[itwire] Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says government will delay the mandatory roll-out of fibre to greenfield housing developments for six months until January 1, blaming the Opposition for the industry uncertainty the delay will create.
Senator Conroy said the proposed start date of the Fibre Deployment Bill of July 1 was no longer realistic, and confirmed to a Senate estimates hearing that he had urged Telstra to continue installing the older copper technology in new housing estates as a result of the delay.
The legislation, which was intended to prepare the ground for the fibre-based National Broadband Network, was unveiled by Government last December but has not yet passed the Senate.
In anticipation of the passage of the new rules, Telstra announced in March that it would no longer roll-out copper to new developments, but Senator acknowledged he is keen that the company take the delay into account.
A Senate committee reviewing the National Broadband Network plans issued a report last month supporting the passage of the Fibre Deployment Bill with Labor and Greens members supporting the measure.
But in a dissenting view, the Opposition said it would vote against the bill. And with the voting intentions of Family First senator Steve Fielding and South Australian independent Nick Xenophon unknown – and with a tight parliamentary sitting calendar – the delay to starting fibre roll-outs in Greenfield sites became inevitable.
South Australian Liberal senator Mary Jo Fisher said the proposal would drive up the cost of housing developments and would hurt first home buyers most.
"Australians buying in established suburbs are not expected to fund the cost of installing fibre in their street, but the Bill would mean those purchasing homes in new estates would have to do just that," Senator Fisher said.
"Given that the Government hasn't yet responded to the NBN Implementation Study, the Bill is too much fibre ambition, too soon, with too much important detail left until tomorrow."
Greenfield fibre roll-out plans postponed: Conroy