There’s still quite a kerfuffle over the NBN being declared “as built and fully operational”. But some reports omitted or glossed over a few very important words.
Last month, Australia’s Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, created a stir after stating:
“In my view, the evidence before me shows it is appropriate to make the declaration that the NBN should be treated as built and fully operational”.
Note that he said “should be treated as”, not “is” – and the latter is how some outlets have chosen to report it.
Could the Minister’s words be considered a bit like “practical completion” when you’re building a house? This is a term used when all works are completed except for some comparatively minor aspects that don’t prevent the home from being lived in – and usually there’s just a couple of weeks before final handover.
But there’s still a bunch of work needing to be done on the NBN to bring it up to scratch. Just a side note: Lightning Broadband has its own infrastructure and is not an NBN provider.
Anyhow, given there were around 35,000 premises across Australia yet to be at the stage of ready to connect, compared to just shy of 11.9 million that were by the end of last year, perhaps the Minister wasn’t jumping the gun. But those whose premises weren’t and still aren’t ready to connect to the National Broadband Network would likely beg to differ, as would the many with a crappy NBN connection.
But the Minister’s announcement wasn’t about boasting per se – and boasting about anything NBN-related is risky given Australia’s rather bumpy journey to date.
Part of the reason the announcement was made can be found on the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications web site. It states among the requirements for the sale of NBN Co, it can’t be sold until the Minister for Communications declares that the NBN should be treated as built and fully operational. And that’s exactly what he said. This declaration does not automatically trigger any further steps – it’s just one that must be taken.
But more importantly, under Subsection 48(1) of the National Broadband Network Companies Act 2011, the Minister was required to either declare that the NBN should be treated as built and fully operational, or declare a ‘declared pre-termination period’ by the end of last year. The pre-termination period relates to the period before termination of the Commonwealth’s ownership in NBN Co.
It was an action the Minister was obliged to take, one way or another.