Rowland says govt supressing unflattering NBN information

Government won’t release redacted portions of 2013 strategic review

Labor’s broadband spokesperson, Michelle Rowland, has accused the government of suppressing unflattering information about the NBN, citing its refusal to release redacted portions of the 2013 strategic review into the National Broadband Network.

The strategic review was commissioned by the Coalition government shortly after the 2013 election. Its findings were used to justify switching away from the previous blueprint for an all-fibre fixed-line NBN rollout, with the network instead to be built with a ‘multi-technology mix’.

In addition to fibre to the premises (FTTP), the MTM NBN is employing hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), fibre to the node (FTTN) and fibre to the distribution point (FTTdp — also called ‘fibre to the curb’ or FTTC).

A range of figures were redacted in the version of the strategic review released to the public. Those included the estimated cost per premise of a revamped FTTP deployment, estimated construction costs for FTTN including copper remediation, cost per premise estimates for FTTdp and the total capital expenditure and cost per premises of an HFC rollout based on the Telstra and Optus pay TV networks.

During the recent round of Senate Estimates hearings, Labor’s Senator Anne Urquhart asked if the figures could be released “given the passage of time” since the review was conducted.

The Department of Communications in its response stated that the figures cannot be provided “because they are nbn’s commercial-in-confidence information”.

“To this day, the Government refuses to release an unredacted version of the Strategic Review out of fear it will embarrass the Prime Minister even further,” a statement issued by Rowland said.

“It’s also unfathomable that NBNCo cannot answer basic questions about its operating expenditure for different access networks, or why it took three years to ditch the Optus HFC network,” the statement said.

Rowland claimed that it was “a deliberate tactic by the Turnbull Government to stifle scrutiny about the long-term viability of the copper network it is foolishly relying on to rollout its second-rate NBN.”

In an answer to questions on notice from Senate Estimates, NBN said that it “does not yet have a defined operating cost per premise metric for reporting actual costs incurred for respective access network technologies at this stage of MTM deployment”.

The government-owned company said that because its operating costs include a number of costs that will remain fixed (such as leasing facilities), dividing them up among the current premises on the network would create a misleading cost per premise metric.

NBN says its rollout it on track for its scheduled completion in 2020. By the end of FY17, NBN is planning to have some 5.4 million premises able to order a National Broadband Network service. By 30 September, some 3.23 million premises were able to receive an NBN service.

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