Coonan plots broadband masterplan

Summary:Federal Communications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan, is developing a broad-ranging plan to coordinate public and private investment in next-generation broadband infrastructure. Outlining the "Broadband Blueprint" in a speech given to a telecommunications conference in Canberra this morning, Coonan claimed the document would constitute a clearly defined national broadband strategy.

Federal Communications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan, is developing a broad-ranging plan to coordinate public and private investment in next-generation broadband infrastructure.

Outlining the "Broadband Blueprint" in a speech given to a telecommunications conference in Canberra this morning, Coonan claimed the document would constitute a clearly defined national broadband strategy.

The plan will controversially coordinate private and public sector investment in next-generation broadband networks.

"The blueprint will link the competition regime for commercial rollout with government investment in uncommercial areas ... without mandating technologies or providers," said Coonan.

"The blueprint will ensure that the rollout of next-generation broadband is coordinated across jurisdictions with clearly delineated roles for state, territory and local governments that meet the needs of end users," she added.

The plan also has the objective of avoiding unnecessary duplication of broadband infrastructure. For example, both Optus and Telstra run HFC cable networks in some metropolitan areas.

The minister will seek state and territory agreement on the blueprint at a meeting of the nation's technology ministers in September.

Bush broadband gold rush
Coonan's move comes several months after she announced she was considering using some of the government's AU$878 million Broadband Connect package to fund a new broadband network in regional Australia.

Since that time several consortia of telcos have formed to try to attract the funding.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is also currently in negotiations with Telstra and a rival consortium led by number two telco Optus about how Telstra would build a new national metropolitan network.

"I believe that the best possible use of Broadband Connect is to set aside the majority of the funding to stimulate investment in large scale infrastructure," Coonan said today.

"Shortly, we will be moving to the expressions of interest (EOI) phase of Broadband Connect."

"The purpose of the EOI process is to both set out for industry the government's likely requirements for project proposals and to seek views from industry about how they could meet these requirements."

Coonan said industry EOIs would need to demonstrate they could provide "fair and reasonable" access to wholesale services as well as covering urban areas and larger regional centres.

A more concrete tender process will follow the EOI process in the second half of the year.

"Given that effective and sustainable competition is a key objective of this approach, the ACCC would be closely involved throughout its development and implementation," said Coonan.

The complete text of Senator Coonan's speech this morning can be found at her department's Web site.

Topics: Broadband, Government, Government : AU, NBN, Optus, Telcos, Telstra

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