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The long and winding road to a Coalition NBN policy

Stephanie McDonald | April 10, 2013
The Coalition is reportedly set to release an alternative National Broadband Network (NBN) policy this week.

Turnbull said he would expect Telstra to co-operate with any changed agreements, with David Thodey, chief executive at Telstra, stating a change in government would not affect the company's financial figures. Thodey has stated a Coalition NBN could even be positive for the telco.

"If there's a change of government, the current contracts give us a degree of protection -- there's the infrastructure services agreement, which is a 35-year contract, and depending how far we get, we get the payout on that or we get the revenues as they flow," Thodey said.

Five months later, Turnbull told Computerworld Australia the Coalition would honour existing contracts for the NBN. Instead, he said the Coalition would consider negotiating a round of further contracts to complete the rollout of the network based on FTTN.

With FTTP capable of achieving speeds up to 100Mbps, and potentially 1Gbps in the future, Turnbull has acknowledged that some people who want fibre may not receive it under a Coalition government.

He said one possibility was a user-pays system where customers could pay for fibre extensions from nodes on the street to their premises.

Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, said this type of fibre extension could cost up to $3000, and telco analyst Paul Budde has said the price could be as high as $5000, with several factors determining the cost of fibre extensions. For example, where the premise is located, the distance from the fibre footprint and the time and cost involved with civil works for the extension.

Part of the Coalition's plan could also include dismantling NBN Co, with Turnbull a staunch critic of the government-owned company.

He took aim at NBN Co when its Special Access Undertaking (SAU) was rejected by the ACCC, stating NBN Co's backdown with its revised SAU proposal meant the CEO could no longer claim a government-run "communications monopoly" would be friendlier than a private sector option.

Turnbull has also blamed NBN Co for not having a "transparent approach to information" and making it difficult for the Coalition to carry out a costed analysis of its alternative NBN plan.

Any aspirations Turnbull has to dismantle NBN Co could be problematic. Nick Economou, senior lecturer in politics and social inquiry at Monash University, has said in order to replace NBN Co, a Coalition government would need to pass new legislation, which could be problematic if the Coalition did not control the Senate.

Turnbull has also conceded that while it is not ideal to continue to operate NBN Co if the Coalition is elected, there may be no other option.

Critics and supporters of the Coalition's NBN

The Coalition's approach to the NBN has been lambasted from all sides of politics and by some in the industry.


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