Conroy tables greenfields fibre NBN bill


Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has introduced legislation outlining with how new housing development estates would deal with the incoming wave of new fibre-optic telecommunications cable associated with the National Broadband Network and other rollouts.

The bill – entitled the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Fibre Deployment) Bill 2010 and available online will allow the government to set out which kinds of new developments need to have fibre installed and which ones need to be made ready for the installation of fibre.

Coupled with subordinate legislation – which Conroy expected to publicly release in “the coming weeks”, it will also allow the Government to specify conditions for both types of facilities, “in order to ensure they meet technical and service standards”.

The legislation will also provide for a mechanism where third-parties can gain access to fibre-ready facilities. The Government’s vision is that fibre networks in new developments will operate on an open access – similar to the NBN – and that wholesale services will be offered to retail service providers “on an equivalent basis”.

In his statement, Conroy said the bill would enable the Government to target estates where it was possible to have fibre now, while ensuring others had fibre-ready infrastructure so it was easier and cheaper to connect them later.

“It doesn’t make sense for new houses to be fitted with old copper technology, particularly when it is easier to put fibre or fibre-ready technology in when homes are first built,” he said.

“High speed broadband is becoming a critical utility service like water, electricity and gas. We want to see people in new estates getting access to superfast broadband as soon as possible.”

Conroy intends to refer the legislation to the Senate Committee on the Environment, Communication and the Arts, so that it can be debated in the Senate budget sittings in several months’ time.

The news comes, however, as the Minister is facing increasing difficulties in getting legislation related to Australia’s telecommunications industry through the Senate.

The Greens – who are crucial to any Government plans to get legislation through the Senate in the absence of Opposition support – yesterday threatened to pull their backing for Conroy’s controversial legislation to reform the telecommunications industry through the separation of Telstra’s retail and wholesale divisions.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam wants to see the NBN implementation study that was put together by consulting firms McKinsey and KPMG before the legislation can be passed.

In addition, legislation to introduce the Government’s mandatory internet filtering scheme, which was slated to be introduced this month, now may be pushed back due to a backlog of work in the Senate, and what both Conroy and Ludlam have referred to as obstructionism by the Opposition.

Image credit: Office of Stephen Conroy