THERE is no question lawyers across the industry will be busy with the lengthy process of the rollout of Australia's national broadband network, Telstra group general counsel has told The New Lawyer.
Whether they're involved in issuing the initial discussion paper around the regulatory framework, or the transitional period between now and when the network rolls out in eight years time, Telstra group general counsel WIll Irving said that lawyers in the industry should be prepared for a strong flow of work.
The federal government announced yesterday it would scrapped the $4.7 billion national broadband network (NBN) and replace it with a $43 billion version in what is the biggest infrastructure project since the Snowy Hydro-Electric scheme.
As Australia's media waited for a government announcement about the winning tender this week, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said a new network through a joint public-private company would instead be set up.
Up to $43 billion over eight years would be invested to build and operate a network that aims to deliver high-speed broadband to homes and businesses across Australia.
"The government proposes that it would ... welcome private sector participation up to 49 per cent," Rudd told reporters.
For lawyers, the first job is going to be the issuing of a discussion paper around the regulatory framework for the new framework, Telstra's Irving said, submissions for which are due on 3 June.
"Whomever lawyers are advising will have quite a bit to say about the discussion paper and the reforms they would like to see the government bring in," he said.
Telstra said it looks forward to engaging with the government on the rollout after the Prime Minister ditched the tender process.
While not commenting on whether Telstra itself would be warning its external legal teams of a bounty of upcoming work, Irving said there would be “a mix of internals and externals to work on a range of things”.
The government’s scrapping of the NBN was not a shock, said Irving, but he added “it’s a big and bold move”. However, “$43 billion was a little more than most people were expecting”, he said.