The Tasmanian Government has announced plans to mandate an "opt-out" model for the National Broadband Network roll-out in the state — meaning that all premises will be hooked up to the infrastructure unless they explicitly choose not to be.
The opt-out model has been discussed in Tasmania for some time and has the support of the state's opposition. NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley has often invited residents to opt-in to ongoing early-stage roll-outs on the mainland.
In a statement, Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett said he had received advice indicating the State Government could legislate in the area. "From the advice and research I've received, I'm now convinced that an opt-out model is the most practical and efficient way to ensure all Tasmanians can innovate and prosper in the new digital economy," he said.
The office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy did not directly respond to a question this afternoon on whether the opt-out model would be applied to other states, although Conroy himself has publicly backed the model in the past.
"The government welcomes this initiative by the Tasmanian Government," said a statement issued by Conroy's spokesperson. "It will enable faster and more efficient roll-out of the network and minimise inconvenience to landowners, who will not to have confirm in writing that they want to be connected."
"It will still allow landowners to opt out of connection should they choose to do so. This initiative would allow fibre to be connected to premises; it does not commit people to taking a service from any of the service providers."
Bartlett said that the new structure would take Tasmania forward faster.
"We must take full advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity, and ensure its benefits reach as many Tasmanians as possible, in the years and decades to come," the Premier said. "Already, more than half the householders and businesses in the first three 'Smart Towns' have accepted a connection to optic fibre."
"That's a good early result. But we're also determined to get that participation even higher, and ensure every Tasmanian householder and business that wants access to super-fast broadband can get it easily and efficiently."
Bartlett's statement said the state had originally pursued an opt-in model because of legal issues around entering an owner's property to connect optic fibre without their consent.
The Premier said he had briefed members of the Premier's Local Government Council on the benefits of an opt-out model, during a meeting in Launceston today. And the State Government has pledged to continue consulting closely with the Federal Government and NBN Co on the roll-out, with further local council consultation also under way.
"I'll be writing to Tasmanian Councils in the near future, to seek their views on exempting parts of the roll-out from local government planning schemes, to reduce the amount of process and administration," Bartlett said.
The move was immediately welcomed by advocacy group Digital Tasmania, which said it supported any reasonable measure to speed up the NBN roll-out. "It's simply the only way to go," said spokesperson Andrew Connor. "We hope that the community is consulted in the preparation of this legislation and individual consumers when each install is performed."