Despite numbers, Clare claims reviews have slowed NBN rollout

The NBN has been stuck inside of 'Groundhog Day' because the government was too focused on political payback through eight reviews, according to Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare.

Australian Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare has said that the government's obsession with the reviews into the former Labor government's development of the National Broadband Network (NBN) has led to little progress in the NBN since the September 2013 election.

Clare said at the Communications Day Congress in Melbourne on Wednesday that with the market and regulatory report released by the panel led by Michael Vertigan last week, there had been eight reviews into the NBN since the election, with millions of dollars spent without much progress.

"The government has now been in power for a year — and every day, it's the same story. It goes something like this: The last government was terrible, Stephen Conroy is to blame for everything, and we need to conduct a review into it," he said.

"There are real consequences for the telco industry of having a government that is living in a time warp and obsessed with the past."

Clare questioned the independence of the panel itself, stating that the Vertigan cost-benefit analysis added rapidly increased the price of operating the fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) network from that outlines in the strategic review, while only slightly increasing the operating cost for the multi-technology mix (MTM).

"In their modelling of FttP versus MTM, they have jacked up the assumed cost of operating a fibre network by 180 percent, but they have only increased the cost of operating and maintaining the old copper and HFC network by 12 percent," he said.

"This is absurd just on face value. The report is full of these sort of dodgy assumptions. And this is the problem. As I said before, if you put the wrong assumptions in, you will get the wrong answers.

clare-slams-absurd-nbn-reviews
Image: Labor

"If you put in different assumptions about the cost to build FttP and the time to build it and expected demand, then you suddenly get a very different result."

On Wednesday morning, NBN Co chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski reiterated that negotiations with Telstra to access the copper network for fibre to the node are progressing, but he could not pin down when they would be completed. Clare said that this was in contrast to Turnbull's comments that the negotiations would be quick and could be finalised by the middle of the year.

"It's now closer to Christmas than the middle of the year and we are still waiting," Clare said.

The shadow minister said Turnbull should stop reviewing the NBN and start progressing the rollout of the network.

"In the last 12 months, we have had eight different reports into the NBN, costing more than AU$12 million," he said.

"Malcolm Turnbull can't keep hiding behind more reviews or the ghost of Stephen Conroy. He's now got eight reports and no excuses.

"It is time to stop blaming and start doing. It's time to move on. It's time to focus on building the NBN."

In the time NBN Co has been under review by the government ahead of the switch to the so-called multi-technology mix, the company has continued to roll out fibre to the premises, and has doubled the number of existing premises passed by fibre.

Switkowski indicated that NBN Co's corporate plan, submitted to the government earlier this year and not yet made public, would be less reliable than the corporate document the company puts together once a new deal with Telstra has been finalised. Next year will be the "start of the new model" for the NBN, he said, with a ramp up for the election year.

"2016 should see momentum building in a very believable way," he said.

"Then it is a race from 2017 to 2020 to get the job done."

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