The National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) may not roll out fibre to places where private companies already have a fibre network of equal standing available if new legislation is passed, which is due shortly to enter Federal Parliament.
The office of Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy today confirmed to ZDNet Australia that the government plans soon to introduce legislation into parliament that would require private companies installing new fibre networks or upgrading existing networks to meet NBN standards. The legislation will, in effect, require private companies to offer the same level of access as people would receive on the government-installed fibre.
"The legislation will ensure any new or upgraded networks will have to meet NBN standards and offer a wholesale service on an open and non-discriminatory basis," Conroy's office said in a statement.
"These arrangements will ensure all future networks will support effective retail-level competition and deliver NBN-consistent outcomes for everyone."
This would ultimately mean that the government may not need to roll out fibre in places where private companies have installed fibre that meets the technical and wholesale competitive requirements of the NBN.
"As long as the government's requirements [for the network] are met there should be no need for overbuild," Conroy's office said.
The result of the legislation may potentially see a reduction in the government investment required for the $43 billion project if private companies comply with the government's requirements.
Last week, Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman announced plans for network company i3 to put in fibre through Brisbane's sewer network to bring 100Mbps speeds to over 100,000 residents within the next four years. Should the sewer fibre network meet the requirements put forward by the government in the legislation, there may be no need for NBN Co to roll out fibre in the parts of Brisbane that are covered by the network.
The office of Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull was contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of writing.
Conroy's office also confirmed that the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009 was expected to be entered into parliament this week. The legislation offers Telstra the option of volunteering to structurally separate or have functional separation imposed on it, coupled with tough sanctions and a possible ban on acquiring spectrum for 4G wireless services. The Bill also seeks to strengthen the powers of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to act on misbehaviour in the telco industry.
(Front page image credit: Fiber Optic Grass 2 image by rq, CC BY-SA 2.0)