Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday said that the Tasmanian Government's decision to mandate the connection of optic fibre to premises unless residents explicitly opted out was evidence that the National Broadband Network's business plan depended on what he called "compulsion".
The opt-out model has been discussed in Tasmania for some time and has the support of the state's opposition, as well as groups such as advocacy group Digital Tasmania. But Turnbull, who is continuing his push for the government to undertake a cost-benefit analysis into the NBN, wasn't quite as positive.
"The Tasmanian Government's push for new laws allowing the National Broadband Network Co to connect to houses without the explicit consent of owners confirms that the business plan of the NBN depends on compulsion and the elimination of competing technologies," he said in a statement late yesterday.
Turnbull said the move added compulsion to what he said were Labor's existing plans to shut down competing fixed-line broadband technologies such as Telstra's existing copper network and the hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) networks operated by Telstra and Optus.
Yesterday the Australian Financial Review reported that Optus was in advanced discussions with NBN Co on a deal similar to Telstra's that would see its HFC customers migrated onto the new fibre infrastructure planned.
"If Australian consumers want a fixed line for telephony or internet access, they are going to have to use NBN's line — like it or not," said Turnbull, claiming the NBN had suffered a "poor initial take-up" in the early stage sites in the US.
The office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday dodged a question about whether the other states would also follow the opt-out model, although Conroy himself has publicly backed the model in the past.
But Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett yesterday said the new "opt-out" model 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."