NBN Co had flagged the total number of homes without connection at 100,000 at its financial year 2020 results in August. That number fell to around 60,000 in November and is expected to further shrink to about 35,000 by the end of the year.

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Mr Fletcher added the declaration of completion, a critical step in the planned privatisation of the NBN, shouldn’t be seen as a signal for NBN Co to rest on its laurels.

“This declaration doesn’t mean that NBN Co will stop developing.”

“I fully expect that the company will operate as a mature entity through continual improvement in the provision of quality services to its broadband retail customers, and ultimately to Australian households and businesses, as well as driving efficiency in its operations,” he said.

With data demand growing over the network, particularly during the lockdown period, NBN Co has earmarked $4.5 billion to upgrade the network by 2023, moving around 6 million homes from last-mile copper to ultra-fast fibre connections.

The plan has been labelled a major policy backflip by the critics of the government’s NBN strategy, but Mr Fletcher said the approach offered NBN Co a much better chance of delivering better speeds to homes.

“The demand-driven nature of the upgrades provides more flexibility for NBN Co to make best use of its workforce and complete the upgrades over the next three years,” he said.

“This will enable NBN Co to use construction resources as they are needed and I am confident that NBN Co will be able to deliver on these upgrades just as it has delivered on the initial volume build,” he said.

While the construction of the NBN has been largely completed, the relationship between NBN Co and the retail telcos remains testy. The telcos buy wholesale capacity from NBN Co to deliver their services to homes and businesses and have long agitated against the high charges levied by NBN.

They have also been critical of the process of getting homes connected to the NBN, with Singtel-Optus boss Kelly Bayer Rosmarin saying there was room for improvement when it came to the NBN connection process in a business briefing in December.

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“We think that a lot of cost in the industry actually stems from the fact that we don’t always deliver what the customer wants first time and correctly – so we have a large amount of calls, complaints,” she said.

The government has acknowledged the criticism coming from the telcos, saying that improving service quality had been tagged as a key priority for NBN Co.

“Now that the company is shifting its focus away from the volume build (of the network), the government fully expects that this transition process will enable the company to drive further improvements in service quality, including streamlining interactions with RSPs (retail service providers),” a spokesman for Mr Fletcher said.

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