Crown Fibre Holdings confirms last week it was wrapping up its “priority negotiations” with its first set of potential partners in the government's $1.35 billion ultrafast broadband project: Whangarei lines company Northpower, The Central North Island Fibre Consortium; and Timaru lines company Alpine Energy.
Recommendations on whether the Crown should co-invest with one or all three in local fibre companies were on track to be sent to cabinet in time to meet Crown Fibre's end-of-October deadline.
The cabinet now has an open-ended period of time to consider Crown Fibre’s recommendations.
In the meantime, Crown Fibre will begin negotiations with other bidders in other regions, and continue to talk to Telecom, which has placed a national bid.
It has yet to give a timetable, or say who the next set of parties will be for priority negotiations.
And all the while, the government - through the MED - continues to consider the implications of a structural split of Telecom, which would be necessary for it to win a Crown fibre contract.
The three shareholding ministers also have the option to ignore Crown Fibre Holdings’ recommendations altogether and opt for some kind of compromise deal, such as a spun-off Telecom Chorus working in cooperation with lines company bidders allied with the Regional Fibre Group.
NBR continues to firmly back the ultrafast broadband (UFB) Crown fibre project, with its potential for business, and to deliver public services more efficiently.
Some days it's hard work.
To be honest, NBR still has no idea how it will play out.
And, in darker moments, it also wonders if the minister or Crown Fibre knows either – or whether they still have the same end game in mind.
The "known unknown", as Donald Rumsfield would say, remains Telecom.
How far will it go to compromise? Or the government bend to allow it to participate?
So far, Telecom has taken the radical step of offering to cleave itself into two, separately-listed companies – but with the service half of the company snaffling a number of Telecom Wholesale functions that most would see naturally falling on the network side.
It’s also said to be asking for up to $1 billion in tax breaks, plus a host of regulatory concessions.
And all the while Telecom continues - on a purely logistical level - to consolidate, with thousands of previously disparate staff moving into a new campus-style headquarters in Auckland's Victoria Street (read: Two Telecoms, one roof - what's wrong with this picture?)
The brinksmanship continues.
Albeit at an excruciating pace.
Have exciting times ever been so slow?
Mon, 01 Nov 2010