Delivering the National Broadband Network
On 7 April 2009, the Government announced that it would establish a new
company to build and operate a 'superfast' fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) National
Broadband Network (NBN). Describing it as the 'largest nation building
infrastructure project in Australian history', the government has promised a
network connecting 90 percent of all Australian homes, schools and workplaces
with broadband services at speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps), with
remaining premises connected with next generation wireless and satellite
technologies delivering broadband speeds of 12 Mbps.
While seeking private sector investment, capacity and expertise, the
government advised that ownership restrictions would be established to protect
the objective of a wholesale, open access network.
Under the government's FTTP NBN proposal, every house, school and workplace
is to 'get access to affordable fast broadband'.
The government has also claimed that the NBN will directly support up to
25,000 local jobs every year, on average, over the eight year life of the
Key elements of the government's NBN proposal are:
the government will be the majority-shareholder in the new joint
the government will sell down its interest in the company within
five years of the completion of the network;
the government, in partnership with the private sector, will
invest up to $43 billion over eight years to build the NBN;
the government will fund its investment through the Building
Australia Fund (BAF)and Australian Infrastructure Bonds (AIBs);
the NBN will provide fibre optic transmission links between
cities, major regional centres and rural towns;
the NBN will be a national wholesale-only, open access broadband
the NBN will be built and operated on a commercial basis by a
company at arms length from the government; and
the NBN is expected to be rolled out simultaneously in
metropolitan, regional and rural areas.
The government stated that it would invest in this infrastructure to
'stimulate jobs in the short-term and pay a dividend to the Australian people
through enhanced productivity and innovation in the long-term.'
The $43 billion preliminary estimate for the cost of the network was
developed 'taking into account advice from specialist technical advisers'.
The Government indicated that its next steps in delivering the FTTP NBN
commencing an implementation study to determine operating
arrangements for the NBN, network design, ways to attract private sector
investment, and ways to provide procurement opportunities for local businesses;
commencing negotiations with the Tasmanian Government on an
expanded proposal to enable the NBN roll-out in Tasmania by July 2009;
implementing measures to roll out fibre optic transmission links
addressing broadband blackspots;
Introducing legislation that will govern the NBN company and to
facilitate the roll-out of fibre networks;
making an initial $4.7 billion investment in the network; and
commencing consultations on reforms to the existing
telecommunications regulatory regime.
At the time of writing, all of these measures were in train. Although
it is apparent that the 'initial $4.7 billion investment' is a carryover from
the proposed funding for the now terminated RFP NBN proposal, it is unclear how,
or over what timeframe, the $4.7 billion will be allocated.
Establishment of NBN Company
On 28 April 2009, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the
Digital Economy, Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy, announced that the NBN Company
(the Company) had been established
and that an executive search firm would soon be appointed to assist in the
selection of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and board members for the Company.
Details about the final make-up, governance and operating arrangements
of the Company are still to be determined, however the Company's Constitution
includes an initial, albeit rather basic framework.
Rule 4.1.1 of the Company’s Constitution states that the object of the
company is to ‘roll-out, operate and maintain a national broadband network’.
The share capital of the company is $100,000, with the issued share
capital being $10. There are ten shares to be subscribed for by the
Commonwealth valued at $1 each.
The Company currently has three Board members, directors who are officers of
the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, the
Department of Treasury and the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
The Company Constitution provides these directors with significant
powers, including the ability to appoint the CEO of the company, following
consultation with the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital
Economy, and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation.
Proposed legislation relating to the operation and governance of the
network Company, development of strategies to maximise the scope of private
investment in, and the optimal capital structure for, the Company, and how to
structure the company to facilitate its privatisation, will all be considered
during the implementation study, details of which are examined in paragraphs 3.29
to 3.35 in this chapter.
