Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull has made a number of recent announcements in response to controversy and public confusion regarding the state of the NBN rollout.
In an interview on Network Ten’s Meet the Press, Mr Turnbull was asked about what kind of connection the 500,000 premises taken off the NBN rollout map in the NBN Co.’s recent progress report would eventually receive.
“In all of these fixed-line areas, people will get access to the NBN,” Mr Turnbull said. “It may not necessarily be with fibre to the premises. In fact, for most of the brownfield areas, it’s unlikely that it would be. I would like to build as much fibre to the premises as we could, but we’ve got to get the cost down.”
Mr Turnbull also announced intended changes to the way areas would be prioritised for the NBN rollout.
“We have got a survey underway to identify those parts of Australia that have the worst broadband – you know, where the need for upgrades is greatest. And they will be prioritised. We’re also – the NBN will also focus on rolling out upgraded services to areas where there is the greatest demand – you know, business, industrial parks, business areas – where you can actually generate some early revenue.”
The Minister has also suggested that Visionstream, the company responsible for the NBN rollout in Tasmania, is seeking to renegotiate its rates for the works.
“The NBN Co has advised me that it has a contract with Visionstream to run fibre past about 190,000 premises in Tasmania, of which around 18,000 have been already passed by Visionstream making a total of 32,000 passed in Tasmania,” Mr Turnbull said. “That contract specifies certain rates at which Visionstream will be paid for its work.”
“I am advised by NBN Co. that Visionstream has slowed down its work considerably, passing only 2,000 premises since the 15 of July. The NBN Co further advises me that Visionstream now complains that the rate to which it previously agreed is too low and is not enough to enable it to get the job done.”
“Visionstream has asked the NBN Co to substantially increase the rate for this work – in other words it has asked for more money to complete the project.”
“The NBN Co is currently in commercial discussions with Visionstream about this matter and the Tasmanian rollout is receiving close consideration in the work on the Strategic Review.”
This comes after Mr Turnbull publicly questioned whether Visionstream was meeting its contractual obligations and suggested that the NBN construction in Tasmania had ground to a halt and the company responded, saying that work was continuing according to plan.