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REGIONAL Queensland will soon have access to a broadband internet network that rivals the speed and prices of Australia’s metropolitan cities by using thousands of kilometres of idle fibre optic cables.

State Government start-up QCN Fibre has begun taking on the wholesale internet duopoly of Telstra and Optus which has lumbered consumers and businesses from the Sunshine Coast to Cairns with slow and expensive services.

Utilising 6000km of underused cabling from publicly owned power distributors, QCN Fibre will sell wholesale services to local internet providers and also compete with the National Broadband Network.

It is hoped the extra competition will stop established firms and the next generation of innovators, who cannot compete because of poor internet access, from ditching regional areas.

By exploiting the significant excess capacity in the cabling used by power companies to monitor networks, QCN Fibre is initially targeting Toowoomba, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns.

Warwick meat processors John Dee is already using the network for real-time trading with international customers after the firm had considered moving some jobs to Brisbane.

And a wireless internet provider in Julia Creek, between Townsville and Mt Isa, has cut wholesale costs by 70 per cent and doubled capacity for its remote customers.

QCN Fibre chief executive Derek Merdith told The Sunday Mail the company’s aim was to create competition and help regional Queensland grow.

“The measure of success for me is to get metropolitan services and metropolitan prices into regional Queensland,” he said.

The John Dee case was the perfect example of what QCN Fibre could do.

“There’s an 80-year-old company that is very successful and the heart of the town asking ‘do we move to Brisbane or stay where we are?’,” he said. “But now they can stay there and grow there.”

It can be revealed QCN Fibre will soon plug into the major international cable network through a new submarine link at Maroochydore which was funded by the Palaszczuk Government and Sunshine Coast Regional Council.

The direct connection will give Queensland faster access to Asia and the US, which will be a boon for data-intensive regional businesses.

“This means we will have the fastest internet and a stronger connection to Asia and the US than any other region in Australia,” Innovation Minister Kate Jones said. “This is a game changer for Queensland businesses exporting online overseas.

QCN Fibre will look to use the extra capacity of water and rail utilities to spread its network.


Article in The Sunday Mail – 5 April 2020 – Reporter: Steven Wardill