Communications Minister Stephen Conroy appears to have backed a so-called 'opt-out' model for the National Broadband Network where Australians would be required to choose not to have fibre internet connected to their premises -- as opposed to the current model where they must opt-in.
The minister's comments reportedly came during a visit to Tasmania this week, where debate has been raging over the issue after the State Opposition raised it several weeks ago, earning a promise from Premier David Bartlett that he would raise it with the Tasmanian NBN Company.
"At the moment we have to get written permission to come onto people's property,'' the Examiner newspaper reported Conroy as saying today.
"If David Bartlett, with the support of state Opposition Leader Will Hodgman and the Greens, are willing to amend the legislation and the planning laws in his state we think that would be fantastic. We are dead keen to connect to every home."
Neither Conroy's office nor NBN Co responded to a request for comment on whether they would consider an opt-out model for the mainland NBN rollout when questioned on the issue several weeks ago.
However, NBN Co has spent a considerable amount of effort recently attempting to convince residents and businesses in the early stage Willunga and Kiama rollout sites to opt-in to the NBN fibre rollout in their areas.
"We do not want anyone within the first release sites to miss out on the opportunity to take their first step into a high-speed future," said NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley in a statement on Monday. "Residents in the first release sites can expect a letter from me within the next week in their mailbox and an accompanying consent form."
Quigley pointed out that signing the consent form didn't mean customers would have to cancel their existing phone or internet service.
"It simply gives you a chance to prepare your premises for the opportunity to be part of the NBN at a time of your choosing once the network goes live," he said.
The Greens and other politicians have previously argued for the NBN to be universal as an expression of what they have described as a platform that would be able to provide "ubiquity" of online services in future. For example, the idea has been raised that basic government services could be delivered to householders and businesses -- regardless of whether they have signed up to a retail broadband service or not.