Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has said that Telstra CEO David Thodey's comments that the copper access network could last another 100 years is proof that the Coalition would not get the network for free if the National Broadband Network (NBN) policy changes after the September election.
The Coalition's fibre-to-the-node (FttN) policy alternative to Labor's fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) NBN would require substantial renegotiation for the AU$11 billion deal with Telstra to gain ownership of the copper line between each node and each premises. Turnbull has previously said that despite the original NBN deal taking over two years to finish, he believes that the renegotiation can be done quickly, and without Telstra getting more than under the current plan.
Yesterday, Thodey told journalists that he believes the copper network is in good condition, and could stand to last for another 100 years. While the statement would have come as a welcome relief to supporters of the Coalition's policy who were unsure of the state of the ageing copper network, Conroy said today that it was instead the "belling of the cat" for a potentially costly renegotiation of the Telstra-NBN deal.
"What you see here is the beginnings of disproving what Malcolm Turnbull is claiming. He's saying he can get the copper network for free from Telstra," he said.
"[Thodey] wants more money for the copper network."
Conroy said that given the reported AU$1 billion per year that Telstra spends maintaining the copper network, buying the copper from Telstra would be "the dumbest government policy decision I have ever seen".
The minister made the comments at the NBN switch-on for 10,000 more premises in Gungahlin in the Australian Capital Territory. Conroy indicated that nationwide, there is now a 37 percent uptake of services on the NBN.