Despite calls for an extension to the July deadline for proposals to build the national fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) broadband network, Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy is determined to stick to his schedule.
"We're conscious of all the comments, but determined to begin the roll-out by the beginning of next year," he said today at NICTA's Techfest event in Canberra. Despite admitting the time frame is tight for bidders, he maintained: "It's not something that's come completely out of the blue."
The Labor government's time frame has come under fire from many in the telecoms industry. At a recent conference in Sydney, CEO of Pipe Networks, Bevan Slattery, said: "There's a lack of adequate time. It's almost criminal ... There's a longer time to respond for the supply tenders of photocopiers."
According to Conroy a "lot of groundwork" has been done by various parties and "not just by the incumbent".
Conroy said he is sure more than one bid will be submitted, pointing out that G9 has already announced its intention to submit a proposal.
However, one potential risk to the roll-out is the bill that needs to be passed for necessary network infrastructure information to be provided to bidders. It is critical this bill be passed Conroy said, and urged the Opposition to let it through the Senate, where it hold the majority.
The Opposition has also threatened another Senate challenge to the FTTN network. Yesterday, Opposition communications spokesperson Bruce Billson said Liberals plan to prevent the Labor government accessing the AU$2 billion Communications Fund which it had earmarked to help pay for the AU$4.7 billion roll-out.