NBN Co invokes federal powers to get Ausgrid pole access

NBN Co will invoke federal telecommunications powers to access Ausgrid's power poles after the companies failed to come to an agreement over access for the purpose of rolling out the fibre network.

NBN Co will invoke powers under Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act in order to gain access to Ausgrid's power poles for deploying the fibre component of the National Broadband Network (NBN), after commercial negotiations between the two companies failed.

Approximately 25 percent of the NBN fibre rollout to existing houses is expected to be delivered over power poles and other aerial infrastructure. Until now, NBN Co has had temporary arrangements in place with the providers while it was negotiating with energy providers to access that infrastructure, but these agreements were set to expire early this year.

Ausgrid confirmed this morning that long-running negotiations between the two companies had come to an end on March 20.

"NBN has subsequently elected to use its powers under Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act to deliver its project across the Ausgrid electricity network," an Ausgrid spokesperson said.

The legislation allows NBN Co to build its network using Ausgrid's infrastructure, provided it meets safety and network standards and NBN Co reimburses Ausgrid for losses incurred.

"Since conclusion of the commercial negotiations, Ausgrid has yet to receive any proposed programme for the network rollout from NBN or its contractors," an Ausgrid spokesperson said.

NBN Co told ZDNet that it had been pursuing access to the infrastructure under Schedule 3 since last year, and this wasn't anything new.

"We announced in October last year that we were pursuing a Schedule 3 agreement and we have been continuing on that path since that time, and so what has happened now is neither new or unique," an NBN Co spokesperson said.

Last year, the New South Wales Liberal government accused NBN Co of potentially pushing up power prices, with the cost for NBN Co to install and maintain the fibre network in New South Wales put at AU$400 million over 20 years.

ZDNet understands that the New South Wales government was asking for as much as AU$120 in rent per pole per month, which was said to be more than three to four times that which was asked by other energy providers in Australia.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said at the time that the rental cost would add an additional AU$175 million to the cost of the NBN.

Interim agreements with the other two energy providers in New South Wales, Essential and Endeavour, expired in February, however it is understood that the current Schedule 3 application only applies to Ausgrid, as NBN Co does not currently require access to infrastructure owned by the other two companies that NBN Co hasn't already gained access to.


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