The $11 billion deal between Telstra and the National Broadband Network (NBN) Company to decommission its copper network and move customers onto the NBN will be finalised in January, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said this morning.
The deal was supposed to be finalised by the end of this year for Telstra shareholders to vote on in June 2011, but Conroy told Radio National this morning that the Coalition's blocking of the telco reform Bill was to blame for the delay.
"One of the things that held up this final negotiation was Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott kept blocking the Bill for nearly a year," he said. "Once that was completed in the last few days of parliament in November, that has meant that NBN Co and Telstra are absolutely beavering away to try finalise this before Christmas. I think they haven't quite made that, they're reconvening in the first week of January to try and finalise it."
Conroy responded to criticism about the timing of the release of the business case, being just days before Christmas, stating that the cabinet's decision on points of interconnect on the NBN meant NBN Co had to revise the document. The business case was intended to be released last week, but Conroy said it was delayed due to the deaths of asylum seekers near Christmas Island.
"They reworked the business case and gave it to us last week and we had intended to release it on Friday and we had everything in place but with the Christmas Island tragedy, we postponed the release because we didn't believe we should be trying to push a government policy in the middle of that tragedy," Conroy said.
The business case released yesterday outlines that by 2025, NBN Co expects 70 per cent of Australian households to be using services on the network. Conroy said this figure was estimated by subtracting the percentage of vacant homes, wireless-only homes and Optus hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) cable customers who would not be on the NBN in 2025.
"About 13 per cent of homes will be wireless-only homes. That's about a doubling of homes now. The estimate of 12 per cent, that's the estimate of homes that aren't occupied. The remaining four to five per cent is the remaining HFC cable," he said.