Broadband Minister Senator Stephen Conroy has demanded that Telstra -- and a series of other carriers -- provide him with the physical details of their networks, in order to enlighten companies that may be interested in building the government's proposed fibre-to-the-node network.
The Minister sent a letter to the telcos this week requesting the information, which includes the length and location of cables. Conroy said the information should be returned by 3 March.
"We have written to all telecommunications network operators to ask them to provide information we believe is vital to ensure we have a genuine competitive bid process," Senator Conroy said in a statement.
In the event that the telcos in question do not provide the information that Conroy is seeking, it is understood the government could press ahead with legislation in order to force their hand.
A Telstra spokesperson said the telco intends to co-operate with the Minister and provide the data in question.
"In the interests of progressing the FTTN network that Australia needs, we want to provide the government with the information it seeks," the spokesperson said.
"In fact the detail embedded in this request -- unprecedented in Australia -- is also without precedent in overseas markets. Consider, for example, Singapore, where an FTTN tender is underway -- and SingTel is not being asked to divulge commercially sensitive information or law enforcement-related information either to the government or to competitors."
Telstra added it believes the detail required could potentially be a threat to national security and law enforcement.
Despite Telstra's concerns, the information collected is unlikely to be distributed wholesale to interested parties and it is believed that there would be access to the information set up through the Minister's office.
"The information that is being requested will be treated with utmost confidentiality. We recognise concerns about the sensitivity of information and will ensure those concerns are met," Conroy said.
Optus, the telco spearheading the rival G9 consortium which is also intending to tender for the FTTN network, said it has also received the letter from Senator Conroy.
"Optus will comply with the request outlined [by Conroy]," an Optus spokesperson said, adding that "issuing the letter is a strong pro-competition first move" in construction of the network.