The latest report from the parliamentary committee overseeing the National Broadband Network has recommended that NBN Co update its corporate plan to prepare for a new government, “to prepare strategies to minimise risk in any policy changes that may reasonably be expected to occur in the 2012-2015 period”.
The Coalition has pegged several changes to the NBN if it wins the federal election in September, including rolling out fibre-to-the-node for 71 per cent of Australia.
This would require the retention of part of Telstra's copper network for the last mile from nodes in the street to the doorstep of premises and a reworking the landmark $11 billion agreement between Telstra and NBN Co.
Shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has also said that the Coalition would be likely to implement changes at the management level at NBN Co, previously questioning the competence of NBN Co’s CEO Mike Quigley as head of the company.
In a dissenting report by Coalition members and senators, Turnbull criticised a “soaring headcount and executive turnover” at NBN Co.
“Coalition members on the committee note that NBN staff numbers and costs continue to rise strongly, even though the rollout is running well behind plan. The rapid turnover of personnel at the board and senior executive level also continues to be a matter of concern,” the report stated.
The parliamentary committee's report made several recommendations, including for NBN Co to include more information on the NBN fibre rollout in regional Australia; for interim satellite service activations to be monitored before it reaches its full capacity; for NBN Co to consider the “optimum capital structure” for NBN Co; and that NBN Co continue to work with contractors around the mobilisation of staff and to encourage local recruitment firms and the construction industry to become involved in the rollout.
The NBN committee has also recommended NBN Co be more transparent in its reporting, with Turnbull previously berating NBN Co for having a closed financial “culture”,
“Given that the NBN is the largest ever infrastructure project undertaken in Australia, at this early stage of the NBN rollout, it is timely that there be greater rigour placed on the public reporting of the financial and physical aspects of the NBN rollout,” the report said.
However, communications minister Stephen Conroy has defended NBN Co’s track record around transparency.
Data included in the firth report shows just 14.4 per cent of brownfield premises signed up for NBN connections in the six months to December 2012.
A total of 6613 brownfield premises were connected to the NBN in the 12 months to December 2012, with 46,078 premises passed by the fibre network in the period.
A total of 17,218 brownfield premises were passed by the NBN in the last six months of 2012.
The take-up rate at new developments was marginally better at 14.7 per cent, with 3848 premises with an active NBN connection in the 12 months to December 2012. A total of 16,197 greenfield premises were passed in the six-month period to December.
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