The government has declared the national broadband network “built and fully operational”, a required step towards NBN Co’s eventual sale.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher made the call on Wednesday morning, following the submission of a detailed report into NBN Co’s operational status dated last month.
There is still construction work for NBN Co to perform; the company estimates it will enter 2021 with “around 35,000” premises still unable to connect, reducing to “just over 5000” premises by mid-2021.
In addition, there are still premises that do not meet the statement of expectations (SOE) requirement of having lines able to support a minimum 25Mbps on the downlink.
However, NBN Co said it had processes in place to deal with these issues, and the government agreed.
“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,” Fletcher said.
“Of course the government recognises that there are some premises which have not yet been made ready to connect – and I expect NBN Co to work as speedily as possible to make the network available to those premises.”
The Minister’s declaration appeared to occur on December 11 but went unnoticed until a statement made today.
The “built and fully operational” declaration is one of the gates that NBN Co must pass before it can be privatised.
The other gates include a Productivity Commission inquiry, a parliamentary joint committee review of the commission’s report, and ministerial and parliamentary approval.
While acknowledging that the “built and fully operational” declaration is “one of the steps that must occur … before NBN Co can be privatised”, the government added that it “does not automatically trigger any further steps.”
It is understood that each additional step would take significant time to complete – if and when it was triggered – and therefore a timeline for NBN Co’s privatisation and sale remains unclear.