30% of NBN out of coalition's reach: Conroy

30% of NBN out of coalition's reach: Conroy

Summary: Contracts in place mean that 30 per cent of the NBN will be built even if the Coalition comes into power at the next election.


Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has said that 30 per cent of the National Broadband Network (NBN) will be built by the time the Coalition has a chance to unravel it by winning the next election.

Senator Conroy said that network builder NBN Co is on target with the Federal Government's roll-out.

The Coalition has vowed to rework the infrastructure project if it wins the election.

Conroy said that the Coalition would have to honour a number of contracts, including a satellite deal, and about 30 per cent of the NBN will be constructed by 2015.

"If Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott are good to their words, then about 30 per cent of the National Broadband Network will be constructed," he told the Ten Network on Sunday (PDF).

There is no question, however, that the Coalition could sabotage the massive project if it wins power, according to Conroy.

"They have said they would end the cross subsidy between the cities and regional and rural Australia," Conroy said.

"It would send the price of average internet connections through the roof for people in rural and regional Australia.

"Can they physically stop the roll-out? That's harder because of the contracts."

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in his blog that the Coalition is committed to providing prices in rural areas that are equivalent to those in the cities, but clarified that equalising prices would come from a specific subsidy to rural customers, rather than a cross subsidy of NBN prices.

Conroy also discussed the government's data-retention proposal; earlier this month, it launched an inquiry into a number of initiatives, including laws requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to keep every piece of data sent across their networks by their customers for a period of two years, just in case a government agency needs the data for a criminal investigation.

The proposal has come under fire from Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam, who said that the proposal is a "systematic erosion of privacy", because it is based on the notion that all Australians are potential criminal suspects, or "mindless consumer drones whose every transaction should be recorded and mapped". Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has branded the proposal as a "threat to civil liberties and privacy", and GetUp has started a petition calling for Attorney-General Nicola Roxon to "withdraw the government's support" for the proposal.

Yet, Conroy is convinced that the proposal is warranted, telling Ten that organised crime has taken to the internet very quickly. The fact that criminals are adapting so well to the online environment is affecting Australians, and it needs to be tackled by revised laws, he said.

"If we want our law-enforcement agencies to be able to deal with organised crime, if we want our intelligence agencies to be able to deal with the threat of terrorism, we need to have some changes in the laws."

Updated at 1.07pm, 23 July 2012: added comment from Malcolm Turnbull.

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Government

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • Destruction through deception

    My concern will be that the Lib's plan to destroy through deception. They have said they will honor the various contracts, but they have also said they will revisit any existing ones to try and do it cheaper, blah blah blah.

    Lets take Wollongong as an example. One or two exchanges are allready being upgraded to NBN, several more are due in the next 12 months. Those wont be a problem, they will be complete by election time. Its the rest that are the worry the 4 or 5 that are in the 3 year window.

    Where I worry is that the Liberals will renegotiate those rollouts that havent started, so they are FttN rather than FttH as per the existing contract. That honor's their 'pledge' to keep the existing contracts, as well as keep to their FttN plan as much as they can.

    Then there's the two exchanges that arent on the 3 year rollout plan - what happens with them? If the Liberals DO honor the FttH contracts, will those two areas get FttH to keep the entire city on one model, or will they get FttN?

    There are no answers until it happens, but Wollongong will be a very strong marker for what the Liberal plan is. If they are being honest, almost the entire city should be on FttH within 3-4 years. If they are planning on undermining the existing contracts with cheaper options, only the 4 or 5 exchanges that will be complete by Nov 2013 will be FttH.
  • First rule of politics!

    First rule of politics, never change a policy or program unless you have something better to offer. We have seen many Government falter with new policies that fail because the predessessor was a lot better. Labour has faltered on boat people because it didn't have a policy which was better, they just hoped that the boat people wave had stopped and would not return and had nowhere to run when the boats started coming again and it's given the Government an aura of incompetence.
    The Liberals are now about to make the same mistake, there's no way that any DSL or wireless solution is going to be functional at all within 2 to 3 years as the volume of traffic will overwhelm DSL and wireless systems just like the boats overwhelmed Labor, they will be forced into halfharted and confusing backtracks and in the finish will probably hand the NBN to Telstra and offer some sort of subisdy and preservation of the exsisting monoploly to complete the NBN in order to maintain the "private is better philosophy".
    Kevin Cobley
  • Political Nightmare...

    It's hard to have confidence in the Australian government at all these days. On one side, you've got Julia Gillard, whose actions and decisions are invariably ruining Australia for... well, practically everybody.

    On the other side, you've got Tony Abbott, who simply opposes decisions (whether good or bad) made in parliament, but offers few strategies or negotiations in return.

    The NBN is the only thing that is keeping me as a Labor supporter. If Liberal were to guarantee that the NBN would be rolled out as-is, then I'd jump ship in a second. But as it stands, I have no faith in either faction, because both are heading for disaster in any case.

    Rather than letting the midden hit the windmill, politicians really should focus on what is best for this country and ACT UPON IT, regardless of the cost. I support the NBN because of this notion, because it will benefit our country greatly.
    • Hmmm

      So even though Abbott and/or his party members have constantly said - we don't need an NBN. It is wasteful. A white elephant. What we have is good enough. Wireless is the future, blah, blah, blah...

      And, even though the NBN is the fulcrum point for your vote, if Abbott & Co now said, oh no we actually love the NBN after all... you'd vote for them?