Conroy to release NBN implementation study today

Communications minister Stephen Conroy will today release the long-awaited KPMG implementation study into the National Broadband Network, which is set to reveal whether the $43 billion project is economically viable.

The report is expected to show whether the network can be constructed without Telstra’s assistance. However, the Government still hopes to break a deal with the telco to acquire some of its network in order to reduce the cost.

The study was issued to ”determine the operating arrangements, detailed network design, ways to attract private sector investment for roll-out early 2010, and ways to provide procurement opportunities for local businesses.”

The implementation study has been a major point of contention between the Government and Opposition.

Conroy says the KPMG study, which cost about $25 million, was undertaken in order to demonstrate the economic viability of the project, as the Government intends to sell the network off to the private sector after a few decades of operation.

Conroy has attempted to push through legislation for the formation of the network, but the Opposition has demanded a review of the study before any debate can take place. Several senators said they would object to any legislation if the study was not released, forcing Conroy to announce a date “before the budget”.

The Opposition intends to argue the NBN cannot be viable unless Telstra is on board. The Government hopes this implementation study will quash that debate and prove the NBN is economically viable by itself.

Nevertheless, negotiations with Telstra continue regarding the acquisition of some of its fixed-line networks. Some critics doubt whether these negotiations will be successful, as it is reported the Government and the company itself disagree on the value of these networks.

The Government has also been attempting to relieve fears the NBN could act as a retail entity, as described by draft legislation, after promising it would act as a wholesale-only provider. The Opposition has said this proves the network could act as an industry competition.

SmartCompany will report on the implementation study when it is released later today.

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