NBN three-year rollout plan leaves Coalition unimpressed

The National Broadband Network has finally revealed its construction plans for the next three years, but the Opposition has already criticised the blueprints saying they are an attempt to cover up for past failures.

Victorian Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips has also struck out against the project, saying the state will only receive about 20% of construction works despite having a much larger proportion of the overall population.

“Although South Australia has just 7.3% of national population, it is receiving 9.2% of the funding. Tasmania, which represents just 2.3% of population is receiving 5.9% of the program funding,” he said in a statement, saying the rollout favours states held by Labor.

“Major regional centres such as Mildura, Warrnambool, Wangaratta and Bairnsdale have been overlooked, as have many smaller communities with inadequate services.”

The details of the three-year rollout plan, including schedules for individual suburbs, are available here,

NBN chief executive Mike Quigley announced the rollout with both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday, saying this would represent the first stage of the “large-scale” rollout of the NBN.

While construction has started in some limited areas in order to test the infrastructure, this next three-year plan will represent the first major rollout phase across the country, moving into suburbs and towns. In three years’ time the construction will have covered 3.5 million homes, and 1500 communities in every state and territory.

The NBN says 750,000 premises would be connected this year.

New South Wales will see 1.01 million premises connected by 2015, with Victoria at 691,700, Queensland with 678,600, Western Australia with 429,200, South Australia at 327,300, the ACT at 135,300, the Northern Territory with 65,200 and Tasmania with 209,100.

Quigley said yesterday the NBN had to strike a balance between regional areas with poorer existing services and metro areas, which are already substantially covered.

“We had to build our plan on the basis of the infrastructure that was available from Telstra,” Quigley said, adding the company has to prioritise “growth corridors” where there would be a number of greenfield developments.

But already the Opposition has attacked the plan. Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement the NBN should be judged on its previous performance, noting that between June 2011 and March 2012, only more 657 premises had been connected.

“To reach the June 30, 2012 rollout targets in its current Corporate Plan, NBN Co needs to pass a further 137,000 premises in the next three months – which is about 2090 per working day,” he said.

“If we applied that same passed-to-commence ratio achieved up to now to the 3.3 million homes and businesses where work will be underway June 2015, then only about 250,000 premises would at that time actually be able to connect to the fibre network.”

“In reality NBN Co will presumably do better than that – but by how much? And is achieving a small fraction of your publicly stated performance targets good enough? For this Government, it probably is.”

Gordon Rich-Phillips also said the plan should include an additional 191,000 homes in order to reach 24.9% of total construction.

“While I am pleased our calls for a greater level of regional and rural construction have been heard, I am concerned about the concentration of the rollout in a small number of regional centres.”

The construction plan is confirmed with the NBN able to strike an $11 billion deal with Telstra, and have its structural separation undertaking accepted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

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