Conroy: we will use federal law to make NBN connections compulsory

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has warned states and territories that if they don’t make it compulsory for residents to connect to the National Broadband Network (NBN), he will look at making it a federal law for states to impose the new connections.

“We are working our way through the issues with the states and ... we ultimately would consider if we can’t reach settlement, mandating it through the federal parliament. But we prefer to be engaged with the states,” Senator Conroy told the Sydney Morning Herald.

While Mr Conroy has only recently made this threat, the Tasmanian government has already proposed new laws for an 'opt out' process after reporting uptake levels as low as 45%. Conroy added that new connections were “not a new issue.”

"[We've been] having a conversation with the states for over 12 months on this very issue," he told the newspaper. "This is not a new issue. Malcolm Turnbull might have discovered it recently but it has actually been on the agenda. And we've actually been saying for quite some considerable time: as we disconnect the copper we'll be connecting the fibre."

Connecting to the NBN in the initial stages is free. It involves getting the fibre optic cables being laid from the street into the home. If a resident agrees for NBN Co to install the cables, they are not obliged to sign up to a fibre optic plan, and they can continue with their current broadband service. However, if customers do not sign up during the initial period, they may be required to pay to make the connection later on.

“If it remains optional and people ... sell the house and someone else moves in, then it's like any other business where they say 'Hey, come and connect me to this' -  then there's a connection fee to get it connected," Mr Conroy said.

Residents who use a home phone service on Telstra’s copper wires will need to switch to fibre eventually as Telstra will be decommissioning their copper network as part the plan. If they choose to do so after the initial phase, they may need to pay a connection fee.