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Monday, 9 September 1996
Page: 3799

(Question No. 218)

Mr McClelland asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications and the Arts, upon notice, on 21 May 1996:

Is there existing capacity within Telstra's cabling conduits to accommodate Optus' broadband cable network; if so, will the Minister issue a ministerial directive requiring all telecommunications carriers to cooperate and use a common infrastructure in providing a national telecommunications network.

Mr Warwick Smith —The Minister for Communications and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

With regard to the co-location of facilities, particularly underground cabling, the true extent of existing capacity has, until now, been unclear. At my request in April 1996, AUSTEL conducted an audit which indicates that the availability of Telstra duct space for Optus Vision's (or anyone else's) cable averages less than 30% overall, and is fragmented in such a way that useable contiguous duct spacing represents only a very small fraction of the total network route length. The audit also indicates that the difference in costs between overhead and underground cabling for a new network are very significant, and any business case must strongly favour aerial deployment.

However, the Government recognises the visual detriment to residential amenity which can be occasioned by overhead cabling, particularly power cabling. I am investigating, with State Ministers, the nature and extent of co-operative funding arrangements for undergrounding of power cabling and possible ways in which telecommunications carriers might participate in such arrangements. The rollout of telecommunications networks, whilst being a commercial matter for determination by the carriers, will nevertheless be subject to tightened consultation requirements under the revised Telecommunications National Code and Land Access Code, which will be finalised following receipt of AUSTEL's report on the draft codes released for public comment in July 1996.