NBN rollout 'stalled' on asbestos issue, not Turnbull

NBN rollout 'stalled' on asbestos issue, not Turnbull

Summary: Claims that Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has 'stalled' the NBN after the election are inaccurate, according to NBN Co, which is laying the blame for the post-election slowdown on the asbestos issue.


The "stalling" of the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) fibre-to-the-premises network in existing housing areas for the month of October came as a result of the need to recommence pit and duct remediation after the Telstra asbestos issue, NBN Co has said.

According to the first weekly update issued by NBN Co yesterday on the progress of the NBN rollout, in the last four weeks, NBN Co has barely managed to pass an additional 2,000 brownfields premises with the fibre network.

In fact, for two consecutive weeks, the number of premises passed in those areas actually declined from 227,483 on September 29 down to 227,454 on October 6, and then down to 227,447 on October 14. As of October 27, the network has passed 229,398 existing housing premises, with 70,686 of those premises unable to order a service.

On Sky News last night, former communications minister and now Shadow Defence Minister Stephen Conroy said that Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is now responsible for "stalling" the NBN as the company conducts its 60-day strategic review that will in part determine whether the fibre-to-the-premises project continues, or whether alternative technologies such as fibre to the node are embraced.

Conroy said that in the coming weeks, NBN Co's construction contractors would begin laying off some of the workers building the network because of the stalling.

NBN Co denied that the change of government after the election had resulted in the network slowdown. A spokesperson for NBN Co told ZDNet that the effects of Telstra halting pit and duct remediation in the wake of the highly publicised asbestos management problems are still being felt.

"The remediation halt was always going to have a knock-on effect to the rest of the rollout. And the effect of an 84-day stoppage in May, June, July, and August was always going to be most keenly felt in the final quarter of this calendar year," the spokesperson said.

"Remember, the resumption of remediation from 19 August was a gradual process, and where remediation needs to occur, that process takes an average of three months."

The decline in the number of premises passed was related to NBN Co receiving more accurate national address data, according to NBN Co.

The publication of the first weekly rollout update came as NBN Co removed data from its rollout maps that had indicated areas where the company was expecting to roll out the fibre network in the next three years. Labor has claimed that the change shows the areas that will now miss out on the fibre-to-the-premises network under the Coalition government, but Prime Minister Tony Abbott today said that the change is more "honest" with the public on where construction is underway.

He said that the NBN under the former government was built on "assertions" and promises of rollout targets that had been broken.

This morning, Turnbull told the ABC that the move was aimed at removing the long-controversial "construction commenced or completed" term to describe any premises in an area where even just the basic high-level design work is underway.

"Under the Labor regime, they were basically being misled," he said.

"The Labor fog and spin about the NBN has been brought to an end."

NBN Co also removed its raw data on the rollout, which had been used by keen NBN supporters to see where the rollout was up to and where the project would hit next.

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU, Telstra


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.

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


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Telstra conflict of interest

    Telstra creates problems deliberately to slow down the rollout until its favoured FTTN can be realized.
    Telstra claims it can get 100Mbps on the copper
    Telstra wants part of the design and construction of FTTN.
    Telstra owns 50% of foxtel and doesn't want FTTH and will do everything to ensure its FTTN so when people are disappointed on completion the will get upgrade work to build FTTH
    There is areal conflict of interest letting Telstra get involved in this project and any plans for FTTN should be viewed with sceptesism
    FTTH advocate
  • Wabish

    If Labour was still in, everyone would blame them. Now that the more liberal government is in, it's blame asbestos. Bottom line guys, the liberal gov doesn't like spending money on infrastructure projects. They didn't last time and they won't this time. So blaming asbestos pits is just a smoke screen. If it was asbestos, why didn't things slow down before or during the election?
  • why didn't things slow down before or during the election?

    What do you mean? My time to start construction date on the NBN Website moved from May 13 to Sept 13 and finally Nov 13 before it disappeared altogether.I know for a fact all the NBN GPON equip is installed and running in the local exch.Here in WA there has been almost 0 progress on brownfields fibre rollout for months and is now at a standstill.
    • Funny

      New management team at NBN, ex Telstra seagulls with no experience of rolling out a network , even installing infrastructure (I believe one was responsible for the very infrastructure that is so problematic, plastic bags and all, the other the Media man with ezpertise with the Media organisations ensuring minimum impact on media profits - proven expertise - yeah ).
      Pre election all NBNCo's, or Conroy's or Quigley's fault. Murdochs News Ltd made a gluttonous feast out of it along with the LNP amd Malcolm. Suddenly it is the fault of that norty asbestos, not even Telstra's incompetence or sabotage

      Now NBN has to wait for permission to do almost anything from M.T, 500,000 premises off the list because no "work" commenced - in planning, streets walked, premises identified, pits located and ducts rodded etc etc - that is of course not work commenced.
      There are thousands in your boat, fibre is already run or had been commenced in their area, some purchased homes because work had commenced and fibre was being run. All taken off the Map because M.T and his bosom buddies said work had not been commenced.

      Now suddenly another 150.000 premises added because M.T decreed it to be thus.
      All nearly completed such as yours I bet, just waiting on those incompetent Telstra "experts". Suddenly another 150,000 completed within weeks or maybe a couple of months, watch the spin and media hype about how the professional LNP are achievers unlike that hopeless Labor mob.

      The NBN build is like an iceberg, 90% out of sight which is on track and within budget even if the LNP cheer squad and News Ltd would have you believe otherwise, 10%with resolvable issues.
      NBN were naive to trust Telstra, they should have built their own constructon
      Pack of fraudulent B.S artists, to be expected they are Libs after all
      Abel Adamski
      • And there it is...

        "NBN were naive to trust Telstra, they should have built their own construction"

        Amen brother Abel...Amen.