Tasmanian State Premier David Bartlett has committed to ask the Tasmanian National Broadband Network Company (TNBN Co) whether it would be feasible for Tasmanians to be required to opt out from having the planned optic fibre cables connected to their premises — reversing the current policy where they are required to opt in.
"When I next meet with Doug Campbell, the chair of TNBN Co, I am happy to raise it with him and ascertain whether it has been considered," Bartlett said in a parliamentary estimates committee last week in response to questions on the matter from opposition MP Michael Ferguson.
"I do not think it is the government's to consider; effectively it is TNBN Co's to consider ... I think your logic in simplistic terms sounds reasonable but I would not know what various legislative or other regulatory impacts on that logic there might be. It might be that governments do not have the power to just connect anything to any house and if you do not like it you had better have opted out," Bartlett added.
Ferguson told the committee that he had personally raised the issue with TNBN Co, but he was "not the minister". He suggested that if the issue were to be resolved, it might assist with the roll-out already underway in the state — which has already resulted in some Tasmanians receiving NBN services.
"I am sure there would be plenty of people that would not want the government rolling up onto their property and installing fibre without permission. Nonetheless, it would be an enormous cost to the community if we only do get half of our homes connected to the fibre."
The news comes as debate continues about what proportion of Tasmanian residents are expected to take up NBN services.
And in June it was revealed that 45 per cent of premises included in the first stage of the roll-out had allowed a fibre drop to their premises, although the Tasmanian Government had estimated 16 per cent of homes and businesses would choose to connect.
In a separate statement, Ferguson noted that his party was formally proposing that all homes and businesses would be provided with a fibre-optic cable drop.
"By doing a cable drop at the time technicians are already in the area would reduce overall costs to the consumer, make the roll-out more efficient and increase take-up rates," the MP wrote. "The premier's last minute backflip where he stated that he would raise the matter with Doug Campbell, chairman of Tasmanian NBN Co Ltd, was a welcome relief."
The Tasmanian estimates committee hearing also dealt with a number of other matters — such as the initial memorandum of understanding in regards to the NBN that was inked by the Tasmanian and federal governments and energy utility Aurora — which Bartlett will not release publicly and said had since been largely superseded by other agreements.