NBN strategic review won't be made public today

The strategic review of NBN Co will not be released today, a spokesperson for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Coalition government is expecting to receive a draft of NBN Co's strategic review today, but the document will not be made public until it has been finalised with commercial in confidence information censored, the office of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed.

Today marks 60 days since Turnbull tasked NBN Co under executive chairman Ziggy Switkowski to commence a strategic review into the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN), and a potential way forward for the company responsible for the rollout.

Although Turnbull has pledged a new level of transparency for the NBN, a spokesperson for Turnbull told ZDNet that the government would receive an advanced draft of the report from NBN Co today, but that this document would not yet be made public.

The government has not set a time for when the document will be made public, but the publicly released document is likely to be redacted of so-called commercial in confidence material. Switkowski told a Senate Select committee hearing on Friday that much of the information in the review must be commercial in confidence in order for the review to be credible.

"Without pre-empting any decision the government might make, one of the difficulties in disclosing the review in its entirety is that it will have within it costs and positions that are commercially sensitive," Switkowski said.

"For the review to be relevant, it has to get down to a very high level of detail into commercial elements, and it is doing that. And they cannot be disclosed."

Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare this morning called for the document to be released in full.

"The government now has the Strategic Review, it was delivered to the minister today, he should release it today," Clare said in a statement.

Clare said that the review needs to take into account the state of Telstra's copper network and the ability for it to be adapted for a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network in order for it to be credible.

"If the strategic review team hasn't got this information from Telstra and independently audited it, we will not know how much it will cost to build the Coalition's second-rate network," he said.

Clare outlined a set of questions that he believes the review needs to answer in order to be credible, including the cost for accessing the copper network, the quality of the network, remediation costs, plans for the Optus and Telstra's hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) networks, the number of nodes needed, and how the nodes will operate.

Turnbull previously slammed the former Labor government for sitting on a draft of the NBN Corporate Plan ahead of the September election. That plan required the approval of Cabinet before it could be finalised. Turnbull has not indicated whether the NBN Co strategic review will also require Cabinet approval before its release.

It comes as last week, a draft report prepared by NBN Co prior to the election on the Coalition's FttN policy was leaked to the media, revealing that Turnbull's promise of being able to deliver 25Mbps download speeds to all Australians by 2016 is an unlikely target. The report said that NBN Co would need to install between 50,000 and 70,000 nodes across Australia in order to meet that target, which would require a significant workforce, as well as negotiations with power companies and local councils in order to get the nodes installed.

Turnbull has rejected the findings of the report, stating that it was prepared by the former management of NBN Co seeking to defend the fibre-to-the-premises "failed project".

Tonight, former NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley will deliver a speech to the Telecommunications Society, where it is expected that he will defend his legacy in establishing the fibre-to-the-premises NBN.

Editorial standards