Turnbull still confident of Telstra-NBN deal change

Australian Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is confident that Telstra would be willing to renegotiate its AU$11 billion deal for the NBN should there be a change of government in September.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

On Monday, The Australian reported that Telstra CEO David Thodey said the company would still look to get the same AU$11 billion amount under a Coalition government as it is slated to get under its current deal with NBN Co to lease its pits and ducts, and shift customers from the copper network to the NBN.

Turnbull, who has yet to release his policy in full, has suggested that the AU$37.4 billion fibre-to-the-premise rollout could be scaled back to a fibre-to-the-node VDSL network, which would utilise Telstra's existing copper network from the node to each premise.

Speaking on radio station 2GB today, Turnbull said that Telstra would be flexible to a change.

"They're not going to renegotiate a contract which results in their shareholders getting a haircut, obviously. They're not mugs and I can't un-write bad deals that [Communications Minister Stephen] Conroy and [Prime Minister Julia] Gillard have written. I mean, we're stuck with that," he said.

"But we can change, for example, [what] we can do. We can use their copper, we can do fibre-to-the-node rather than fibre-to-the-premise, as long as Telstra shareholders are not worse off financially, and that is very manageable."

While Conroy yesterday suggested that a similar deal was possible under a Coalition government, he also said that Telstra shareholders would keep the same value of the deal, but Australians would be worse off.

"Where you're at now is you can get the best network in the world for the value of the Telstra contract ... or Telstra will receive the same payment and help Malcolm Turnbull build a second-rate network," he said.

Last week, NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley called for an analysis by industry group Communications Alliance into the alternative NBN policies, including fibre-to-the-node. The announcement was not met with praise from the industry, and the Communications Alliance has yet to confirm whether it will undertake such a study.

Conroy said yesterday that he was "very relaxed" at the possibility of any such study going ahead.

"Any serious test will show that fibre-to-the-home is the best long term solution," he said.

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