NBN Co is set to trial a user-pays upgrade process in Tasmania that will allow council areas not in fibre or fixed wireless footprints to pay their own way to get their constituents faster broadband.
Less than three months after flagging the idea, NBN Co chief Mike Quigley said today that the process would be trialled around the next batch of Tasmanian towns to get NBN connections.
Quigley told iTnews that NBN Co was yet to have discussions with councils in these areas of Tasmania that sat outside the planned footprint.
"We're just putting in place a process for looking at network extensions... in the Tasmanian sites," he said.
Councils that decided they wanted to fund the extensions would not be forced to pay the full cost, for example, of connecting the fibre access node (FAN) to the network termination unit (NTU) on the side of a house, Quigley said.
"It would be a question of... if someone lies outside the existing fibre footprint of 93 percent of premises, what is the incremental cost to connect them, over and above what [it would cost to] connect them otherwise [using other technologies]," he said.
"So our intention is to charge people only that incremental cost."
That reinforced NBN Co's earlier position on the network extension process, which was that councils or other groups that sought an upgrade from fixed wireless to fibre would only have to "pay the [cost] difference" between rolling out the different technologies to get upgraded.
NBN Co had been lobbied on a number of fronts by councils eager to have their constituencies included in the NBN rollout sooner rather than later.
Quigley told a parliamentary inquiry today that NBN Co would ramp up the amount of information on its rollout that it could supply to local governments and other interested parties.
The company yesterday established an inbound call centre to handle information-related enquiries from Australians.
"We're at that stage of the company where a lot of the engineering and planning work has been done," he said.
"We're moving into the next phase which is on execution. We're putting more work into providing information [on that] to the community."
But Quigley said that NBN Co's challenge was to meet demands for information without stepping on the toes of the retail service providers, who would ultimately have the relationship with end customers.
"I think it would be a mistake for us to intercede on the [information provision] path of RSPs," he said.
Quigley said the first customer connections on the mainland were made in the northern NSW town of Armidale in the past week, which put the company firmly on schedule with its planned network tests.