The new Coalition State Government in Victoria has given its clearest signal yet that it will reject the ‘opt-out’ model for the National Broadband Network rollout in the state, meaning residents will need to actively choose to receive fibre when it hits their neighbourhood.
“It ought to be optional,” new Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu told The Australian newspaper late last week in relation to the issue, noting low take-up rates in early stage NBN rollout areas.
The Premier’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment on the issue this morning seeking confirmation of a Government policy on the matter and the reasons why the new Premier prefers the opt-in model.
The status of any discussion between the new Coalition State Government and the Federal Government is also as of yet unknown. The office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy — who is staunchly in favour of the opt-out model — did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the issue this morning.
If Victoria does firm up with an opt-in NBN policy, it will immediately create a gulf between the way the National Broadband Network is being rolled out in Tasmania, and the way it will hit the state commonly seen as a leader in Australia when it comes to technology deployments. In the Apple Isle, Labor Premier David Bartlett has introduced legislation to force an opt-out deployment, spurred by some elements of the State Opposition.
In addition, such a move will mark a reversal of policy compared with the approach of the previous Brumby Labor Government in Victoria, which had supported an opt-out approach. And even the Coalition itself has appeared to back a fast-tracked rollout of the NBN in Victoria in the past.
In October, then-Shadow State ICT Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said a Victorian Liberal Government would work with the NBN and push to get the best deal from the initiative, and in April after the current NBN proposal was first launched, Baillieu expressed support for the initiative.
“High-speed broadband, infrastructure and jobs are critical to Victoria’s future and we support the fast-tracking of infrastructure initiatives,” Baillieu said at the time.
Last week Rich-Phillips was confirmed as the state’s ICT Minister under Baillieu. However, he has not yet made a public statement about how the Coalition’s technology policies espoused during the election will be implemented.
The lack of clarity around the opt-out idea being legislated in Tasmania currently extends to other states. The NSW Labor Government — which is expected to lose the next state election in March — has ruled out following the opt-out path, although the state Opposition is not yet known to have released a policy on the matter.
The Queensland Government is also not known to have made a decision on the issue.
Image credit: Liberal Party of Victoria