Labor’s broadband minefield

I thought I would kick off this new blog with a foray into the world of the Labor Party and its plans for broadband in Australia. Today I think I’ll go over the main points of contention as they stand, and over the coming months, will delve a little deeper into some of them as things develop.

Open Access

The only way Labor’s plan has any hope of achieving a positive result for Australians is if the network is open and available to retailers on fair and equitable terms. Senator Conroy’s call for proposals clearly states this as a requirement, but doubt remains as to the seriousness of the government’s commitment to open access.

The reason is twofold. First, Telstra had the capital and the will to build a FTTN network some years ago, but when told they would have to provide open access to that network, Telstra simple said no, and did nothing. Second, the recently scuttled initiative from the OPEL consortium would have provided what the government is currently wanting to provide, and yet they cancelled the contract, which would only have cost 1 Billion dollars. OPEL / Optus and perhaps the G9 are the only groups likely to be able to mount a serious effort to build a national network.

As the goverment is clearly pro Telstra (for reasons I have yet to fathom), it seems a foregone conclusion that Telstra will eventually win the bid. And with Telstra already on the record as being against open access, the public is left wondering how we will get the open network the government has promised us.

Add to that the fact that the Senator has also called for submissions on regulatory changes that may help facilitate the network rollout, and you start to wonder if the master plan is in fact to legislate against forced open access provisions, and to allow Telstra to build its FTTN network, shut out competitors and pocket the $5 billion.

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