Analysis: Council NBN testers raise the cost of rushing

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Analysis: Council NBN testers raise the cost of rushing

Fast phase one rollout adds up.

At least two councils selected as test sites for the national broadband network have expressed serious concerns over what they percieve as NBN Co's "rushed" timeline, with at least one expecting it will result in high administrative costs.

Four of the five councils selected as part of phase one of the mainlaind NBN rollout - Armidale Dumaresq, the Municipality of Kiama, Townsville Council, and the City of Onkaparinga - joined a teleconference with the NBN Senate Select Committee in Melbourne a fortnight ago.

All were asked to provide responses to a survey of questions on behalf of the Committee.

When asked whether NBN Co had sufficiently consulted and collaborated with council, a spokeman for the Municipality of Kiama [PDF] agreed it had. With a catch. 

"The timeframe has been very rushed," the council spokesman replied.

When further quizzed as to whether council thought the speed of rollout "appropriate", the sopkesman repeated their complaint. 

"It appears rushed."

In a submissionTownsville Council representatives stated [PDF] that the faster the network was pushed into the community, the more it would tax council resources, and the more it would subsequently seek to recover from NBN Co.

"The speed of the roll-out needs to be maintained in order for NBN to meet its objective of having the network completed in eight years," Townsville Council stated.

"However, the speed will have an impact on Council resources, specifically around the area of assessing proposals, liaising on design of the network and managing access to Council owned and/or managed assets.

"The faster the roll-out, the greater the level of this impact, with Council recovering direct costs."

Armidale-Dumaresq Council expressed concerns - both in the hearing and afterwards - at the level of Council resources that might be required to facilitate the NBN rollout.

Council's director of engineering and works David Steller told the Committee that NBN Co had indicated "up to 10 work teams" of subcontractors could be working on various parts of the project at any one time.

Steller said that would "be fairly resource hungry on my staff in having to locate underground surfaces for them and other issues.

"We regularly get asked to locate our infrastructure for other telecommunication companies as well as gas companies and Country Energy, who are the power authority up here.

"So that is something that we need to set up some protocols about so that we get enough notice to provide that information," he said.

Townsville's economic development and strategic projects manager David Lynch said costs incurred by Council in the first phase rollout would be recovered.

"There are no issues with that," Lynch said.

"In fact, only yesterday we were liaising and negotiating on issues associated with accessing our GIS [Geospatial information systems] information. That would be the fee-for-service approach, as it is with any other organisation.

"Where there are significant costs incurred from our point of view, we do have the capacity to recover costs and, from that perspective, we will be treating NBNCo in the same way as any other utility provider."

The councils also revealed that NBN Co would hold information sessions in their areas from mid-May.

Moreland City Council did not participate in the session.

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