Tassie NBN rollout “in limbo”, claim activists



news The Digital Tasmania lobby group has accused the Federal Government of leaving the Tasmanian rollout of the National Broadband Network “in limbo” by refusing to confirm whether the state would receive a predominantly fibre to the premises-based NBN deployment in last week’s new NBN rollout orders.

In a statement issued last week, Digital Tasmania pointed out that during the Federal Election campaign, then-Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull had appeared to confirm the NBN’s previous fibre to the premises model would be fully deployed in Tasmania, as the state was already covered by existing construction contracts which Turnbull had pledged to honour. At the time, Labor had claimed the Coalition’s preferred fibre to the node deployment model would see some Tasmanians receive inferior broadband to the FTTP model used by Labor.

Last week, as Communications Minister, Turnbull issued a revised Statement of Expectations letter to NBN Co, ordering the company to continue existing construction only where build instructions had been issued to delivery partners, but not explicitly confirming the fate of the Tasmanian rollout.

Digital Tasmania, an activist group which lobbies for the development of technology infrastructure and industry in the state, issued a statement saying that despite Turnbull’s statements during the election, there was no mention of Tasmania in the Communications Minister’s announcement last week, “leaving the rollout in a state of limbo”.

Digital Tasmania spokesperson Andrew Connor said: “The Coalition government has failed to confirm their pre-election commitment that the NBN rollout in Tasmania would continue as planned”.

According to Digital Tasmania, before the election the Coalition had consistently stated that it would will continue the NBN fibre rollout to premises where construction contracts had been signed, however Turnbull had changed this promise last week, stating that the rollout would only continue where detailed designs were ready to be handed over to contractors.

In Tasmania, construction for the entire state has already been contracted; including 200,000 homes in the state via fibre to the premises where for many detailed designs are not yet ready. “Yesterday’s announcement only guaranteed that 300,000 more connections would be made by fibre optic nationwide, however if that figure also includes the 200,000 in Tasmania there can’t be many contracts signed for the whole of mainland Australia,” said Digital Tasmania in its statement. “Something doesn’t add up!!”

Connor added that regional Australians, “including all of Tasmania are also likely to lose out under the guise of wholesale competition as foreshadowed by the Coalition Government.”

Under Labor’s previous NBN policy, infrastructure-based broadband competition was highly discouraged, with Labor seeking to ensure the financial viability of NBN Co and also that most Australians were using the same unified broadband infrastructure. However, under the Coalition, infrastructure-based competition is encouraged, leading to some telcos, such as TPG, already announcing competitive broadband rollouts.

“If allowed, telecommunications providers are likely to cherry pick high profit areas such as mainland capitals and completely forget about Tasmania as previously experienced,” said Digital Tasmania. “This will remove the explicit cross-subsidy of the NBN to less commercially viable areas such as Tasmania.”

“Competition at the network or wholesale level into each home is unnecessary and wasteful… we don’t have competing water or electricity networks, why duplicate fixed-line telecommunications? Despite the advanced rollout of the NBN in Tasmania it has already been dealt severe blows by lack of competitive and reliable backhaul across Bass Strait and adverse ACCC decisions which were detailed in a recent Technology Spectator report,” said Connor.

Digital Tasmania called on the Coalition Government, particularly its Tasmanian MP’s, to confirm that the NBN rollout in Tasmania would proceed as planned using fibre to the premises for most customers. It also encouraged the Government to proceed with a FTTP rollout for the NBN, rather than the technically inferior FTTN model preferred by the Coalition.

“Tasmania is already on the fast-track to get the current NBN rollout finished by 2016, well before the rest of the country in 2021. Already 35,000-plus premises can connect to the NBN fibre optic in Tasmania, with between 25 and 50% of residents taking up that option already” said Connor. “If the rollout changes direction under a Coalition Government, what we could have is one suburb or one street able to connect with fibre to the home and the next street or suburb stuck with an inferior copper based service.”

Digital Tasmania is right to be concerned about this issue. Tasmania has always been a special case for the NBN rollout. Due to the state already suffering from poor broadband infrastructure compared to the rest of Australia, and its early engagement with the NBN process, Tasmania had always received preferred treatment when it came to the NBN. During the election campaign, Coalition MPs did infer that the state would receive a FTTP rollout under a Coalition Government, even if Turnbull didn’t explicitly state that outcome as a promise. The equity issues inherent in a dual FTTN/FTTP rollout will be particularly evident in Tasmania, due to its small geographic footprint.

Image credit: Jens Buche, royalty free


  1. Lol adds up to me.

    Based on their internal budgets and current rollout cost they forsee the existing contracts will result in 300K additional homes receivng fiber, which may be alot less than the planned rollout amount.

    Contracts will NOT be renewed or extended one contractors run out of money to install fibre to those homes which was mean’t to get fibre.

    Simply the buck stops here.

  2. Hey Renai, you know I kept telling you that what you were inferring about the Coalition position was wrong. Pity you and others didn’t pursue this as hard as you should.

    • David,

      happy for you to find a comment made by me publicly where I inferred that the Coalition would finish deploying all of the FTTP rollout as catered for under current construction contracts. Because as far as I’m aware, I never said the Coalition would do such a thing. It was always my view that Turnbull would treat the situation flexibly post-election.

      My view on what would happen was well-encapsulated in my Delimiter 2.0 article on Turnbull’s first 100 days:

      “As a matter of course, Turnbull must also direct NBN Co to temporarily stop signing new supplier agreements for construction work and equipment, as well as ceasing new FTTP construction in new areas. I think NBN Co will probably do this anyway, but it never hurts to put things in writing. Of course, FTTP construction in areas where it has already begun will still continue.”

      This is precisely what Turnbull did order last week.

