Wilkie reveals NBN Co's Tasmanian deal with Visionstream

Independent MP for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has shed light on some of the issues plaguing the rollout of the fibre to the premises network in Tasmania by construction contractor Visionstream, and the steps NBN Co has implemented to fix it.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

NBN Co is paying Visionstream more money for the NBN rollout in Tasmania than originally planned, but NBN Co now has access to Visionstream's subcontractor deals, according to Independent MP for Denison, Andrew Wilkie.

Visionstream is contracted to build out fibre to 190,000 premises across Tasmania, to finish the fibre rollout in the state, but in November last year, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull revealed that the company had done no work since July, and was asking for higher rates to complete the work. Since the election, NBN Co has passed only over 6,000 premises by fibre in the state.

According to detail obtained by Andrew Wilkie in a meeting with Turnbull last week, Visionstream's issues began when it shifted subcontractors from set day rates to a schedule of rates based on the amount of work done, as well as the well-publicised issue of asbestos handling in Telstra ducts that led to a stall on work for around three months.

At that point, Visionstream sought to renegotiate its contract with NBN Co for higher rates. NBN Co in December offered the company a bridging contract that offers higher rates covering 16 fibre-serving area modules while Visionstream worked to improve its processes. Under the agreement, NBN Co is given access to Visionstreams books to ensure spending is efficient and to help the company manage its workforce and construction in the state.

Before the election, the Coalition promised it would honour all existing contracts in place with construction partners, which had been believed to mean that the entire fibre to the premises rollout in Tasmania would be completed. Since the election, however, the government has indicated that some premises in the state may be passed by fibre to the node instead, under modified terms of the existing contract.

Wilkie said that every premises in his electorate should get fibre to the premises.

"There should be no winners and losers in the rollout of the NBN and your postcode should not dictate what type of technology you get. Everybody in Denison deserves fibre to the premises and the NBN needs to get on with the rollout," he said.

Last week, a government-majority committee investigating a private members' Bill by Labor Senator Anne Urqhart compelling NBN Co to continue the fibre rollout in the state rejected Urqhart's proposal.

"The committee notes the shambolic nature of the previous NBN rollout and considers flexibility is required to ensure that the ongoing rollout of the NBN is undertaken in a timely, cost-effective and efficient manner," Coalition senators noted in the report (PDF).

In Labor's dissenting report, the committee members said that the government's report was a "distortion of facts" from the strategic review, and said that the rollout should be continued as fibre to the premises.

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