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Telstra has assured shareholders that having gotten one hand on an $11 billion (net present value) payment from the government, the cash will have to be pried from its cold, dead fingers.

Since it was Telstra chair Catherine Livingstone who was speaking, and she was speaking to shareholders at the carrier's annual general meeting, it was put rather more diplomatically.

Asked by a shareholder whether the carrier would be able to nail the new government to the multi-billion-dollar deal it negotiated with the previous government, Livingstone replied:

“The guarantee that I can give you is that we will always act in the best interests of shareholders. We will seek to preserve the value in those agreements in any renegotiations should that be necessary”.

The three-way agreement between NBN Co, Canberra and Telstra put in place the planned migration of customer services to NBN fibre as it becomes available. Where fibre becomes available, the customer connection would be migrated to the fibre (with Telstra retaining the retail relationship if one exists), and the copper decommissioned. The deal also involved Telstra agreeing to withdraw broadband services from the hybrid fibre coax (HFC) cable network and migrate those customers to the NBN fibre.

The change of government has made the arrangement uncertain, since prior to the election, communications minister Malcolm Turnbull made much of his plan to run fibre to street nodes and use Telstra's existing copper for the last leg of the service connection.

That would remove the basis of the $11 billion deal, while at the same time making the availability of Telstra copper to NBN Co a key dependency of the network rollout. ®

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