Roll-out of NBN in Tasmania
On 8 April 2009, the Federal and Tasmanian Governments announced that
the first phase of the NBN would be launched in Tasmania. Acknowledging the
proposal submitted by the Tasmanian Government under the earlier RFP process,
the government noted that while the RFP process had been terminated, the Panel
of Experts had 'encouraged further negotiation' on the development of the Tasmanian
proposal. The ACCC had also advised that the proposal 'raised no issues from a
While the implementation study to determine coverage issues for the NBN
as a whole is yet to be completed, the Tasmanian proposal promises a FTTP
network to reach 200,000 Tasmanian households and businesses, all hospitals and
almost 90 per cent cent of schools.
The remainder of the state will be covered by a combination of a Tasmanian
Government-built wireless network and the Australian Government's NBN satellite
While the minister has referred to government funding for two new satellites, the
committee notes with concern that there are scant details on the government's
proposed NBN satellite solution.
The Tasmanian NBN build is expected to take five years and create
'hundreds of local jobs'.
However, this timeframe seems unduly lengthy, as the government has also stated
that negotiations between the Federal and Tasmanian Governments have already begun
with a view to rolling out the Tasmanian FTTP and next generation wireless
networks by July 2009.
Work on the remainder of the NBN build is scheduled to commence in early 2010.
The committee also notes that plans for the integration of the Tasmanian
component of the NBN into the overall network are to be developed as part of
the implementation study.
Regulatory Reform for 21st
On 7 April 2009, in response to continuing concerns expressed by
stakeholders, the government also released a discussion paper detailing options
to improve the effectiveness of the existing telecommunications regulatory
The discussion paper traverses a range of issues, many of which have
been the subject of debate for some considerable years. These include:
options to address deficiencies in the current
negotiate-arbitrate access model contained in Part XIC of the Trade
Practices Act 1974 (TPA);
the need to strengthen telecommunications sector-specific anti-competitive
conduct provisions contained in Part XIB of the TPA;
whether existing facilities access arrangements should be amended
or integrated into Part XIC of the TPA;
the appropriate separation arrangements for Telstra;
the need for Telstra to divest its interests in Foxtel;
opportunities to remove unnecessary regulation; and
the adequacy of the current consumer safeguard framework,
including the desirability of replacing the existing Universal Service
Obligation, Customer Service Guarantee and possibly the Network Reliability
Framework with a Communications Service Standard as recommended by the Glasson
Submissions to the review are due by 3 June 2009. Following the
consultation process, the government has stated that it anticipates legislation
will be introduced before the end of the year.
The government also stated that the discussion paper would formally
commence the review of conditions relating to the operational separation of
Telstra required by section 61A of the Telecommunications Act 1997,
which provides that the minister must cause to be conducted a review of these
requirements before 1 July 2009.
Backhaul for Regional Australia
As part of its NBN proposal, the government also announced that it would
immediately address the issue of regional backhaul blackspots by investing
$250 million in fibre optic transmission links. Another consultation paper,
which was released on 23 April 2009, sought stakeholder views to identify and
prioritise locations for investment, technical parameters for the backhaul network,
the funding and service delivery arrangements, and the ownership of the
Submissions relating to the consultation paper were due by 12 May 2009. The
consultation paper outlines indicative timing for the implementation of the
backhaul initiative. A Request for Tender (RFT) is to be issued in May, with
responses due in June. The evaluation of the RFT and the negotiation and award
of contract(s) are to be finalised in July, with construction of the
transmission links to commence in September 2009.
The committee notes that along with feedback from stakeholders as part
of this consultation process, plans for the integration of the backhaul network
into the overall NBN are to be developed as part of the implementation study.
Fibre access and fibre in
The government is also conducting a parallel consultation process
relating to fibre in greenfield estates, and improving access to certain
facilities and network information to facilitate roll-out of fibre optic
networks (Facilitation of Fibre Roll-out). In order to participate in
this consultation process, interested parties are required to register on the Department's
The Department's website indicates that these consultations will
commence shortly, but no specific timeframe has been announced. However, the government
has stated its intention to introduce enabling legislation for both measures in
the 2009 Winter sittings.
