Fibre in their hands: Crucial panel unveiled

Summary:With details of who will build Australia's bush broadband network freshly released, the government has also taken the next step towards choosing whether Telstra or rival G9 consortium will build the long-awaited 50Mbps fibre network.

With details of who will build Australia's bush broadband network freshly released, the government has also taken the next step towards choosing whether Telstra or rival G9 consortium will build the long-awaited 50Mbps fibre network.

In addition to awarding around AU$1 billion to Optus and Elders to build a rural broadband network, today Minister for Communications Helen Coonan also announced the composition of the expert panel that will be put in charge of choosing which of the two plans for Australia's fibre-to-the-node network will be selected.

Coonan said the panel will be in charge of drafting the competitive bid guidelines for the two prospective network builders, picking the winning bid and managing the legislation needed for its construction.

Competition regulator ACCC exec, Joe Dimansi, will sit on the panel alongside treasury secretary Dr Ken Henry; PM&C deputy secretary Jenny Goddard; telecoms regulatory expert Tony Shaw; Australian Competition Tribunal member Rod Shogren and business leaders Len Bleasel and Dick Warburton.

While a spokesperson for Telstra welcomed the panel's appointment as one way to clear the regulatory issues surrounding the creation of a fibre-to-the-node network, it's unlikely it will prove entirely popular with the telco.

Earlier this month, public policy and communication general manager, Phil Burgess, said it would be "unbecoming" for regulator ACCC to join the panel, having already taken a position on the fibre issue; a stance echoed by CEO Sol Trujillo in a letter to staff last week.

Paul O Sullivan, CEO of Optus -- the telco leading the G9 consortium -- has welcomed the panel, saying this morning: "So today's announcement ... is going to be the ultimate win for customers because it is going to make sure whoever builds the 21st [century] broadband network, they've got to do it in a way that is pro-competition, provides open access to all carriers and provides the best deal for customers."

AAP contributed to this report

Topics: Broadband, NBN, Optus, Telcos, Telstra

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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