Exclusive: NBN Co withholds fibre upgrade price

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Exclusive: NBN Co withholds fibre upgrade price

Fears trial details could breach contractor confidentiality.

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NBN Co has refused to reveal the price paid by a Tasmanian resident to receive a fibre connection outside of the planned footprint because the figure could unleash a chain of events that brings the network to a grinding halt.

The "extreme" worst-case scenario is detailed in a freedom of information (FoI) determination issued to iTnews after a three-month investigation.

iTnews can reveal that eight Tasmanian residents set to receive wireless or satellite connections under the NBN requested quotes from NBN Co to be upgraded to a fibre line, under a trial program kicked off by NBN Co last year.

Of those, only one resident accepted the quote, which is payable in four installments.

iTnews lodged an FoI request in December seeking the price paid, on the basis that it provides an important case study of the cost of personally financing an NBN fibre extension.

However, NBN Co knocked back the request yesterday in a 10-page decision [scribd] that foreshadows grave consequences for the network should the price ever be made public.

NBN Co alleged that revealing the price paid by the Tasmanian resident could:

  • Undermine future tender processes;
  • Reveal NBN Co's business model and commercial strategy, "making the company more vulnerable to current and future competitors";
  • Make NBN Co "potentially less attractive to investors when the company eventually privatises";
  • Violate commercial confidentiality. The price is known only to "relevant staff, contractors and the Tasmanian resident" who has signed a non-disclosure agreement;
  • Lead NBN Co to be sued by its construction partner, if the price was used to reverse engineer rollout costs; and
  • Lead to greater secrecy in relationships between NBN Co and its partners.

 

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"NBN Co's ability to engage high quality and competitive business partners would be undermined," the company said.

"It follows that NBN Co's negotiating position would be compromised, along with its capacity to generate shareholder value.

"In the extreme, it may mean that NBN Co would be unable to proceed with its mandate to roll out the national broadband network, which would have a negative impact on the Australian public."

Identical "extreme" reasoning was used to knock back a freedom of information request by Internode seeking access to NBN Co's contract with Telstra earlier this month.

Read on to page two for a copy of NBN Co's price quote method and to see why cost - rather than technical feasibility - likely dissuaded residents from paying their own way to fibre.

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