Comms Alliance NBN Project to forge ahead

Future exists for cross-industry broadband working group regardless of who wins power

The Communications Alliance NBN Project will seek to assist the Coalition’s broadband plan should it win support of the independent MPs that hold the balance of power to form a minority government.

Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said the NBN Project, which has seen 130 people from 72 organisations contribute to the industry representative body’s National Broadband Network (NBN) working groups, would not be disbanded in the event the NBN is axed.

“In the event that Mr Abbott is able to form government the Communications Alliance and its members will do what we have done with the NBN, that is we will seek to help translate the government’s policy into the very best broadband solution it can be,” Stanton said. “We’ll use the expertise within the industry and the collaborative efforts of our members to make that happen.

“Fortunately most of the work that has already been done over the past 12 months under our NBN Project, is applicable not only to the NBN but to any other high-speed broadband network that may be rolled out in Australia. That won’t quite be wasted, although there will be a lot of additional tasks that will need to be completed, like technology network interfaces and other issues.”

The NBN Project was set up to address seven key areas: The NBN reference model, wholesale services, end-user migration, technical, operational, end-user premises, and early stage deployments.

Aside from the resulting documentation and guidance from these working groups – much of which can be adapted to any broadband rollout in Australia – the NBN Project brought together fierce competitive rivals such as Optus and Telstra, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent along with NBN Co.

However, during the election campaign the Coalition said it will spend up to $6.25 billion of public and private funding on an alternate broadband policy to the Gillard Government’s $43 billion NBN, while axing NBN Co and leaving the future of the Communications Alliance NBN Project and its body of work up in the air.

The Liberal policy had as its first point of order, the establishment of what it would call a “National Broadband Commission”.

“The Coalition will create a National Broadband Commission to design and manage a competitive selection process to select the private sector companies which will execute the various programmes comprising the Coalition’s Plan for Real Action on Broadband and Telecommunications,” the policy document reads.

The NBC, as it was coined, would operate under a board appointed by the communications minister but draw on the expertise within NBN Co, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

It would first need to prepare a business case, set up a database of broadband services and “design and manage a competitive selection process to select the private sector companies which will execute the various programmes comprising the Coalition’s Plan”. It would have a lifetime of 10 years, after which a review is to be taken to determine if the NBC should continue.

Stanton said the Communications Alliance would seek to work with the National Broadband Commission should it be set up under a minority Coalition government, although with negotiations between the parties and the independents ongoing even this is uncertain.

“If the commission is to be set up we would certainly look to work closely with it and I am certain the commission would want to take advantage of what we could offer them.”

As would be expected, the NBN Project – whose members are to be recognised for their achievements at events in Melbourne and Sydney this week – would continue should Labor succeed in forming government.

“In the event that Labor is able to form a government we will resume at full speed the efforts to finalise some of the implementation issues and cooperate with NBN Co,” he said. “We are working hard on the consumer dialogue and education project, which is going to be crucial to issues like customer migration to the NBN. We have plenty of things to keep us busy going forward.”

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Tags National Broadband Network (NBN)Communications AllianceNational Broadband Commission (NBC)

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