Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has avoided directly answering questions in the Senate over whether NBN Co remains on track to pass 286,000 premises with fibre cables by the end of June.
Conroy told Senators yesterday that he was "seeking further information from NBN Co" about ongoing "deployment challenges", which he said NBN chief Mike Quigley had raised at Senate Estimates in February.
But he did not directly address two questions — and two subsequent points of order — over whether he stood by NBN Co's premises passed commitment for June.
"We have indicated that there are challenges," Conroy said.
"I have sought information from NBN Co to assist in bringing it together and overcoming those challenges, but the NBN Co has an enormous challenge in organising with their contracting partners that ramp up.
"We have made it clear that there are challenges in meeting those targets and we are seeking more information."
Some of those challenges were laid bare today when one of NBN Co's contractors, Syntheo, handed back works it had been contracted for in the Northern Territory.
Quigley had fingered Syntheo at Estimates as the reason for a downgrade in the premises passed number from 300,000 to 286,000.
NBN Co has assumed responsibility for construction in the Northern Territory and is expected to say more about its plans for the rollout there in the coming days.
Speculation of a further imminent downgrade in the premises passed figure is mounting after a report by The Australian Financial Review yesterday. The report stated a downgrade could occur within a week.
NBN rollout figures made public by a small NBN retail service provider this week also indicated a widening gap between premises passed and the expected June forecast.