Government extends NBN deadline

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Government extends NBN deadline

National broadband network (NBN) hopefuls will now have even longer to ready their proposals, as Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy announced today that he would be asking for more information.

Senator Conroy’s office released draft instruments detailing the network information that potentials carriers need to provide in their proposals and how to best keep that information secure.

“The release of these instruments is an important step forward to ensure National Broadband Network proponents can prepare robust proposals,” Senator Conroy said.

"Based on this independent expert advice, the Government is of the view that the information set proposed is sufficient for the preparation of robust proposals.”

After each carrier receives the draft instruments, they will have 12 weeks to finalise their proposals. This means that the original proposal deadline of the end of this month will be pushed back to later this year.

“This extra time will ensure that proponents have the information required to develop their proposals,” said Conroy.

But Telstra, who was previously urged by the Government to release more of its network information for other bidders, sees this new request as simply killing precious time.

“High-speed broadband is critical to this country's future economic prosperity,” said Telstra spokesman Jeremy Mitchell. “Australia cannot afford even more delay in the building of this network and miss out on the benefits of high-speed broadband.”

“While there have been informal indications about the possible need for more information, today is the first time we have seen the full detail of the additional requirements.”

“What is now required is a clear and unambiguous timeframe for bringing this five-month long network information process to conclusion and a locked-in lodgement date for the NBN RFP.”

Optus, one of the other chief bidders for the NBN, released some of its pricing plans yesterday.

In an interview with AAP, Optus director of government and corporate affairs Maha Krishnapillai said the company forsees the network to cost $12 billion, with capital gain return of about 12 percent.

Telstra disagreed, saying the NBN would cost between $15 billion and $25 billion and should return a capital gain of 18 percent.

Mitchell did, however, applaud Optus’ willingness to release such information, which Telstra believes could speed up the tender process

“If other prospective bidders have the confidence to publicly release detail of pricing, returns and margins, as Optus did yesterday, the 12 week clock should commence now - this is critical if the Government's timeframes are to be met,” he said.

Though this new development now means Australians will have to wait that more longer for the NBN, Senator Conroy says this step is necessary to ensure competition between carriers and the best possible proposals.

“The Government has always been committed to ensuring that proponents have access to necessary network information in order to prepare their proposals," he said.

“The seriousness with which we have approached this task demonstrates our commitment to a genuinely competitive process for the NBN."
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