Labor attempts to force NBN fibre rollout in Tasmania

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Labor attempts to force NBN fibre rollout in Tasmania

Updated: Introduces new bill.

A Labor senator has introduced a bill into parliament in an attempt to force the Government to continue NBN Co’s fibre-to-the-premises rollout in Tasmania.

Tasmanian Labor Senator Anne Urquhart this afternoon introduced a bill, which if passed, would require the Government to “honour its election commitment to roll out fibre-to-the-premises broadband to no less than 200,000 premises in Tasmania”.

The legislation was introduced as an amendment to the National Broadband Network Companies Act, which would require NBN Co to only make fixed line connections to the NBN in Tasmania using FTTP.

The bill won’t be debated until May or June. While the Coalition holds a strong majority in the lower house, the proposed legislation is unlikely to be passed into law.

Despite Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s pre-election promise to honour existing NBN construction contracts - including an all-fibre rollout in Tasmania - NBN Co chairman Ziggy Switkowski last month said the state’s NBN contract did not specify technology and would therefore now involve the Coalition’s preferred multi-technology mix.

“This broken promise will leave over 100,000 Tasmanian premises, previously promised fibre to their door, with the sub-standard copper service," Urquhart said in a statement.

“Tasmanians were told by the Liberals that they would complete the fibre to the premises rollout in Tasmania. Now, NBN Co still refuses to commit to the aerial rollout trial."

Liberal Senator for Victoria Mitch Fifield called the bill a pre-election “stunt”. Tasmanians will take to the polls for their state election for  in ten days.

“Senators opposite were deathly silent when the NBN fibre rollout ground to a halt under Labor before the last election," he told the Senate.

"The Coalition has got the rollout moving again in Tasmania, and under this Government all Tasmanians can look forward to fast broadband sooner, at less cost to taxpayers and more affordably for consumers.”

Switkowski's revelation last month was met with outrage from the Tasmanian government, which has for the last few months been lobbying to continue the fibre rollout following issues with NBN contractor Visionstream and the Coalition's cutting of 41,900 premises from the planned FTTP footprint in Tasmania late last year.

The Tasmanian government even went as far as offering NBN Co free access to the state’s power poles for an aerial fibre rollout - infrastructure which would otherwise generate revenue of $25 million over 20 years for the state.

NBN Co last week said it would conduct a trial of fibre-to-the-premise connections in Tasmania using electricity provider Aurora’s power poles. Such an approach, if rolled out completely, would be likely to cost around $65 per metre compared to an average cost of $400 per metre in an underground rollout.

Tasmania currently has around 33,319 brown and greenfields premises passed with fibre, according to NBN Co’s most recent figures. Around 10,578 of those have active services.

Visionstream won a $300 million contract with NBN Co in March last year to connect 200,000 Tasmanian homes and businesses to the NBN within four years.

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