A year of progress, but plenty to do in 2012
Communications minister Stephen Conroy and NBN Co boss Mike Quigley will head into 2012 with a considerable amount of satisfaction, given that 2011 has undoubtedly been a year of progress for the NBN. The critical $11 billion deal with Telstra was finally secured in October, NBN legislation was pushed through by the Gillard government after a marathon session in the upper house of the senate. Most importantly, concrete steps were also taken to make the network more tangible through the launch of commercial services in October and the release of the 12 month rollout plan. This time last year the pundits were busy dissecting the NBN business plan, while some of the underlying issues still remain the overall focus has shifted as the NBN begins to takes shape.
However, the satisfaction of getting the NBN off the ground will be somewhat tempered by the fact that there are a couple of issues, regulatory and otherwise, that still need to be resolved in the new year. The hefty price tag of the network and the potential for cost blowouts will continue to generate headlines, while the fifth version of NBN Co’s Special Access Undertaking, which lays out the regulatory and pricing framework for the next 30 years, is yet to get the final tick of approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. For that matter, Telstra’s structural separation undertaking hasn’t been given the official blessing either.
The one glaring blot in the NBN story this year is that NBN Co has failed to meet its original rollout timetable, had they done so they would be in a much stronger position. Now, some of the objectives in the original target were perhaps overambitious to begin with but the time taken for the passage of legislation and the torturously lengthy negotiations with Telstra didn't exactly help the matter.