NBN negotiator put on backburner

By James Hutchinson on Aug 23, 2011 7:24 AM
Filed under Strategy

NSW rollout lacks state coordination.

The NSW Government has yet to fill a coordinator role to open up utility infrastructure to the National Broadband Network rollout, nine months after passing accompanying legislation.

The role had been assigned in the interim to the director-general of the Department of Finance and Services, Michael Coutts-Trotter.

The responsibilities established in the bill were yet to be enforced.

The bill, passed by the Keneally Government in November last year, sought to speed up rollout of the fibre network in the state by providing access to existing infrastructure held by government-owned utilities, including power poles, microwave towers as well as road, rail and river bridges.

Under the bill, the governing minister of the day would have the power to coerce departments into allowing access to infrastructure in the event of a dispute.

The position would be held under a five-year contract and could attract a six-figure salary.

However, spokesmen for the Department of Finance and Services and for state Finance Minister Greg Pearce said the role was yet to be filled by someone other than Coutts-Trotter.

A spokesman for Pearce clarified that the role would likely remain unfilled until the state Liberal Government completed the implementation of its ICT strategy.

It would be enacted under a board of department directors-general, also chaired by Coutts-Trotter.

 

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NBN Co had already engaged with utilities including Country Energy and Integral Energy for use of some infrastructure to roll out overhead fibre cables in first release sites.

"While we have been consulting with representatives in state governments about our plans, we have also been in direct discussions with all 16 electrical distribution infrastructure owners around the country, not just about infrastructure access, but to explore other synergies such as smart grids, and co-investment opportunities," an NBN Co spokesperson said.

Since legislation was passed, the scope and utility of the NBN Coordinator's role has been hampered by the agreement between NBN Co and Telstra, which would see the network builder use much of the incumbent telco's infrastructure to roll out the network.

The previous State Government's controversial sell-off of some state utility assets at the beginning of the year also limited the coordinator's potential reach.

The establishment of a coordinator came as one of several endeavours by the Kenneally Government to support the NBN rollout, which also included an NBN taskforce aimed at consolidating the efforts of 13 departments and agencies to maximise opportunities from the network.

 
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