Tas Govt tries to resurrect NBN on power poles

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Tas Govt tries to resurrect NBN on power poles

Dusts off Aurora plan.

Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings wants to deploy fibre optic cables on power poles in order to get the NBN rollout in Tasmania back on track.

Giddings said she had raised the idea in meetings with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

"They have been open to receiving a proposal," she said in a statement to iTnews.

"I have asked [power pole owner] Aurora Energy to prepare a brief on using its existing power pole network to deliver optic fibre, which we will provide to the Australian Government."

Aurora Energy will dust off and update an aerial cabling plan it devised in 2009 after being put in charge of the first stages of rolling out fibre in Tasmania, according to a report by The Australian.

Subsequent construction contracts went to Visionstream, which the Government has accused of slowing rollout works and not meeting its contractual obligations.

More than half of the premises that have received NBN fibre to date in Tasmania have overhead cable connections to the next-generation network, The Australian noted.

Giddings said on Twitter the decision to put fibre underground had been NBN Co's, and while the state government agreed cables should ideally be underground, it would not insist on an underground rollout "at the expense of no fibre to [the] home".

"Optic fibre to the node is simply not good enough," she said. "We need faster speeds to embrace the technology of today let alone the future."

Giddings saw the Tasmanian Government's proposal as a potential "win-win" for all parties in the NBN rollout.

She said it would allow "the Coalition to honour its pre-election pledge, reduce roll-out costs for NBN Co and its contractors and ensure that Tasmania continues to realise the benefits of having superfast broadband delivered to the door".

Digital Tasmania spokesman Andrew Connor urged the state government not to rush into a full aerial construction model.

"Of course it's better than no fibre but I think we just need to give the NBN rollout more time to do it properly and do it underground," Connor told iTnews.

"Aerial fibre was used in stage one and two [of the Tasmanian NBN rollout] in most places where there wasn't underground power already. It was successful in getting the rollout done pretty quickly, but ... there's definitely more risks in having cables overhead.

"They can be brought down by car accidents or other obstructions to the lines, and also by bush fires."

Connor was also concerned a fully aerial NBN rollout would lock Tasmanians into "overhead cabling for phone and power for a very long time".

Peak body TasICT's executive officer Dean Winter said his preference was to see Visionstream complete works as planned, though he welcomed any initiative that might get Tasmania's rollout back on track.

"Minister Turnbull should give Visionstream every opportunity to complete that work," Winter said.

"But Aurora has shown it has the ability to do this work in the past and their rollout model offers significant improvements in rollout speed.

"If Visionstream cannot complete the project, then the strategic review should consider any option that delivers a full fibre to the premises NBN to Tasmanians, as promised."

The Tasmanian Government has been spurred into action after the Coalition cut 41,900 premises from the planned FTTP footprint in Tasmania last week, bring to a head fears that a fully fibre-optic Tasmanian state may never be completed.

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