Revealed: Turnbull's NBN Stopgap Plan

Written by Oonagh Reidy     23/09/2013 | 23:31 | Category: BROADBAND

Coalition may put the brakes on some planned NBN rollouts

Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull has released a revised "statement of expectations" to NBN Co, he said today

It is the "first step to implement Coalition broadband policy to ensure we can complete NBN sooner, more affordable for consumers and at less cost to taxpayers," he said in a media conference held this afternoon. 

Minister Turnbull's interim statement of expectation to the company will guide NBN Co's construction and operation, "pending changes to the board while strategic review is carried out and new corporate plan is drafted".  

The review is to be completed within 60 days.  It will be conducted by NBN Co itself, with some input from experts. 

In the short term, the NBN Co will continue to meet its contractual obligations rollout to fibre to the premises, while the review is underway, Turnbull confirmed.   

The Coalition advised NBN Co to continue fixed line fibre rollout, offer service over interim satellites, continue construction of points of interconnect and deploy fibre to new development areas. 

NBN Co has advised the govt it intends to downgrade its rollout of fibre to the premises forecast to be met by 30 June 2014, by almost half, the Communication Minister said. 

This forecasted fibre rollout, announced by NBN Co in June, was 729,000 by June 30 next, rising to 1.74 m by June 2015, and over 3.1 million by mid-2016. 

The Coalition advocates a cheaper fibre-to- the-node (FTTN) broadband rollout over the NBN Co's fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), although this may mean slower Internet services. 

The interim statement allows NBN Co to trial a "wider range of technologies" including latest VDSL technologies to rollout "super fast broadband"  to multi dwelling units and office blocks, the broadband minister confirmed. 

"A key priority will be to reduce backlog of 66,000 premises passed by the NBN fibre network which cannot currently obtain a service".  

NBN construction will be completed in areas containing 300,000 premises where contracts already been signed, he said. Other sites where designs are underway may also see construction occur shortly. 

However, decisions about more than another planned 900,000 premises will be taken after the strategic review completed, he added.

"A lot of people were promised broadband services, in timeframes that were not delivered. We will make no further promises until we are satisfied they are correct." 

"These decisions will ensure here will be steady flow of work on NBN well into 2014" and provide certainty for contractors. 

He called for "realistic rollout targets" saying NBN Co has, to date, repeatedly missed its rollout targets.  

Board 

Earlier today, it was confirmed the Coalition requested NBN Co board members stand down, following concerns about incompetence to rollout the biggest telecommunications infrastructure project in the nation's history. 

"The Government did request the directors to offer their resignations..all but one did so," Turnbull said. 

"They've not resigned, they are continuing directors," he added. 

"The request should not be regarded as criticism of any of the the directors," alluding to chairman Siobhan McKenna's "difficult job" and CEO Mike Quigley, who recently announced his resignation.

Government wants "complete flexibility" in implementing its new policy agenda, he said. 

Decisions relating the board will be taking the cabinet in "due course" and the Minister refused to speculate further on NBN Co appointments.

"You can expect there will be change made to the board in due process following the next cabinet meeting," he added.