Week-long consultation on fibre to farms open
Communications Minister Amy Adams has today welcomed the Commerce Select Committee’s decision to seek public submissions on the benefits of rolling out fibre on rural electricity infrastructure, albeit on a shortened timeframe.
The committee is consulting on the issue as part of the Telecommunications (Property Access and Other Matters) Amendment Bill. The proposal provides the right for fibre optic cables to be added to existing electricity corridors, without the need to renegotiate the terms of access with each landowner. In return, landowners will be able to connect to an Ultra-Fast Broadband service on the terms set out in the Bill.
The committee has opened up a short, second round of public consultation on the technicalities of the proposal to ensure those affected can have their say and that there aren’t inintended consequences.
“As the broadband rollout moves into more economically-challenging areas, it’s important to consider other ways to increase the opportunities to deploy fibre. One way might be using existing electricity lines for fibre,” says Ms Adams.
“The Government looked at this issue as part of our Land Access Reform Package, but some lingering questions around support from land owners and impacts on property rights meant it was put aside for further work while the other reforms progressed.
“Despite it not being part of the original Bill, over half of all submissions were in favour of the idea. There are obvious benefits to the proposal, such as improved rural connectivity in an innovative and cost effective way, but these need to respect property rights.
Ms Adams said it was important the committee hears from rural communities and encouraged rural landowners to look at the proposal and submit on the issue.
“One of the issues I’m keen to get the public’s views on is how far the free fibre connection might need to go. The committee wants to test maximum distance scenarios of 200 metres to 500 metres, and I would be interested in seeing how many land owners might need connections up to 500 metres,” says Ms Adams.
“I want to thank the Select Committee for their work on this proposal, particularly Chair Melissa Lee who has guided the Committee ably throughout this process.”
The public will only get a week for submissions on this proposal, closing next week on 10 November.
More information can be found in the Select Committee’s Interim Report at https://goo.gl/Yd7dCR.