The expert taskforce in charge of picking who will build Australia's high speed network has produced its guidelines for the tender process -- but don't expect a decision before the election.
According to the draft, interested parties would be given 17 weeks from the release of the final guidelines to lodge proposals. The taskforce would then require at least three months to assess the proposals before giving a report and recommendations to Senator Coonan -- meaning no decision on the network will be taken before the federal election.
The guidelines have now been made available for public consultation and can be accessed here. All comment must be submitted to the taskforce before the end of 29 August.
The draft guidelines describe the necessity for a "the timely rollout and operation of new, privately funded, open access, high speed broadband network infrastructure in Australia's capital cities and major regional centres" but does not mandate any specific technology on which the network must be based.
Communications Minister Helen Coonan said the government would not be adopting a one size fits all mentality over the broadband network. "The guidelines do not specify that the high speed network must be a fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network. It could contain a fibre-to-the-home upgrade path or another alternative high speed broadband platform. But fibre-to-the-node appears to be the most likely prospect based on the strong interest from industry in a fibre network build," she said in a statement.
Opposition communications spokesman Stephen Conroy said the draft guidelines were vague and failed to specify who the network would reach or minimum connection speeds.
"Given the government's disastrous track record of backing obsolete technologies, no one should feel secure that these guidelines will deliver Australia a future-proof broadband solution," Senator Conroy said.
Both Telstra and the Optus-led G9 consortium intend to bid to build the network.
Telstra has criticised the government over perceived delays in the decision-making. "For every week that a decision on FTTN is delayed, Australia's businesses, consumers and families fall further behind the rest of the world. As many people have pointed out, high-speed broadband is a first order priority for this nation's future. The government has done nothing for ten years; it shouldn't take another eight months to decide if FTTN should happen," a spokesperson said.
AAP contributed to this story.