NBN doesn't have to wait on laws

Summary:The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) revealed yesterday in a senate hearing that the National Broadband Network (NBN) could continue to be rolled out without legislation being passed in parliament.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) revealed yesterday in a senate hearing that the National Broadband Network (NBN) could continue to be rolled out without legislation being passed in parliament.

Senators

Senator Mary-Jo Fisher, Senator Ian MacDonald, Committee Secretary Dr Ian Holland, Senator Kate Lundy and Senator Scott Ludlam
(Credit: Ben Grubb/ZDNet Australia)

"We've got this implementation study now, we've got three broadband Bills that I'm aware of ... and we've got some standard NBN Bills on the horizon as well," Greens Communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam said. "What happens from your point of view as regulators ... if that legislation doesn't pass the senate?" he asked the DBCDE.

The department's first assistant secretary, network policy and regulation, Pip Spence, said that if legislation didn't pass the senate the NBN could continue to be rolled out.

DBCDE representatives

DBCDE representatives
(Credit: Ben Grubb/ZDNet Australia)

"There are obviously existing regulatory obligations that apply to licensed carriers, so work can continue on the NBN in the absence of those Bills," Spence said. "But obviously our strong commitment has been to have a regulatory framework in place for the company, but the roll-out as a network is not dependent on those Bills being in place straight away."

Asked by Ludlam if there would be a time when contractors working on the NBN would have to stop working due to Bills not being passed in parliament, Daryl Quinlivan, deputy secretary, infrastructure, said he wasn't aware of such a scenario becoming an issue. "Not that I'm aware of, no," he said. "And in some cases there are regulatory alternatives to legislation in any case."

Private meeting held

As well as grilling departmental representatives on whether the NBN could continue to be rolled out without legislation, the senators were engaged in a private meeting with one of the creators of the NBN implementation study earlier in the day, McKinsey and Company.

The confidentiality of the meeting caused Liberal Senator Ian MacDonald to try and bring some of it on the record in the hearing. "I want to put on the record the committee's concern about the briefing," he said. "We very much appreciate the briefing, but having had it I wonder why it was a confidential briefing and why it was necessary to have a departmental person with McKinsey at the private briefing."

DBCDE first assistant secretary, NBN implementation division, Marianne Cullen, said it was McKinsey's company policy to not hold public briefings on its reports. "As I understand it, McKinsey and Company has a company policy that generally prohibits them from making public statements or speaking publicly about the work that they've done," Cullen said.

"I understand that McKinsey was interested in speaking to that and on that basis it was arranged that they would speak to you on a confidential or private basis so that they would not be reported publicly in terms of the comments that they have made," Cullen said.

MacDonald also questioned why a departmental official needed to attend the meeting.

"Under their contractual arrangements that we have in place with McKinsey, we put in place protocols to govern how the implementation study and the time that they are under contract with us would operate," Cullen replied. "And under those protocols one of the issues was that any meetings that would be attended by a departmental representative as well."

Topics: NBN, Broadband

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.