NBN rollout ongoing, IT body claims

TASMANIA'S peak IT body has dismissed Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's claim that work has effectively stopped on the rollout of the national broadband network in Tasmania.

Mr Turnbull told ABC Radio yesterday that work on the rollout had stopped because Tasmanian contractor Visionstream was trying to renegotiate its contract.

"They have made it very clear that they cannot continue to do the work at the rates that they agreed to," Mr Turnbull said.

"What I'm saying is the number of premises being passed is not increasing. There is some work being done."

Mr Turnbull would not say whether the government would commit to rolling out the promised fibre- to-the-home network in Tasmania.

He said the government would honour its pre-election commitment to honour existing contracts, but said that may not include a potential variation to Visionstream's contract with NBN Co.

The contract was mentioned in a national review of the project, released this week, but the whole section was redacted.

"Everyone agrees, I agree, that if money and time were no option, we would run fibre-to-the-home everywhere. Regrettably, money and time are important," Mr Turnbull said.

"The economic advantage is having everyone connected to broadband. There is no magic in fibre-to-the-home."

TasICT chief executive Dean Winter said Visionstream was working in Clarence, West Hobart and East Launceston, and that delays caused by asbestos remediation had ceased.

Mr Winter said managing asbestos-contaminated cable pits had caused the majority of problems in the Tasmania rollout, and the Coalition was well aware of that when it committed to honouring existing NBN contracts before the election.

Tasmanian Economic Development Minister David O'Byrne accused Mr Turnbull of attempting to weasel out of an election commitment.

"I think it's disgraceful ... You've made a commitment, just back Tasmania," Mr O'Byrne said.

A state government proposal to switch to a low-cost, above-ground rollout using Aurora Energy infrastructure has been referred to NBN Co.

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