The NBN implementation study
On 7 April 2009, the government advised that, while its objective is to
achieve, within the $43 billion funding envelope, a 90 per cent coverage
FTTP network, with the remaining coverage delivered through wireless and
satellite technologies, this estimate would be subject to the outcome of an
On 24 April 2009, the government released a Request for Expressions of
Interest (REOI) for the provision of lead advisory services relating to the NBN
implementation study. Short-listed applicants would then be given the
opportunity to participate in a Request for Tender (RFT) process to deliver
The REOI provided additional information on the issues to be examined by
the implementation study, namely:
proposed legislation relating to the operation and governance of
the NBN Company;
the regulatory regime;
ownership restrictions for retail telecommunications providers,
and appropriateness of any foreign ownership restrictions for the NBN Company;
funding requirements for the network roll-out beyond the initial
$4.7 billion investment;
development of strategies to maximise the scope of private
ownership in the NBN Company;
the optimal capital structure for the NBN Company over time;
development of detailed commercial/financial and engineering
analysis of the network roll-out;
the best structure of the NBN to facilitate the Government's long
term privatisation objectives;
development of plans to integrate the Tasmanian and backhaul
initiatives into the overall network;
network design consistent with the Government's objectives;
development of strategies to provide procurement opportunities
for local business;
development of a detailed implementation plan and risk management
strategy for the NBN; and
The committee notes the number of significant issues pertaining to the implementation
of the NBN that will require resolution through this process.
The REOI is the first of a two step selection process to engage a Lead
Adviser to the implementation study. More than one party may be appointed to
perform this role. Following the REOI, a select tender process is proposed.
The Lead Adviser is to be contracted to provide advisory services on all
relevant issues arising throughout the implementation study, provide sign-offs,
work with other advisers to the Department, and provide a report on the study
in February 2010, with one or more interim reports on specific issues to
be available from August 2009.
The committee notes with interest that the Department is ‘not seeking
fully developed proposals for the conduct of the implementation study in
response to this REOI’ and that it is not necessary for respondents to provide
a pricing structure in the EOI.
The Department released an indicative timetable for the process, subject
to variation at its discretion, with responses to the REOI due by 19 May and
notification to short-listed applicants in the week commencing 25 May. The RFT
documents are scheduled to be provided to short-listed applicants on 29 May,
with the RFT closing on 16 June. Work on the implementation study is due to
commence in the week of 6 July 2009, with a final report due in early
The initial response from industry, business and other stakeholders to
the government's announcement was enthusiastic; however, there were almost
immediate calls for further detail to be revealed.
The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) applauded the government's
decision as allowing 'local communities to realise enormous economic and social
opportunities' and 'expanding Australia's productive capacity and educational
frontiers'. However, they also cautioned that the unprecedented nature of the project
required a close working relationship between Federal and local governments to
ensure that 'the interests of the 21 million residents living throughout
Australia are taken into account.'
While recognising the need for an expedited delivery model, ALGA
observed that 'a fast broadband network ...and sensitivity to local community
interests are not mutually exclusive'.
ALGA also welcomed the decision to mandate FTTP in all new greenfield
developments by 1 July 2010.
The committee notes ALGA's earlier criticism of the lack of cross‑jurisdictional
coordination in development and planning projects (see chapter 2 paragraphs 2.82
The Australian Greens welcomed the government's announcement, stating
that the NBN was 'an important plank in building Australia's new green economy
and had the potential to help the fight against climate change', but noted that
'it must be achieved while protecting the environment and taxpayer funds'.
Australian Greens' Leader, Senator Bob Brown, highlighted areas of the
plan that required scrutiny, including the timetable for the roll-out, the
needs of rural/regional communities, local government and the not-for-profit
sector, in addition to the impact of the roll-out on existing environmental and
The committee notes that the government is planning to fast-track legislation
to streamline arrangements for access to certain facilities as part of its NBN
roll-out, although it is unclear at this stage whether the Federal Government
will include provisions to override local planning laws (see paragraphs 3.26 to
3.27 above). The Australian Greens also supported the decision to commence the
NBN roll-out in Tasmania.
