Labor vows to establish FTTN taskforce that 'knows something'

Summary:Labor has said it is prepared to work with the government's existing WiMax plans if it wins the next election -- but the party's shadow Communications Minister is getting the knives out for the Coalition's expert taskforce on fibre-to-the-node.

Labor has said it is prepared to work with the government's existing WiMax plans if it wins the next election -- but the party's shadow Communications Minister is getting the knives out for the Coalition's expert taskforce on fibre-to-the-node (FTTN).

Speaking today at an Australian Internet Industry Association (AIIA) event in Sydney, shadow Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said Labor will replace the government-picked expert taskforce currently in charge of overseeing the Coalition's urban FTTN plan and picking the company that will build the network.

"We will be starting again with our own [taskforce]," he said, "and with someone who knows something about telecoms."

The government's taskforce has already published a set of draft requirements on FTTN tenders for public consolation and will soon produce the final guidelines for would-be bidders.

Should Labor come to power in this year's Federal elections, the Coalition's fibre plans are likely to be dismantled and replaced with Labor's own AU$4.7bn vision of Australian FTTN.

However, Labor has no plans to disassemble the bush WiMax network scheduled to go live in 2009, backed by the government and run by OPEL, a joint venture between Optus and Elders.

The government funding deal for the project -- around AU$1 billion -- was finally confirmed this week.

Senator Conroy said there may also be areas where the Labor plan can take advantage of the OPEL network.

"The good news in the OPEL contract -- and there wasn't that much of it -- is they will be building a lot of backhaul ... If we can link in with their backhaul, that will be a good thing but it's [down to] commercial negotiations and if they want to be involved in it."

As part of the bush network, OPEL will build 15,000 km of fibre backhaul and enable 312 additional exchanges with ADSL2+.

Topics: Broadband, Government, Government : AU, NBN, Networking, Wi-Fi

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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