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Note: HPC stands for Hybrid Fibre Coaxial. Image:

A tale of two NBNs

Geoff Helisma |

As next year’s federal election looms, candidates, political parties and politicians are looking for points of difference to pitch their policies, promises and ideas.

Federal Labor candidate for Page Patrick Deegan says Grafton will be a “town divided between those fortunate to be on fibre, and those on copper once the national broadband network (NBN) is completed”.

Mr Deegan made the observation in a media release, following NBN Co’s September 4 announcement that it had commenced “construction work to help ensure that more than 9,700 homes and businesses in parts of Grafton can connect to a service delivered over the nbn™ access network by around April 2019”.

“For homes and businesses on the north side of the Clarence River, 3,700 locals will receive the superior Fibre to the Curb (FttC) connection,” Mr Deegan said.

“Sadly, just a short walk to the other side of the river, 3,000 South Grafton residents will be connected by the second rate copper NBN.”

NBN Co said that the threat of flooding on the northern side of the Clarence River was the deciding consideration.

“There are several factors that determine which technology is chosen for each area, these include geographical location, existing infrastructure, cost and time to build,” a spokesperson wrote in an emailed answer to the Independent’s question.

“To that end … the rollout on the southern side of the Clarence is FttN [Fibre to the Node]; but on the northern side, where there is significant flood risk, the network was redesigned to take this into consideration and as a result is FttC.”

With Fibre to the Node (FttN), fibre runs to a mini-exchange or node (also known as a street cabinet) and the existing copper phone and internet network is used to make the final part of the connection to each dwelling.

With Fibre to the Curb (FttC), fibre is extended to a small distribution point unit (DPU) close to your premises, which is generally located inside a pit on the street.

The existing copper network connects each dwelling to the DPU.

In simple terms, the FttN is cheaper to construct but slower than FttC.

Meanwhile, Labor hasn’t finalised its NBN policy.

“There’s still policy in the works that is yet to be announced”, a spokesperson for federal shadow minister for regional communications, Stephen Jones, said.

The spokesperson said the two key announced NBN policies are the NBN Service Guarantee and Fibre to the Curb [FTTC].

The FTTC policy, which Labor says will be its minimum standard, comes with a disclaimer of sorts: “Labor is calling on the government to stop deploying copper where feasible, and instead, at a minimum, take FTTC … instead of FTTN in the areas where that remains feasible.”

Confused? A link provided by Mr Jones’ office put it this way: “Labor took a robust policy to the 2016 election to scale up the rollout of fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) and phase out the rollout of fibre-to-the-node (FTTN).
“…Labor has afforded the government the necessary breathing room to retreat from FttN and, at a minimum, scale-up Fibre to the Curb (FttC).”

NBN Co said that construction has commenced in parts of Grafton, Carrs Creek, Junction Hill, Clarenza, Great Marlow, South Grafton, Rushforth and Waterview.