      In Tasmania, Turnbull was very careful with his words in this respect. Sure, some of the Coalition MPs were less careful, and I think in general Tasmania should be treated differently anyway, due the fact that it was on the FTTP fast-track. Could I have done more as a journalist to highlight the issue during the campaign? It’s tough to say. I worked 12 hour days for weeks as it was.


  3. The biggest swing against Labor in the country. Going from a state with no federal lower house Coalition members to three. If Tasmanians REALLY thought the NBN was as big an issue as Delimiter portrays it as the federal election results there would have been very different.

    They got what they voted for. Its called democracy.

    • Gordon settle petal… we all know which side your bread is buttered and have seen you electioneering here for quite some time…

      But all of this frothing needs to be put into perspective.

      Tasmania was always going to swing back to the Coalition, due to the large swing away from the Coalition and the NBN effect in 2010 (admitted to by Reith/Leeser in their post 2010 election report)….

      “This Review was commissioned in the context of the Liberal Party’s worst federal electoral result in Tasmania in forty years. The swing away from the Party of 4.62% was the largest suffered in any State and the ensuing two Party preferred result of 61:39 reflects a want of confidence in the Party.”


      “Policy on the National Broadband Network had a particular effect in Tasmania for a range of reasons. In several towns Tasmanians could see the NBN being rolled out. Tasmania is often behind the mainland in receiving new technology so being at the forefront of the NBN was seen as a boost to Tasmania. The NBN provided jobs for Tasmanian contractors and it brought people to Tasmania from the mainland having flow on effects for Tasmania’s tourism, hospitality and service industries.”

      The latest election is over Gordon, you won, you have crowed… now it’s time to move on and put up, starting by trying to defend the indefensible FttN…

      So let’s hear it.

  4. MT appears to have been consistent in his statements. True, he was careful not to make statements which would alert the voters to the underlying meaning of his statements, which was some premises would not get FttP, but he did not say they would all get it, either.

    Tasmanians convincingly voted out Labor, and its policies. Three out of five seats changed from Labor to Liberal. Only one out of five seats in Tasmania is now Labor.

    Under our system you buy the entire package when you vote in a member of a party. Like Nick Paine, the majority in Tasmania apparently supported the Coalition’s policies, and this must include their NBN policy. This much is obvious.
    They will now receive what they voted for.

    As MT has pointed out, the time for campaigning is over. The Digital Tasmania group should (and probably would) have lobbied and campaigned hard before the election. Presumably they would have done their best to convince Tasmanians to vote for Labor and its FttP policy. If that failed before the election then it has next-to-no chance now.

    AS much as I wish it were otherwise, the majority have spoken.

    • Right. You can’t vote overwhelmingly to throw out Labor and vote in the Coalition, then bleat that you only did it because you assumed that, unlike everyone else, you’d be exempted from the part of the Coalition’s policy that you didn’t like.

    • Maude the problem with you analysis is that Digital Tasmania did not campaign against the coalition, they actually did the reverse by dis-stating that Turnbull’s claim that he would honour contracts meant all of Tas would be completed with FttH. It didn’t matter how many times Labor pointed out this was wrong, the Tasmanians kept believing it – and when challenged to be clear on what “contracts will be honoured” meant they ran away.

      As James Hutchinson in the AFR has pointed out there are contracts let for 2.5 million FttH premises – but these will not be “honoured”.

      In trade or commerce that would be misleading and deceptive conduct – but Labor isn’t in to stunts and so won’t refer MT to the ACCC.

  5. “Communications Minister’s announcement announcement”

    Is that a new double announcement, Renai? Never heard of one of those before…

  6. “happy for you to find a comment made by me publicly where I inferred that the Coalition would finish deploying all of the FTTP rollout as catered for under current construction contracts.”

    Inferred or implied, there is a difference!

  7. How sweet it is. We in the rest of Australia are going to miss out on the NBN. Tasmania thought they would get it even by massively voting in the conservatives. I really hope that the noalition dry up broadband completely for tassie. You get the govt you deserve

    • Yeah thanks for that. Not all us of blindly voted for the Coalitions’s fraudband, in fact many of us in Tas worked our arses off contacting politicians, spreading the word about the superiority of Labor’s NBN, and doing what we could right up until the election to save it. Unfortunately Labor were doomed for so many other reasons that it just didn’t matter. Not to mention Turnbull ran a crafty campaign that was enough to fool many Australians into thinking his NBN was comparable in speed, and we’d get it more quickly and “affordably”. Yes the entire country were fooled in my opinion, but to isolate Tasmania as some special case is ridiculous, given the big swing against Labor across the entire nation.

  8. As a member of Digital Tasmania I would like to thank you Renai for raising this issue. As a small group on a small island we sometimes find it difficult to have our voice heard on a larger scale.
    For the record DigiTas is an issues based organisation and strives to be apolitical and not base our activities on politics. I guess as testament to that as an organisation we regularly cop flak from all parties be they red, blue or green :)

    By any metric known Tasmania is at a huge disadvantage when it comes to connecting to the world, which is the reason we so wholeheartedly support Labor’s vision for the NBN.

    In regards to Turnbull’s and other quotes here area couple of examples: make of them what you will.

    Mr Turnbull confirmed a previous pledge honouring all existing contracts signed by NBN Co to roll out Fibre-to-the-Premises (FttP) in Tasmania as “the alternative would be to breach them and that is a course we would not countenance”.

    & this

    Tasmanian Senator David Bushby also dismissed Ms Collins by saying the Liberals had costed their policy on Labor’s full Tasmanian roll-out, confirming it would honour Mr Turnbull’s earlier pledge to fulfil all contracts.

    & this:
    Mr Turnbull also said a reference to completing the broadband rollout by 2019 was the national plan rather than the 2015 date for Tasmania


    Something doesn’t add up!

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