Forget the ‘last mile’ disputes of the past, consumers in AsiaPac can’t even get the last hundred metres. We are seeing the beginning of a new disorder which I will affectionately dub, the ‘NBN Syndrome’.
You will know when you are the victim of NBN Syndrome when your CSP tells you it is no longer laying copper wire or any other wire for that matter, to your new home or apartment, because it’s uneconomical or they prefer someone else to foot the bill, presumably the national broadband network builder.
The syndrome was first brought to my attention by a colleague who was dismayed to discover that the incumbent fixed-line operator was not keen to install copper wire into his new apartment building and nor was the cable operator. They both blamed the developer not wishing to fork out money to provide the necessary ‘last mile’ connection and neither were keen to invest themselves knowing full well that the NBN fibre would be magically connected within twelve months.
Then a story appeared in the Australian press that Telstra was allegedly blocking the sale of new houses because it had – “told developers it has immediately ceased installing copper phone connections in greenfield developments due to a federal government requirement for fibre optic cable in new housing from July 1.”
This meant that developers were not be able to get certificates to satisfy local authorities that telephone services had been installed. Without those certificates, developers cannot sell the properties.
While copper has traditionally been provided free, developers may now be ‘required’ to pay a contribution towards the cost of installing fibre optic cables.
Who can blame Telstra for this impasse? CEO, David Thodey, recently informed shareholders that reduced fixed-line revenues were the result of large numbers of fixed-line subscribers terminating service, presumably in favor of mobile telephony. Continuing to roll out copper wire, deemed now to be dead-end technology, when FTTH is just around the corner would surely be met with derision by investors.
Both stories seem almost surreal yet strangely plausible. I wonder if governments or regulators had even foreseen this situation arising and whether this is problem unique to all developed economies moving to the nirvana of a high-speed national broadband.
Little comfort for those caught in the vacuum.