Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated that the fibre National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout will continue to 36,000 premises in Tasmania while the government considers a Tasmanian government proposal to use Aurora Energy's existing power pole infrastructure to reduce the cost of building the network in the Apple Isle.
The fibre-to-the-premises network is to pass 190,000 premises in Tasmania when it is due to be completed next year. According to Turnbull today, the network has passed 32,820 premises, with construction contracts issued for a further 17,000 premises, and planning and remediation work under way for another 19,000 premises.
"Work on the NBN rollout in Tasmania is back on track," Turnbull said in a blog post.
For the remaining approximately 121,180 premises in the rollout, the future is less certain. At today's NBN Senate hearing in Tasmania, the CEO of Civil Contractors Federation, Tony Cook, called on Turnbull to honour his election promise and keep the construction contract as is to complete the network.
At the same time, the Tasmanian government and local power company, Aurora Energy, have been working with NBN Co onto use Aurora Energy's existing power pole infrastructure to hold NBN Co's fibre to allow NBN Co to keep rolling out the NBN in the state, but at a lower cost than using ducts and pipes for the NBN.
Turnbull said that NBN construction partner Visionstream, which declined to appear at today's NBN hearing, has been working with Aurora to utilise around 80km of Aurora's aerial infrastructure.
"Visionstream continues to engage with Aurora for design and construction works for the utilisation of aerial assets to reduce the requirement to build new underground assets where appropriate. This represents approximately 80 kilometres of aerial infrastructure constructed to date under the contract with Visionstream," Turnbull said.
"Visionstream and NBN Co continue to work together with Aurora to identify opportunities for additional aerial assets to be utilised for a cost-effective build in Tasmania."
However, when Aurora executives appeared before the committee today, they indicated that the work conducted with NBN Co on the proposal had gone ahead, but NBN Co had informed Aurora that any decision on whether to proceed with using Aurora's infrastructure is waiting on the government's decision on the technology mix for the NBN rollout.