Communications Minister Mitch Fifield defends embattled NBN as customer complaints spike


The National Broadband Network (NBN) has passed the important halfway mark to completion, as the minister in charge of the project defends its capacity to deliver high-speed internet.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the Turnbull government was taking a “technology agnostic approach” to the rollout of the NBN when questioned over the project’s effectiveness and speed.

“We have taken an approach that will see the NBN rolled out much faster and at significantly less cost,” Mr Fifield told reporters in Sydney today.

The NBN project began under the Rudd Labor government in 2007, and aimed to reach 98 percent of Australian premises by June 2021.

A decade later, the Liberal government is celebrating the halfway point of the project, with the network now available to more than 5.7 million homes and businesses.

But reports of dropouts, long connection times and complaints about speed have dogged the project and its rollout.

Choice research revealed 60 percent of people connected to the NBN have experienced problems.

Professor Mark Gregory from RMIT University told 9NEWS troubles with the project are due to combining new and old technology.

“The problem for Australia is while we’re rolling out copper based technologies, the rest of the world is moving with fibre based access networks,” Professor Gregory said.

“Australia is going to be left with a lemon.”

NBN Chief Engineering Officer Peter Ryan acknowledged the network had experienced “problems from time to time”.

“This is a very large complex program that we’re rolling out here and we will have problems from time to time – we seek everyone’s patience as we do that,” he said.

The Coalition government promised to get the job done cheaper and faster by stripping back Labor’s project to a new version, in which the NBN is delivered to suburban nodes which serve multiple properties instead of running directly to individual premises.

Mr Fifield said the original fibre-to-the-premises plan would have cost the government an extra $30 billion.

“Unlike our predecessors, we’re not taking a theological approach to the NBN, we’re taking a technology agnostic approach and giving NBN the freedom that it needs to deliver the best possible network,” he said.

“This is a major project, there will obviously be a percentage of experiences in the rollout which aren’t perfect but NBN is working day by day to improve that experience.”


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