The contract for Australia's fibre-to-the-node network is now up for grabs but the government has been accused of trying to return Australian broadband to a monopoly system — which is just the way the G9 likes it, according to Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy.
Speaking yesterday at the CommsDay Summit in Sydney, Simon Hackett, MD of ISP and G9 member Internode, accused the government's request for proposals (RTP) of promoting a broadband monopoly.
"It's awful, it's a trainwreck," he told the conference, adding: "It's a government mandated broadband and voice monopoly... Why aren't people shouting in the street about this? Why are we standing for it? It's madness."
According to Hackett, the fibre RTP will see a full node cutover — where the copper network that Australia uses now will be disconnected — leaving companies that have invested in their own infrastructure out of pocket and likely to sue the government for compensation, and consumers faced with higher prices.
"[Consumers] don't know the cost of their shiny new network will be the loss of the existing ADSL2+ service... They will be extremely upset but it will be too late then," Hackett continued.
Senator Conroy denied that the FTTN network will promote a communications monopoly.
"Infrastructure is vital but so is a competitive telecoms industry," he told the CommsDay Summit today. "There are arrangements in place to promote competition for delivering services over the network."
According to Conroy, it is the G9 consortium — a group of nine ISPs including Optus, Internode and Primus — and not the government promoting a monopoly, with G9's last submission on building the fibre network "demanding to be a monopoly" and asking the government to make sure "Telstra couldn't build a rival network".
Pipe Networks CEO Bevan Slattery told the conference yesterday that the terms of RFP had been skewed to favour Telstra's bid.
"Excluding G9, any other company [bidding] is using the national broadband network as an excuse to raise its profile. G9 should boycott it... it's a completely flawed process," said Slattery.
"It's designed so Telstra is the only party capable of responding."