Queensland government seeks broadband boost with ‘FibreCo Qld’

The Queensland government will establish a new entity dubbed FibreCo Qld to help provide cheaper backhaul in regional areas of the state for telcos.

FibreCo Qld will utilise some 6000 kilometres of optical fibre owned by the state government.

“Currently,Telstraand Optus dominate the wholesale market in regional Queensland and this makes it harder for new players to get on the scene,” said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

“Fast and reliable internet is vital when it comes to running a business,” the premier said in a statement.

“And by using the government’s fibre optic network, we can provide significantly greater capacity than what’s currently available in regional Queensland.”

FibreCo Qld will connect government-owned fibre to the National Broadband Network in regional parts of the state including Toowoomba, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns. The move will mean that NBN retail service providers (RSPs) will be able to acquire “much better backhaul capacity at very competitive pricing,” the government said.

In a submission to a federal inquiry examining the rollout of the NBN in regional and rural areas, the Queensland government argued that a “barrier to investment by RSPs into regional and rural areas has been the absence of affordable backhaul capacity”.

The submission added: “Prioritising backhaul and Point of Interconnect (POi) infrastructure in regional and rural areas will create opportunities for RSPs to provision 'last mile' services and help accelerate the delivery of improved digital services . This will also help accelerate the delivery of improved mobile communications, such as 4G/5G services, to these areas.”

The Queensland government intended to “undertake a due diligence assessment of the viability of providing access to spare capacity in the Queensland Government's optical fibre network to improve digital connectivity for Queenslanders,” the submission stated.

FibreCo Qld’s backhaul will also be available for telcos offering NBN bypass products, the state government said yesterday.

In its submission to the rollout inquiry the government said that it recognised NBN Co as the “primary operator in delivering broadband digital connectivity”, but added it was “encouraged to see independent operators stepping forward to provide improved and alternative digital connectivity technology choices to rural and regional Queensland.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is in the process of deciding whether to continue regulating the backhaul market in some areas.

Earlier this month the ACCC released a draft decision that will see regulation continue; however, the competition watchdog said that it was inclined to end regulation of the so-called ‘Domestic Transmission Capacity Service’ in 137 metro and 27 regional areas.

“While the ACCC has removed regulation in areas that have been found to be competitive, it has maintained regulation of the DTCS where it is not satisfied that there is effective competition or where access to the DTCS is limited,” the draft report stated.

The Northern Territory's government is currently pushing for 39 communities to be connected to the NBN using existing optical fibre rather than NBN Co’s Sky Muster satellite service.

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