Dr Bill Glasson, who chaired the 2008 review into rural
telecommunications services, supported the announcement and stated that:
If we are to grow rural and regional Australia we have to
make sure these telecommunications services extend into the heart of rural
Australia as far as we can get them.
Noting that the government's decision would allow Telstra to be involved
in the project, he added that the decision would allow the government 'the
opportunity to go back to the major infrastructure players like Telstra and
work with them to deliver this infrastructure in a way that fits with the
people of Australia.'
The Nationals expressed concern about the network's cost and also the
number of regional towns that would miss out on the 100Mbps fibre roll-out.
While noting that the government's announcement marked a 'significant
departure from its previous commitments' and noting the 'difficulties faced by
private operators seeking funds for investment in the present economic climate',
the Business Council of Australia (BCA) stated that the decision 'provides
leadership and a road ahead for the telecommunications sector and for users of
broadband services' and 'has the potential to contribute to the productivity
and economic growth in the coming decades'.
The BCA indicated that further business and community support for the
project could be garnered by:
...providing publicly and in full the investment case for the
planned rollout, including the broader consumer, productivity and economic
benefits identified from this investment.
The BCA also supported the government's regulatory review as providing a:
...timely opportunity to update telecommunications policy
settings to ensure we both encourage investment and meet the needs of consumers
as technology and market conditions evolve in the years ahead.
The benefits of the government's proposal to patients in rural and
regional areas were highlighted by the Australian Medical Association (AMA). The
AMA stated that:
[t]o improve medical care in the bush, broadband services
should be rolled out as far as possible into rural and regional Australia and
be able to support the transmission of high-quality images thousands of
kilometres' [thereby speeding up] diagnosis and perhaps reduce the need for
some patients to travel long-distances for specialist consultations.
However, while noting that improved broadband was 'a tool' to be
utilised in patient care, the AMA cautioned that this would not eliminate the
need for more doctors and nurses in regional areas, properly funded and staffed
rural hospitals and increased funding for e-health infrastructure.
Telstra welcomed the government's announcement and the opportunity to
provide input into the regulatory reform process. While stating that it would
work with the government to assist with the implementation of its proposal,
Telstra noted that it would 'remain at all times committed to ensuring the best
interests of our shareholders, employees and customers.'
Optus also welcomed the government's announcement, stating that the
proposed model had 'the potential to fundamentally change the competitive
landscape and create a truly level playing field'. Stating that the
announcement was a 'clear indication that the NBN will not be built without
fundamental regulatory reform', Optus also called for regulatory reform to be
expedited and associated legislation to be introduced as soon as possible. Optus
noted that the success of the NBN model would be judged on 'whether a
competitive market structure is established, offering broadband at attractive
prices to as many Australians as possible.'
The committee notes the recent Federal Court ruling that confidential Optus
wholesale information had been shared by Telstra with their own retail arm, in
breach of the Access Agreement. Justice Edmonds concluded that Telstra had:
Used traffic information of Optus, or Communications
Information of Optus for the purposes of the Access Agreement, both in the
preparation of market share reports and in distributing those reports among
Telstra personnel. 
Citing this ruling, Optus has renewed its call for Telstra to be
The Australian Industry Group emphasized the need to ensure domestic
suppliers are given 'fair access' to opportunities to contribute to the
roll-out. The Australian Industry Group also noted that there were still a
number of questions that needed to be answered in relation to the public
private partnership model proposed, the regulatory arrangements governing
access to and involvement in the network, and the eventual sell-down of the
Government's holding in the NBN company.
While stakeholders were generally supportive of the government's
announcement, the proposal also has attracted criticism.
Claiming that the announcement was an acknowledgment of the 'complete
failure of the Rudd Government's broadband strategy',
Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, provided a long list of
criticisms. Mr Turnbull stated that the government had not provided any
the economic viability of the NBN proposal or the return that
would be required;
the cost to families to use the network;
whether there will be sufficient demand to make the network
the impact of competing technologies on the viability of the
what the business plan for the project is; or
the risks that taxpayers will bear.
