The Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, has issued a statement of expectations for the National Broadband Network.
Speaking at a press conference today, Turnbull also confirmed that he had requested the resignations of the NBN Board. He said this should not be taken as a personal criticism of the board but as a means of giving the government maximum flexibility when considering its options.
Turnbull said he had order NBN Co to continue rolling out fibre under existing contracts while a strategic review is undertaken.
A 60-day review would review how much the NBN would cost to complete. Turnbull stressed that he was open-minded and technologically “agnostic”.
The Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Anthony Albanese, said Turnbull’s comments confirmed “that people can’t be certain they will get fibre connected direct to their home or business unless physical NBN construction has already commenced in their area”.
- Watch Turnbull’s news conference (24m)
Statement by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Implementing the Coalition’s Broadband Policy
The Coalition Government is committed to completing the National Broadband Network sooner, more affordably for consumers and at less expense to taxpayers.
NBN Co’s shareholder ministers — Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann — have today issued an interim Statement of Expectations to the company as the first step in implementing changes to Government policy.
The interim Statement will guide NBN Co’s construction and operational activities pending changes to the Board and while a Strategic Review and Independent Audit of the project is carried out and a new NBN Co Corporate Plan is drafted.
The interim Statement instructs NBN Co to continue to roll out the network as rapidly and cost-effectively as possible throughout this process.
In the short term, the interim Statement will see the NBN Co meet its contractual obligations by continuing to roll out fibre to the premises while the company conducts the strategic review of the project.
The NBN Co has recently advised the Government that is proposing to revise its rollout target for premises passed by fibre by 30 June 2014 down by almost half from the forecast made four months ago.
The interim Statement provides NBN Co with the flexibility to use a wider range of technologies to connect businesses and homes to the network. For example, this will allow NBN Co to trial the latest VDSL technology to deliver superfast broadband to homes and businesses in multi dwelling units such as apartment blocks.
A key priority will be to reduce the backlog of 66,000 premises passed by the NBN fibre network which cannot currently obtain service. This includes the majority of apartments, schools and businesses in areas where the fibre network has been rolled out.
Under the interim Statement of Expectations, construction will be completed in areas containing 300,000 premises where construction contracts have been signed.
Detailed network design work is underway in areas containing a further 645,000 premises. In geographic areas where NBN Co is in a position to hand over final designs to construction partners, some of these sites may see construction work begin shortly.
There are also more than 900,000 premises listed on the one year rollout plan on the NBN Co website where only preliminary network design work is underway. Decisions about actual construction in these areas will be taken after the reviews into the NBN rollout are completed.
These decisions will ensure there is a steady flow of work on the NBN until well into 2014. This will provide certainty for contractors and ensure they do not have to demobilize workforces.
We expect this period of review will lead to revisions to the timing of the rollout and to updated forecasts.
It is important to bear in mind however that the NBN rollout has, to date, repeatedly missed its targets.
It is our goal following the completion of the review and a new corporate plan to see the NBN Co set realistic rollout targets and then consistently deliver on them.
TABLE: Revised NBN Forecasts
Total Premises Forecast to be Passed by Fibre (‘000)
Corporate Plan, Dec 2010 317 1,268 2,711 4,173 5,647 Corporate Plan, Aug 2012 39 (actual) 341 1,307 2,912 4,625 Draft Corporate Plan, Jun 2013 208 (actual) 981 2,450 3,943 NBN Revised Forecast, Sep 2013 729 1,740 3,115
Note: ‘passed’ includes ‘service class zero’ premises which cannot obtain service
Statement by Anthony Albanese, Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
COALITION BREAKS ELECTION PROMISE ON BROADBAND
The Coalition has today broken its promise to roll out fibre broadband wherework is already underway, with the release of the Government’s interim statement of expectations for NBN Co.
The Coalition’s broadband policy states that “value for money for taxpayers will come from completing work already underway”.
But Mr Turnbull has today broken that promise.
NBN Co’s statement of expectations says: “In regard to rollout in brownfield areas, NBN Co should continue existing construction where build instructions have been issued to delivery partners.
“Any further build or remediation instructions should not ordinarily be issued pending further analysis and discussion.”
This confirms that people can’t be certain they will get fibre connected direct to their home or business unless physical NBN construction has already commenced in their area.
That potentially means 645,000 premises, where construction is already underway for the fibre rollout, will be left to rely on last century’s copper for their broadband. This includes people living in Tasmania, who were assured before the election that the Coalition would complete the full fibre rollout in that state.
This is a betrayal of Tasmania and all Australians who thought they would begetting fibre to the home under the Coalition.
Before the election, Malcolm Turnbull also promised that his strategic review of NBN Co would take place 60 days after becoming the Minister.
But because he has effectively sacked the NBN Co board, this review will only be completed 60 days once a new board and management team is in place.
This inauspicious start does not auger well for Australia’s broadband future.