Labor tries to force NBN Co to keep Tasmanian fibre rolling

Labor will introduce legislation into the Senate today aimed at forcing NBN Co to keep rolling out fibre to 200,000 Tasmanian premises.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Labor senator for Tasmania Anne Urquhart will this afternoon introduce a Bill that would, if passed, require NBN Co to continue its fibre-to-the-premises rollout.

In February, NBN Co executive chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski said that NBN Co may potentially use fibre-to-the-node technology in Tasmania despite previous suggestions that Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's pre-election promise to honour all NBN construction contracts would see the state's rollout completed with fibre to the premises.

National Broadband Network advocates in the state have since lobbied the government to continue the rollout, as Tasmanian Liberal leader Will Hodgman admitted that the issue could cost him the state election later this month.

ZDNet understands that this afternoon, Urquhart will introduce legislation as an amendment to the National Broadband Network Companies Act to require the government to "honour its election commitment to rollout fibre-to-the-premises broadband to no less than 200,000 premises in Tasmania".

The legislation will not be debated until May, and, even if it succeeds to pass the Senate before the new Senate sits in July, it will fail to pass the House of Representatives, assuming Coalition MPs vote against it.

A spokesperson for the minister had been approached for comment, but had not responded at the time of writing.

NBN Co, in the meantime, is conducting a trial of rolling out fibre to the premises using Aurora's power poles in a way that may reduce the cost of the rollout. The trial has been labelled as an election stunt by the Communications Union, which said that a number of premises in Tasmania are already connected to the NBN via Aurora's power poles.

According to NBN Co's rollout figures to March 2, Tasmania currently has 28,187 brownfield premises and 34 greenfields premises able to connect to the network. Thus far, 10,574 brownfield users have taken up an NBN-based service, with only 4 of the available greenfields connecting.

Over 5,000 brownfields premises are considered passed, but are unable to connect to the NBN without additional work being completed.

Editorial standards