Terria and Telstra today welcomed Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's move to name 26 November as the final deadline for bids to build and operate the planned national broadband network, but did not change their positions on how the initiative should go forward.
Conroy this morning announced that the government had received the necessary network information from all the carriers and had judged it compliant. Proponents now have access to the information and have 12 weeks to lodge their proposals.
Although both Telstra and Terria, a conglomerate of rival firms, welcomed the start of the race, Telstra maintained it was only prepared to build the network "as long as it is in [its] shareholders' interest to do so". The telco has previously threatened not to build the network if structural separation was a condition of building the network.
Terria felt the need to insist that its bid would be "technologically first-rate", while Telstra took the chance to talk up its experience.
"For over 100 years, Telstra has been connecting Australians, going to places where no other company is willing to go," Telstra's group managing director, public policy and communications David Quilty said in a statement.
Quilty called the network an "upgrade to Telstra's existing network", insinuating that since Telstra knew Telstra best, it would be the logical choice.
Terria played to the broadband lower-class, reiterating that it would take care of them first.
"The national broadband network is a great opportunity for country and regional areas, and a number of metropolitan 'black spots', to finally get a fair-go," Terria chairman Michael Egan said in a statement.
Meanwhile, it also pulled out its tried and trained battle horse — structural separation — saying it was imperative the network must be separated from access seekers.
Quilty denigrated separation as strongly as Egan had praised it, saying that Telstra would provide open access to the network without it.
"Open access means that Telstra's competitors will be able to access the NBN on an equivalent basis as Telstra's own business units," Quilty said, adding that he expected the promise to be watched over by the regulator.
Terria chairman Michael Egan
"Telstra's guarantee of open access renders obsolete the 'fool's gold' debate around separation. Separation increases costs and kills off investment and it has not worked anywhere in the world," he concluded.
Telstra was quiet on the delays to the deadline, despite its former public policy and communications Phil Burgess previously accusing the government of "dithering".
Egan excused the fact that the deadline for proposals had been pushed back almost half a year — the date in the original request for proposals stood at 25 July.
"Without that information it would have been impossible for competitive bids to be developed and lodged," he said. "The government promised a competitive process and is living up to that promise."
Other bodies which have put in a bond but have kept a lower profile include TransACT, Acacia and the Tasmanian government.