Budde's buddies push bush broadband

Budde's buddies push bush broadband

Summary: A group of telcos led by local broadband evangelist Paul Budde is pushing ahead with plans to link its combined infrastructure to form a national network to provide high-speed broadband to regional areas. Key members of the "Wholesale Industry Group" (WIG), which last met in Sydney on 26 May, include telcos Nextgen Networks, Nexium, Vertel, Silk Telecom, Internode and Uecomm, most of which own fibre network infrastructure.

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TOPICS: Telcos
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A group of telcos led by local broadband evangelist Paul Budde is pushing ahead with plans to link its combined infrastructure to form a national network to provide high-speed broadband to regional areas.

Key members of the "Wholesale Industry Group" (WIG), which last met in Sydney on 26 May, include telcos Nextgen Networks, Nexium, Vertel, Silk Telecom, Internode and Uecomm, most of which own fibre network infrastructure.

According to participants, the group discussed proposals to utilise its collective assets to link regional locations up to city infrastructure.

Internet service providers (ISPs) and telcos would buy "backhaul" services from the WIG and use their own local networks to sell broadband to consumers and businesses.

This sort of plan is not new to Australia and has been bumping around the traps for some time as carriers try to avoid using Telstra's rural backbone links. Many carriers have claimed Telstra's backhaul services are too expensive to enable bush broadband services to break even.

A similar model was publicly proposed by carrier PIPE Networks at the regional conference of the Australian Telecommunications User Group (ATUG) in Canberra early this month. PIPE itself has had some involvement in the WIG.

Bush broadband gold rush
WIG's plan comes in response to the federal government's March call for consortiums of telcos to present plans on how the AU$878 million Broadband Connect package could be used to directly fund large scale network infrastructure in the bush.

WIG will seek to utilise some of that funding and has discussed its intentions with the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA).

The group will also soon enter talks with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

In particular, WIG wants to dovetail a map of its combined infrastructure with DCITA's upcoming "Broadband Blueprint" document, which controversially aims to coordinate public and private investment in next-generation broadband infrastructure.

The Broadband Blueprint will also contain roles for participation from local, state and territory governments.

Budde's group will also approach these bodies and has established liaison committees who will organise meetings with key people within state governments.

The need for an industry code that would deal with disputes between participants in the proposed network has also been discussed between WIG and DCITA.

Budde told ZDNet Australia by e-mail today that previous work done by now-defunct industry group the Telecommunications Access Forum could be utilised for this purpose.

Such a code would need to be coordinated by the nation's current self-regulatory body, the Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF), and ratified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), Budde said.

The meeting in May also hosted a presentation from Austar, which is partnering with carriers Unwired and Soul with the aim of attracting some of the Broadband Connect funding.

While DCITA has seemed initially receptive to discussions with WIG, questions remain about whether the structure of the group would allow it to be viable in the longer term.

ZDNet Australia understands several large carriers initially involved in participating in the group have gone cold on the idea.

Topic: Telcos

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