Labor unveils AU$4.7 billion broadband plan

Labor unveils AU$4.7 billion broadband plan

Summary: The Australian Labor Party today said it would reform Australia's telecommunications regulatory regime and invest AU$4.7 billion in a new national fibre broadband network if it won the coming federal election.

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update The Australian Labor Party today said it would reform Australia's telecommunications regulatory regime and invest AU$4.7 billion in a new national fibre broadband network if it won the coming federal election.

kevin rudd, ALP leader

The funds would come from the government's AU$2 billion Communications Fund and the Future Fund's 17 percent stake in Telstra, a statement issued by Labor Leader Kevin Rudd, (pic) Shadow Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Shadow Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said.

The fibre network would be built in partnership with the private sector. There are currently two proposals to build such a network.

The first one mooted by Telstra was shelved last year following a breakdown in discussions between the telco and the national competition regulator over the terms under which the network would be built. A group of Telstra's major rivals known as the G9 and led by Optus is still finalising a second proposal.

"Neither proposal can proceed without regulatory reform," said Conroy in a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra today.

"Neither proposal can provide rural and regional Australians with access to a fibre to the node network without government investment. In this context, government leadership is needed. That's why today I announced that a Rudd Labor government will deliver the reforms necessary to deliver a national open access fibre to the node network."

Neither Telstra or the G9 have provided much details about their respective plans, but Conroy said a Labor government would force them to do so.

"In this regard, the parties would be required to publicise the scale of their investment and the technical specifications of their proposal," he said. "Labor would also ask parties making such investment proposals to specify the regulatory reforms necessary to facilitate such an investment."

Labor would kick off a competitive process to select a private sector proposal for the proposed fibre network.

Not open slather
However, Conroy said a Labor government would still require certain conditions to be met in the construction and operation of a new fibre broadband network, including mandated open access to bottleneck infrastructure, equivalent charges for such access for all parties, and an allowance for telcos to differentiate their products in the market through providing different technical advantages such as access speeds and quality of service.

Access prices for third-parties would be set at a level that would allow a commercial return to be made to the network builder.

"A Rudd Labor government would also call on those submitting such proposals to ensure that their proposal delivers access to broadband speeds of a minimum of 12Mbps to 98 percent of Australian homes and businesses," Conroy said.

Conroy said the new policy would see Labor withdraw its opposition to the Future Fund's further sell-down of its Telstra stake from 2008, subject to the approval of Labor's national conference next month.

While the Federal government immediately attacked Labor's new policy for taking money from the Future Fund, Conroy said Howard's team had "comprehensively bungled its responsibility" to facilitate the rollout of a fibre to the node network over the past two years.

"The Minister has had two years to resolve this debacle and it has comprehensively failed," he said. "These failures will have negative economic and social consequences for Australia unless we take action now ... The fibre to the node farce has gone on for long enough."

Topics: Broadband, Browser, Government, Government AU, Telcos, Telstra, NBN

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9 comments
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  • Good news.

    Considering that Telstra has already offered to partner the Australian Government in a Fibre rollout, I can see no reason why the Rudd Government and Telstra would not be great partners for the proposed rollout.
    anonymous
  • Gunddu

    Over last 11 years The Govt (Howard & Costello) sat on their bums without doing anything about this issue of improving Telco infrastructue and ready to call it 'Vandalism' when other side comes up with some idea. Perhaps come election time, they would rather dip into 'Future Fund' for pork barelling in coalition marginal electorates, which they done during last few elections.
    anonymous
  • The best news for long time.

    The negligence of the current government in this area has caused Australia to go backward in the Technology area for the last few years. A couple of months ago I received an email from my isp iinet advising my service bandwidth will drop to 1/3 and the rate would stay the same unless I pay a lot more to use what I was getting before. My wife's mobile phone plan of 6 years ago is much cheaper and better that any plan I can get now. In everywhere else in the world prices are going down while the bandwidth increases. In Australia it is the reverse. I have given up looking for things on the Yellow Pages as the service is so slow and unusable. How long people have to put up with these kind of price and services?
    So under this light this is the best news.
    anonymous
  • Labors broadband plan

    Every is missing the point here.... labor intends to raid the "Future Fund" to do this roll out, which is WRONG !!
    There is another reason why it is wrong and that is that the telco's would "normally" pay for this themselves !!!
    There is NO NEED for ANY government to fund a rollout of "High speed" broadband.
    Lastly the rollout that labor is talking about is no faster than the current fastest speed available (ie 24,000).
    Labor is talking about FTTN and until it is FTTH (Fibre to Home) broadband speeds will never increase.
    Under the FTTN scheme, copper pair gain will still exist and speeds of higher than 24,000 CANNOT be obtained using copper, only "fibre to home" FTTH.
    So therefore Labors plan is a waste of the taxpayers money and will NOT give the desired result !!
    anonymous
  • Labor's broadband plan

    If it cost 50 billion AUD to lay a fibre optic network for Singapore (half the size of Sydney), Rudd's 5 billion is a joke.
    anonymous
  • FTTH needs FTTN

    How do you propose building out FTTH without building out FTTN first?

    Even 24,000 would be nice - if they can provide that in my area with FTTN, I'm all for it.
    anonymous
  • Consider this

    When Telstra "offered" to partner the government in a Fibre rollout, what they are really doing is "asking" for "taxpayers money".
    Telstra are having a hard time adjusting to a world where the government doesn't just give them the business. They actually have to compete now.
    anonymous
  • 50 billion AUD

    "If it cost 50 billion AUD to lay a fibre optic network for Singapore (half the size of Sydney), Rudd's 5 billion is a joke."

    I think that's the reason that they are doing fibre to the node rather than to the curb. Much more expensive to do to the curb.

    12Mbps is not great but the key word for me is "minimum". If you can guarantee that to 98% of AU then that's pretty impressive.

    The other key is whether or not it's scalable and I guess once you have fibre to the node you can always roll it out to the curb suburb by suburb in the years to come.

    The problem with the Liberals idea of leaving it to the private sector is that the private sector is always ONLY concerned with making the most amount of money. If the private sector can make the maximum profit by keeping the existing network and squeezing it for everything that it's worth then that's all that they'll ever do.
    anonymous
  • You need to think before you do.

    Now that Labour has won the election they should now start listening to the customers of the Teleco Industry. As there is a lot of customers moving away from Telstra and wishing they had never done business with the larger Teir1 & 2 Telcos in Australia and are finding more reliable services with some of the smaller and smarter telcos in Australia.
    So all I say is that all Licenced Telecommunications Providers should have the chance to bid and have their say on Australia's future for high speed broadband.
    anonymous