NBN dumps bush broadband price hike
THE National Broadband Network has backflipped on plans to jack up the cost of bush broadband, backing away from comments made by its chief financial officer just yesterday.
Australia's regional broadband users were to be slugged more than 40 per cent extra to access the NBN than their city peers under price changes confirmed in the Senate.
But the company suddenly took the price rise "off the table" today, a spokesman said, as it reported its end of year financial results, and pledged to maintain pricing for fixed wireless services under a new review.
NBN Co chief financial officer Stephen Rue revealed the bush broadband price gap in the NBN Joint Standing Committee in Canberra yesterday, confirming fixed wireless broadband users would be charged a wholesale fee of $65 to access a 50 megabit per second service.
By comparison, NBN users in the city would be charged a wholesale fee of just $45 to receive the same broadband speed - paying 44 per cent less than their regional peers.
Mr Rue defended the price gulf, saying internet providers might not pass on the additional charge.
"What the (retail service provider) then chooses to on charge to the end user, that is a matter I can't comment on," Mr Rue told the Committee.
But he backed away from the comments today, announcing that "following industry consultation" NBN Co would issue "new fixed wireless discount bundles" next week that kept the price of fixed wireless connections on parity with prices for city broadband services.
Federal Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said charging a higher price to regional NBN users would have been unfair.
"This is a very troubling development," she said. "The NBN was supposed to bridge the digital divide - not create a new one."
The price gap, first flagged back in June, had been designed to reflect the higher price of delivering fixed wireless broadband services.
But all NBN users are already being charged a monthly "broadband tax" to offset the higher costs.
The NBN Co's backflip came as the company revealed a loss of $4.1 billion for the last financial year, down from $4.24 billion the year before.
NBN Co also revealed 1.6 million premises had been declared "ready to connect" over the 12-month period, only eight per cent of homes had failed to be connected to the NBN on the first attempt, and average network congestion bandwidth congestion time had fallen.
Outgoing NBN Co chief executive Bill Morrow said the company was making "continued progress against our goal to complete the build by 2020," but said changes to customer service and halting the HFC broadband rollout had resulted in "some short-term delays in the build and activation schedule".