Tasmania's NBN shrouded in mystery

Summary:Tasmanians have complained they're being left in the dark over the state's leg of the National Broadband Network (NBN), despite the Federal and Tasmanian Governments insisting construction could start within weeks.

Tasmanians have complained they're being left in the dark over the state's leg of the National Broadband Network (NBN), despite the Federal and Tasmanian Governments insisting construction could start within weeks.

It's been such a drawn-out process. Right now, we would really like to see some more detail

Digital Tasmania's Andrew Conner

"It's been such a drawn-out process. Right now, we would really like to see some more detail," Andrew Conner, spokesperson for consumer group Digital Tasmania, told ZDNet.com.au this week.

The state has been fed snippets of detail about the NBN, with the latest drip coming last Sunday after Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett announced in the state's budget that it would tip $12.7 million into energy utility, Aurora, as part of its contribution to the National Broadband Network.

On Sunday, Tasmanian newspaper The Mercury reported Bartlett as saying Tasmanians would see "Aurora trucks rolling into town and rolling out the optic fibre" within weeks as funding came through. But a spokesperson for the Premier yesterday was unable to provide ZDNet.com.au any further details other than a statement from Canberra was due in the next few weeks.

The Premier's comments gave little joy to Tasmanians keen to know how the project will progress or how much of the $700 million expected cost will be federally funded. "That Aurora will roll out the network is about all we know," said Peter Gartlan, president of local IT industry group, Tas ICT. "After that there doesn't seem to be a lot of certainty around anything."

Gartlan said the state could miss its short window of opportunity to take advantage of its 100Mbps speed connection advantage while the mainland waited for its own roll-out. He said there was a risk of the NBN being viewed in Tasmania as just "fast Facebook" rather than changing the way its businesses conduct their affairs.

"It's frustrating these details haven't been sorted out so that we can get stuck into it. The big benefits that will ensue from this won't last for a long time," he said.

A spokesperson for Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin said it was not clear yet whether the NBN Company would own the Tasmanian leg of the network, or even if it was really a part of the NBN.

Tasmanian sources involved with the state's previous fibre broadband efforts under TasCOLT have said they have not been privy to planning discussions for the state.

I would have thought for any government tender there would be a statutory requirement for its cost to be reviewed for value, and then for implementation to go ahead.

IBRS analyst Guy Cranswick

Other sources, including senior staff at likely network hardware suppliers for the project, said they had not heard of any tendering effort that was planned to be released by state-owned utility Aurora Energy -- presumably a necessary step to acquire equipment for the Tasmanian roll-out, but which is yet to occur.

Intelligent Business Research Services analyst Guy Cranswick said, "I would have thought for any government tender there would be a statutory requirement for its cost to be reviewed for value, and then for implementation to go ahead."

Work has been proceeding in the state with the Federal Government locking down three recent contracts valued at around $800,000. KPMG was contracted to provide pricing information for the Tasmanian NBN, Minter Ellison for legal advice, and Consultel for technical advice. A spokesperson for Consultel was unable to discuss details of its assessment. The timing of this work coincides with the opening of the Basslink cable due by 30 June and Internode's plan to expand its ADSL2+ footprint in the state.

The spokesperson for Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy told ZDNet.com.au yesterday that the government was now in "very advanced negotiations" with the Tasmanian Government for the roll-out of the NBN. "The Tasmanian Government has indicated that it is confident the roll-out can begin in the short term and we are working with them to make that happen," the spokesperson said.

Topics: Broadband, Government : AU, NBN

About

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, s... Full Bio

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