The Opposition also condemned the time and money spent on the terminated
FTTN RFP tender process and sought a more detailed explanation from the government
as to why the tender had failed.
The Committee notes that the Auditor-General has announced that a preliminary
audit of the RFP process will be commenced by mid-May (see chapter 2, paragraph
Family First Senator Steve Fielding sought greater accountability
for the proposed expenditure of taxpayer's money and understandably queried the
choice of Tasmania rather than Victoria as the starting point of the NBN
Concerns were also raised by stockbroking analysts about the large
upfront cost, the commercial viability of the proposed network and the extent
to which productivity would be enhanced.
Issues for further consideration
While the committee welcomes the government's decision to improve access
to FTTP for 90 per cent of households, workplaces and schools, a substantial
proportion of the proposal detail is yet to be revealed, including: how the NBN
will be funded; the ownership, governance and operating arrangements of the new
NBN company; and the design and implementation of the network. These issues
will be further explored in the remainder of this chapter.
The committee is concerned at the mixed signals coming from government
on the likely cost of the network. For example, the Finance Minister conceded that
there may be a cost blow-out, while the Broadband Minister claimed that the
estimated combined public-private investment of $43 billion 'is at the top end
of what it would cost to build' the NBN, and that the government may not even be
required to contribute $22 billion.
While the government's Expert Panel concluded that none of the proposals
made in response to the earlier RFP process presented a 'value-for-money
outcome', no supporting evidence has been provided by the government on what
original costing analysis led to this conclusion. The committee highlights
previous calls from across the industry for the government to release details
of the report by the Panel of Experts together with the advice provided by the
On the other hand, the government has also not provided any detail as to
the commercial viability of its alternative FTTP network, nor details of the
advice received upon which the $43 billion cost was estimated. The committee
strongly urges the government to release its cost/benefit analysis,
particularly with regard to its viability compared to proposals provided under
the terminated RFP process.
The level of speculation and confusion is a reflection of the government's
limited detail and transparency about the implementation of the FTTP NBN, and
in particular, the way in which it will be financed. The committee is
interested in knowing whether Expert Panel provided a comparative analysis of
the costs associated with deploying a FTTP vs a FTTN network.
While advice on the technical aspects of the network are best left to
the telecommunications experts, including the Lead Advisor to the implementation
study, the manner in which the project is to be financed is the direct
responsibility of the government under the current proposal.
The committee questions the government's assertion that private
investment will be forthcoming, given that the strategies in which to attract
and maximise private investment are still to be developed by the implementation
study, and also given the Expert Panel's conclusion on the current recession's
impact on access to debt and equity funding.
Of additional interest is the proposed issuance of Australian
Infrastructure Bonds (AIBs) to help finance the NBN. The use of AIBs to fund
other infrastructure projects has also been mooted. However the way in which
money, raised through a general issuance of AIBs, will be allocated to various
infrastructure projects including the NBN, has not been clarified.
As previously noted in chapter 2, the very success of raising funds
through AIBs is a risky assumption in this current financial climate,
particularly when the government has not provided any cost/benefit analysis of
this proposal that might provide investor confidence in the AIBs.
The committee notes the government's intention to sell down its
shareholding in the NBN Company in the five years after the completion of the
While the issue of how to structure the NBN Company to facilitate such a
sell down will be addressed during the implementation study, the committee considers
that there are a number of complexities associated with this decision,
what completion means in this context, given the open ended
nature of such infrastructure;
what rationale there is to re-privatise the network;
the lack of detail on the conditions which the government would
set as a trigger to sell off the network; and
the problematic nature of essential public services being offered
on a for-profit basis, where shareholders interests do not always coincide with
the public interest.
The committee considers that issues relating to the proposed initial and
any future changes to the ownership arrangements for the NBN require further
Despite industry criticisms throughout the RFP process of lack of
regulatory clarity, the government has again failed to provide regulatory
certainty – as opposed to regulatory promises – prior to seeking further input
from industry and other stakeholders.
