The five National Broadband Network first release sites are due to commence construction by July; however, in a sign of the complexities that lay ahead, NBN Co is still determining how it should issue tenders for the project.
Underground or overhead?
(Credit: NBN Co)
The first release sites on the mainland include a part of Brunswick in Melbourne, Aitkenvale and Mundingburra in Townsville, Minnamurra and Kiama Downs south of Wollongong, Armidale in NSW, and Willunga in South Australia.
ZDNet.com.au has confirmed that NBN Co will run tenders for the first release sites separately to the remaining 200,000 kilometres of the National Broadband Network (NBN). NBN Co late last year requested from industry capability statements for the IT, active and passive network equipment and construction components of the eight-year build.
Before releasing the tenders for delivering the network in the first release areas, thought is required. "We're still formulating a view on what approach to take in the design of the RFP [request for proposal]," NBN Co spokesperson Rhonda Griffith recently told ZDNet.com.au.
One of the issues NBN Co is believed to be assessing in preparation for its tenders is whether the network in each of the local council regions can be connected overhead or underground. Some councils, such as Moreland Council in Victoria — slated for the first release deployment — have an explicit policy outlawing overhead cables, while others, such as Townsville, do not.
Armidale's policy on underground telecommunications cabling is mixed: for new developments, multi-dwelling occupancies and sub-divisions, underground is required. But for existing households, it is whatever is currently there.
A bigger issue, according to Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) president, Geoff Lake, would be the requirement by NBN Co and its contractors to trespass on council-owned property and the risk of damage to that property.
"Regardless of whether it will be overhead or underground, it requires trespassing on public and council infrastructure. This isn't something that will be fatal, but it will need to be appropriately resolved between each of the 560 councils and NBN Co and various subcontractors that will do the work," Lake told ZDNet.com.au.
Lake said that councils would be fighting to have damages or the cost of replacement covered by NBN Co or its contractors rather than it being born by communities.
"Also disruption on neighbourhood streets. There needs to be appropriate warnings given to communities so that they are able to go about their daily lives and so that people can plan around local roll-out," said Lake.
Lake said that neither the NBN Co nor the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy had met with ALGA member councils recently, but he added that he was hoping to meet with NBN Co's Conroy-picked external affairs chief, Mike Kaiser.
"As far as our involvement, not much has happened around providing further detail around the implementation of the NBN and what it will mean in terms of roll-out issues," Lake said, adding that Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy had given repeated assurances that councils would be consulted prior to any decisions being made.