

However, in a media release also on Wednesday, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher responded to Labor’s announcement by saying that in 2020 the Morrison government already committed $4.5 billion to make ultra-fast broadband (up to 1Gbps) available to 8 million premises across Australia by 2023.

He added that the government is already well advanced in delivering on that commitment.

“Nothing in what Labor is now proposing adds to our existing commitment before 2023; NBN is fully committed to delivering the existing upgrade,” he said.

According to Fletcher, Liberal “inherited a train wreck project in 2013,” whereas now there are 12 million premises able to connect, and 8.3 million already connected to the NBN.

Fletcher also stressed that Labor should explain how they plan to fund the new policy, instead of using “murky comments referring to a combination of funding sources.”

He labelled the proposal as “more wasteful government spending of taxpayers’ money,” and said that the Morrison Government’s announcement in 2020 clearly laid out how they would fund their NBN upgrade: $4.5 billion raised by NBN Co through private investment.

Meanwhile, on Nov.8 the NBN released an updated list of towns and suburbs in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, where 200,000 additional homes and businesses will benefit from the extension of the fibre network deeper into their communities.

This brings the number of premises that have access to fibre NBN up to 1.6 million and means that these customers will no longer need to rely on copper wiring.

Steve Milne