NBN fibre keeps rolling until review: Turnbull

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has instructed NBN Co to continue rolling out fibre to the premises in existing construction locations until the 60-day review is completed.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Construction work for fibre-to-the-premises National Broadband Network (NBN) currently being undertaken by NBN Co will continue until a 60-day review has been completed by the new NBN Co board, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced.

Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet

Turnbull today issued a statement of expectations to the outgoing NBN Co board and chairwoman Siobhan McKenna, advising NBN Co to continue working on the fixed-wireless network with a view that some premises may have access to the VDSL network, continue offering the interim satellite service, continue building and preparing the satellites for launch, continue construction of the transit network and the NBN points of interconnect, and continue the deployment of fibre to new houses and developments.

For existing premises, the Coalition has instructed NBN Co to continue rolling out where build instructions have been issued to the construction partners.

"Any further build or remediation instructions should not be ordinarily issued pending further analysis and discussion," Turnbull and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said in the letter.

Turnbull said that work will be completed in areas containing 300,000 premises where construction contracts have been signed. For the further 645,000 premises where network design work is being done, those areas where NBN Co is close to handing over final designs to construction partners will also get fibre to the premises.

For the 900,000 premises listed on the website that were due to get the NBN in the next year, Turnbull could not guarantee how many of these premises would now be covered under the current design.

"Designs about actual construction in these areas will be taken after the reviews into the NBN rollout are completed," he told journalists in Sydney.

"This is a company that is obviously in a state of transition, there is obviously a lot of people that have been promised broadband services by the NBN Co in time frames that have not been delivered, so we do not propose to make changes to that or any further promises or commitments until we are absolutely satisfied that they are going to be correct."

Turnbull said that NBN Co has advised the government that it is proposing to further revise down its rollout target for premises passed by fibre by June 30, 2014, from the 981,000 premises it had expected to pass, down to 729,000.

This includes service class zero premises, which NBN Co counts as being "passed", but which cannot order a service, such as multi-dwelling units. A key priority for NBN Co will be to address the 66,000 premises that are currently classified as being "passed" but cannot connect, Turnbull said.

NBN Co will now also be required to publish online weekly figures of the progress of the rollout, including premises passed, those that can't connect but have been passed, and the number of active services, Turnbull said.

"As I've said to NBN staff today, I'm not interested in being given information that people may think will conform to my particular political agenda," he said.

"We want from NBN Co nothing more or less than the plain unvarnished facts."

The strategic review undertaken by NBN Co was originally expected to be completed 60 days after the election of the new government; however, Turnbull said it will now be 60 days after the change of management at NBN Co.

In the interim, NBN Co will be allowed to trial other technologies to connect customers to the NBN, Turnbull said.

"The interim statement provides NBN Co with the flexibility to use a wider range of technologies to connect businesses and homes to the network. For example, this will allow NBN Co to trial the latest VDSL technology to deliver super-fast broadband to homes and businesses in multi-dwelling units such as apartments and office blocks," he said.

Turnbull confirmed that he asked the NBN Co board for their resignations, and all but one did so. He said that the request was not a reflection of the work conducted by the board, but rather was made in order to provide the government with flexibility with pursuing its change in NBN policy. He said that decisions about who will be appointed to the board will be made by the Cabinet.

Talks with Telstra over access to the copper network would commence in the near future, Turnbull said.

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