The Palaszczuk Government will use 6000 kilometres of state-owned fibre optic cable to boost internet connectivity and potentially lower prices for more than 600,000 businesses and households around the state.
Following a commitment during the 2017 election, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today announced the government will set up a new entity – ‘FibreCo Qld’ – to partner with internet service providers.
The Premier said FibreCo Qld would use the extra capacity on the state-owned fibre optic network to offer faster, more reliable internet to homes and businesses in regional Queensland.
“Fast and reliable internet is vital when it comes to running a business,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“And by using the government’s fibre optic network, we can provide significantly greater capacity than what’s currently available in regional Queensland.
“Currently, Telstra and Optus dominate the wholesale market in regional Queensland and this makes it harder for new players to get on the scene.”
Innovation Minister Kate Jones who will oversee the project roll-out said internet connectivity was vital to growing the regional Queensland economy.
“We also know that by helping businesses to be more connected, we’ll create more and more jobs in regional Queensland,” she said.
“For too long, regional Queensland has been getting a raw deal. The Federal Government’s NBN has been an unmitigated failure.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has found that regional Queensland has some of the least competitive internet markets in Australia.
Ms Jones said opening up the government-owned fibre network was about levelling the playing field and encouraging competition to help deliver better quality internet for people and businesses in regional Queensland.
Regional areas where FibreCo Qld will work to provide faster, more reliable internet include:
“Increasing competition in the backhaul market will lead to more internet service providers entering the regional market. This will create more competition and lead to better services for Queenslanders,” Ms Jones said.
Former telecoms entrepreneur Steve Baxter, who advocated strongly for the project during his time as Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur welcomed the announcement saying it would have a transformational effect for businesses in more remote areas of the state.
“Freeing up state-owned assets to increase the capacity in an under-utilised backhaul market will lead to great outcomes for Queensland,” he said.
“Without access to cheap fast backhaul network, it’s hard to have a competitive market. This announcement changes the game. I wholeheartedly commend the government for this action and look forward to it being put into practice.”
Founder and CEO of regional service provider iseek Jason Gomersall said the initiative would increase competition in the regional internet market.
“I think it’s a great initiative from the Queensland Government to provide access to these infrastructure assets in the regions,” Mr Gomersall said.
“Real competition north of Brisbane has been sadly lacking for some time. Prices for backhaul north of Brisbane is many factors higher. This initiative should see that pricing dynamic change for the benefit of regional Queensland.”
Open Cloud Broadband is a Bundaberg-based internet retail service provider.
Open Cloud Broadband CEO and cofounder Luke Baker said the government’s decision to open latent backhaul capacity in government-owned fibre optic networks to the market would increase competition in the backhaul market potentially giving providers access to reduced wholesale pricing.
“This would allow Open Cloud Broadband to increase our bandwidth allocation for every customer and also allow us to roll out our “Gigabit to the Premise” product to regional areas,” Mr Baker said.
“Australia’s backhaul pricing is among the highest in the world which is the major factor in Australia’s poor internet service. This initiative has the potential to make Queensland the most connected state in the country.”
FibreCo Qld will work with internet service providers to connect parts of the state-owned optical fibre network to the National Broadband Network (NBN) in key regional areas.
This will then enable existing and new NBN retail service providers to acquire much better backhaul capacity at very competitive pricing.
The backhaul will also be provided to other smaller telecommunications providers to provide alternative improved services to NBN in certain regional areas.
On Q Communications managing director Mark Frost said FibreCo Qld backhaul would complement his company’s existing optical fibre footprint.
“For a number of years we have worked to build substantial access networks across regional Queensland,” Mr Frost said.
“This additional backhaul capacity allows us to connect those networks to the rest of the country. It effectively levels the playing field for us against the incumbent backhaul service providers, and in the end our business customers will be the ones who benefit in the long-term”.
“The availability of backhaul capacity will enable us to deliver not only more cost effective services to our small business customers, but additionally also services that are not only more reliable but less congested as well.”
Field Solutions Group (FSG) chief executive officer of telecommunications Andrew Roberts welcomed the announcement.
“Delivering to regional and remote Australia especially to the state’s farmers is very challenging,” Mr Roberts said.
“Access the state government is looking to provide will not only make the services more cost-effective to deliver but will increase reliability and capacity in regional areas.
“We are looking forward to being part of the increased competition this will enable and support businesses and consumers in these areas.”