Telstra: Govt broadband 'all about money and Labor'

Telstra has accused the Coalition of turning the country's broadband network into an election issue rather than concentrating on how improvements in speed could affect Australians.

Telstra has accused the Coalition of turning the country's broadband network into an election issue rather than concentrating on how improvements in speed could affect Australians.

Phil Burgess, Telstra's head of public policy and communications, said the Minister for Communications Senator Helen Coonan's broadband focus is "'Labor Party' or 'how much money she's spent' or '[discussion] papers'" rather than the applications that can be enabled.

"[Coonan] should be talking about all the things we could be doing but she doesn't, she talks about Stephen Conroy, and Stephen Conroy talks about those things but he doesn't have the power to do anything," he said today at the Australian Financial Review Broadband Australia conference in Sydney.

The relationship between the telco and the Minister has deteriorated in recent weeks, following Telstra's decision to take Coonan to court and the Minister's refusal to let the telco close its CDMA network without government permission.

Burgess went on to criticise the Minister over the issue of speed, saying the government is causing Australia to lag behind its economic peers in terms of broadband development.

"The Minister once famously said 'What's wrong with 8Mbps?' Most people don't even have 8Mbps, 8Mbps doesn't even begin to do what we need it to do. The applications coming out are bandwidth hungry," he said, citing examples such as videoconferencing.

According to the Telstra exec, the country will need speeds of 10Gbps by the end of the decade and the telco is working on proposals with network speeds of 1Gbps.

Warren Hardy, MD of Optus's consumer operations, said that Burgess's view of Australian broadband is prompted by self interest and a desire to return to its monopoly status. "Listening to Phil Burgess, I was reminded of Chicken Little," he said today.

Hardy added that Australia's broadband infrastructure will be up to the job for some time to come. "Experts say existing copper networks are robust enough to serve our needs for next three to five years," he said.