The committee notes that its conclusion (in the December 2008 Interim
Report) that the failure to include a basic regulatory framework, upon which
bidders could build their business case as part of the terminated RFP, was a prescient
The committee is again concerned that, without a confirmed regulatory
framework, any input into the current implementation study process may again be
compromised and thereby possibly further delaying the mainland roll-out of the
The future role of the ACCC and the nature of the access regime, while
raised in the discussion paper as areas for separate stakeholder consultation,
appear to have been relegated to part of an all-encompassing ‘regulatory
regime’ item, upon which the Lead Adviser to the implementation study is to
provide advice 'as required'.
The committee acknowledges the government's emphasis in the Regulatory
Reform Discussion paper on consumer safeguard issues, particularly the
implications of the NBN for the Universal Service Obligation (USO) and the
proposal to replace a number of measures with an overarching Communications
However, the committee remains concerned that the major consumer issue
associated with the NBN, both in terms of the long-term viability of the
network and the impact on end-users, is the future cost to customers of
broadband services. The committee notes that there have been widely different
claims about the prices that would be required to ensure a return on
Increasing concern about the potential of the proposed NBN to entrench
rather than close the digital divide between metropolitan and rural and
regional Australia, warrants further examination. While Tasmania will receive
two imminent boosts to its broadband capability – the backhaul Basslink cable
and the first phase of the NBN roll-out – other states have expressed concern
that comparable services will not be delivered to their smaller regional and
In addition, there is now a government-confirmed basis for a potentially
greater digital divide than now exists; this is due to the commitment to
provide 90 per cent of homes, schools and workplaces with 100 Mbps,
while the remaining 10 per cent will only receive 12 Mbps. The
committee acknowledges the government's commitment to the provision of 12 Mbps access
in many regional and remote areas now matches that promised under the previous
OPEL initiative. However this disparity highlights that metro-comparability
will continue to be beyond the reach of regional and remote communities.
The implications of the NBN in relation to the convergence of
technologies raised during the committee’s inquiry seem to have been put into
the ‘too hard basket’. The government has postponed consideration of this
issue until 2011, after the next election, despite acknowledging that 'current
regulatory frameworks have not always kept pace with convergence and in some
cases are challenged by such developments'
The committee also notes that the critical issue of spectrum allocation,
already subject to a consultation process conducted by ACMA, will be subject to
consultation as part of the regulatory reform options paper.
While the committee acknowledges the government's decision to include
wireless and satellite technologies as part of its NBN, the committee notes
that the regulatory reform discussion paper states that the 'relative roles of
satellite and wireless in the National Broadband Network will be determined by
the government following the implementation study'.
As previously mentioned (see paragraph 3.16), the committee has concerns that,
at the time of writing, details relating to the significant proposal to deploy
two new satellites as part of the government's NBN proposal, including funding
thereof, had not been released.
The committee notes that the REOI states that the ‘Department does not
warrant or guarantee that any RFT will be released by the Department in respect
of the Services.’
Given the outcome of the RFP process, the committee is concerned that there is
little assurance for prospective respondents that this process will go ahead.
Once submitted, an EOI will become the property of the Department and
may be copied and used for various purposes; these include:
...complying with governmental and parliamentary reporting
requirements including requests for information by Parliament or Parliamentary Committees’.
However, the committee considers that this provides little assurance
that the government will ensure an open and transparent process, particularly
in view of the requirements that short-listed respondents sign a Deed of
Confidentiality even before they can receive the RFT documents.
The extent to which the Department and the minister accede to requests
from this committee for information about the NBN and the various processes
associated with it, will demonstrate whether the government has taken on board
industry concerns about the lack of transparency during the previous RFP
The committee supports the government's objective of providing an open
access network, delivering high speed broadband through fibre, wireless and
satellite technologies at affordable prices to all Australians. However, the
difference between this vision and reality will be the way in which it is
While acknowledging the government's commitment to consult with industry
and other stakeholders on various aspects of the current and future
telecommunications regimes, the committee is concerned that the apparent lack
of coordination between these numerous processes may confuse rather than
complement each other, and certainly have potential to further delay the
The committee is also deeply concerned at the number of outstanding
issues that go to the heart of the viability and deployment of the NBN that
still need to be resolved through the implementation study and other processes
(see paragraph 3.59). The committee is particularly concerned that the government
has made a commitment to invest a significant amount of public money in a
project before these important parameters have been determined.
