POI uproar 'the whole point': Conroy

Summary:Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has welcomed "robust" debate from telecommunications providers on proposed points of interconnect for the National Broadband Network (NBN), saying the debate was the whole point of the government's discussion paper released on the issue.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has welcomed "robust" debate from telecommunications providers on proposed points of interconnect for the National Broadband Network (NBN), saying the debate was the whole point of the government's discussion paper released on the issue.

Stephen Conroy

(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

The discussion paper, released by NBN Co and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) last month, called for comments on a proposed model for points of interconnect (POI) on the NBN.

A POI is where two networks meet and exchange information. For the NBN, this is where NBN Co passes on data carried over the national network to the internet service providers' networks. Where the points of interconnect are located determines how much backhaul a provider would have to supply in order to connect customers to the NBN. How much backhaul the supplier has to provide has a significant impact on the price of the service it can offer consumers.

NBN Co's preferred model is for 14 POI located in Australia's major cities, and an additional 195 POI where needed. However, the submissions received in response to the paper have included strong criticism from big telecommunications companies and backhaul providers alike.

Optus said the proposal would undermine existing infrastructure, result in overbuild and likely end compensation claims. AAPT was "stunned" at the proposal and said that the model would reduce access seekers to "little more than resellers". The proposal was, according to AAPT, "not supported by any analysis or logic".

Speaking at an event in Sydney today, Conroy told journalists that the proposed points of interconnect would not necessarily be what NBN Co ultimately implements and said that the government welcomed open discussion from industry on the matter.

"The whole point of [the discussion paper] was to draw out the debate. And we're having a very robust debate," he said.

"It's not unexpected that people who have assets want to ensure their assets continue to be used and it's important to realise none of them have [a] collective problem with what the NBN guys have proposed," he said.

Conroy said that the respondents to the discussion paper also had not come up with one solution to the number of points of interconnect because each company had its own interests.

"Each of them has an individual position based on their own commercial interests. You won't find consensus among all these other providers cause they will all represent what is in their commercial interests," he said. "As they should."

"The thing to keep in mind is this ... how do you achieve retail competition as well as backhaul competition?" he said. "This is why the ACCC are the people to make this sort of call, because there's a balance to be made between genuine retail competition and backhaul competition."

Conroy said that he was "digesting" the 400-page-long NBN business case he received from NBN Co on Monday, and that he intended to brief his Cabinet colleagues on the details of the report before making parts of it public. He said the case should be revealed, in part, by the end of the year.

"I'm confident when people see the information that is released, that it will absolutely validate and vindicate the McKinsey findings that it is affordable and viable, and taxpayers will get a return on their money and Australians will get affordable and cheap broadband," he said.

As per government guidelines, Conroy said, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull would not receive the full uncensored copy of the business case.

"He doesn't get the full copy of the Australia Post business plan. [The Opposition will] get the annual report and they'll get to question NBN Co three times a year. People are trying to suggest there's no scrutiny, I mean, Senate Estimates just met," he said. "Malcolm's representatives can sit there and ask as many questions as they want of NBN Co three times a year."

Topics: Telcos, AAPT, Broadband, Government : AU, NBN, Optus

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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