Property buyers now look for high-speed broadband access

BUYERS of homes in new developments are getting a head start on other Sydney residents with access to the national broadband network.

People living in the apartment block Divercity in inner-city Waterloo are already enjoying the benefits of high-speed national broadband network internet access, which residents say is cheaper than their previous plans.

An NBN spokesman, Jonathon Grahame, said that most of the 153 residents who have already moved into the Becton project have signed up for the highest possible 100Mbps plans, while residents in existing homes in neighbouring streets are more than a year away from getting access to the service.

As NBN's fibre-optic cable will replace the existing copper network, it made no sense to install copper in new estates.

Mr Grahame said the demand from developers for ''fibre'' in new developments was very strong. Nationally, the company has 2497 signed applications to deliver the service to 116,308 premises. And the NBN has already rolled out past 22,000 lots in new developments countrywide.

When Andrew Brown, 26, discovered a cupboard full of wires and equipment while he was inspecting an apartment in Divercity, he knew he'd found his new home. ''I already liked the apartment so when I found it was connected to the NBN it was, 'OK, cool. Let's go with this'.''

For Mr Brown, a self-employed graphics and web designer who works from home, internet speed is more a necessity than a luxury. ''We get about five times the speed we were getting at our old apartment at Elizabeth Bay,'' Mr Brown said.

It is also cheaper than using the traditional copper internet lines. ''It was about $80 a month in Elizabeth Bay but here we're paying about $60 [a month].''

Far from being the costly extravagance critics have suggested, NBN promoters say that if Australia follows an emerging US trend home buyers will soon make high-speed broadband access as one of the prime factors when they are choosing where to live.

The aim is to have the NBN go past 286,000 homes by June, with access possible at every Australian home by 2021.

The federal opposition says progress has been slow, with only 30,000 Australians signed up at this point. But Mr Grahame says there's strong demand.

The NBN is already available in 314 new apartment or housing estates around the country, with 86 of those in NSW.

Apart from Divercity at Waterloo, buyers in some projects at Rhodes, the Southern Highlands, Kellyville, Baulkham Hills, Oran Park and Harrington Grove and further afield in Bathurst, Dubbo and Orange are already benefiting.

''The developer provides us with a pit and pipe network encircling the estate then the builder connects all the equipment in the home,'' Mr Grahame said. Residents can then request connection from their retail service provider over the phone.

At Waterloo, Mr Brown, who lives with his partner, Andy, 24, is suddenly very popular.

''Friends are coming over to our home and having a go of our new toy. It's making them consider moving from the eastern suburbs to Waterloo,'' he said.

For those who are not in a new apartment block or housing estate, the wait will be longer. To date, homes are connected in Armidale, Kiama Downs and Minnamurra.

But Mr Grahame said NBN services were expected ''shortly'' in Riverstone, Penrith, Richmond, Strathfield, Lidcombe, Blacktown and Seven Hills. Construction will also start within a year in Ryde, Arncliffe, Mascot, Kensington, Castle Hill, Liverpool, Riverwood and Peakhurst.

Householders can check the NBN's progress by visiting nbnco.com.au and typing in their address.

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