Given the level of stakeholder engagement the committee has already
undertaken, the committee considers it is best placed to provide a single
avenue for stakeholders to comment on all issues relating to the proposed NBN,
and seeks the opportunity to submit a consolidated set of recommendations to
the government during the pre-implementation phase of the NBN roll-out.
Having regard to the need for greater clarity and detail about the basis
upon which the decision to deploy a FTTP/wireless/satellite NBN was made, the committee
proposes that its terms of reference be revised to reflect the Government's
change in direction for delivering the NBN. The committee will table a Notice of
Motion containing the revised terms of reference, a draft of which can be found
at appendix 2.
Also, in the light of the government's announcement that it would
introduce NBN-related legislation during the Winter sittings, the committee is
seeking an extension of its reporting date to the 26 November 2009 to enable it
to examine this legislation.
The committee considers it has a continuing role to play in holding the government
to account over its NBN proposal, particularly during the pre‑implementation
phase. However, the committee also is of the view that the size and nature of
the project requires regular implementation progress reports and therefore
makes the following recommendation:
That the government:
provides the committee with the Final and any Interim Reports
prepared by the Lead Advisor to the implementation study.
table a progress report in the Senate on the implementation of
the NBN by no later than 17 September 2009, and that this progress report
detail timeframes, benchmarks and milestones for specified deliverables against
which the implementation of the project can be measured, including costings; and
table further progress reports by the end of the Winter and
Spring Sittings until such time as the NBN company's annual reports are available,
which include evidence that the timeframes, milestones and benchmarks have been
reached, the reasons for any failure to do so and remedial action to be taken.
To ensure that the committee and, subject to confidentiality provisions,
the public, who will be the largest stakeholders in the proposed NBN, are kept
appraised of developments in the roll-out of the network, the committee also recommends:
That the government provide the committee with a copy of:
the detailed implementation plan for the roll-out of the National
Broadband Network, to be developed as part of the implementation study, on the
first sitting day after it is provided to the Department; and
the risk management strategy for the NBN roll-out.
Finally, the government advised that its decision to proceed with its
investment in optical fibre technology was informed by advice from the Panel of
Experts, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's endorsement
of the use of FTTP in preference to FTTN.
An extract from the Expert Panel's report to the minister is available on
the Department's website.
It remains unclear whether or how much more of the Expert Panel's Report, or
the ACCC's report, will be publicly released. The committee therefore
That, as soon as possible, but no later than the last sitting day of
the Winter sittings, the government provide to the committee the following:
the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s formal report
on the National Broadband Network (NBN) proposals to the NBN Panel of Experts
the final report provided to the government from the NBN Panel of
Experts on submissions to the NBN process.
In particular, the committee questions whether any analysis by the ACCC
or the Panel of Experts of the regulatory review submissions provided to the Department
could be considered to have dealt with commercial-in-confidence information. It
therefore makes the following recommendation:
That those aspects of the Expert Panel and the ACCC reports that discuss
or make any conclusions or recommendations about the existing regulatory
framework and options for its reform be provided to the committee as soon as
possible, but no later that the last sitting day of the Winter sittings.
3.100 The RFP process was roundly criticised for putting the cart before the
horse with respect to the regulatory framework that would underpin the proposed
NBN; the current government proposal may be similarly criticised for putting
the vision before the analysis.
3.101 The mixed signals coming from government on the regulatory arrangements
to apply once the NBN is in operation and those that will apply during the
transition period, as well as the funding and likely future costs to consumers of
the proposal, leave many questions unanswered. This leads the committee to
speculate on the adequacy or even existence of sound evidence upon which this
proposal has been based.
3.102 The committee considers that there is a need for continuing scrutiny of
a proposal upon which rests not only the country's future technological
capacity but also that of its economy.
Senator Mary Jo
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