Union wants Telstra copper truth

The Australian Communications Workers Union has called on Telstra to reveal the exact state of its copper access network.

Following comments from Telstra CEO David Thodey that the company's copper network could last for another 100 years, the Communications Workers Union (CWU) has called on Telstra for full disclosure on the state of its legacy copper network.

CWU communications division president Len Cooper said that Thodey's comments directly contradicted comments made by Telstra executive Tony Warren in 2003, describing the network as being "five minutes to midnight", with ADSL being viewed as interim technology until an alternative technology came along.

"I find these comments from Telstra's CEO quite extraordinary," Cooper said.

Cooper said he questioned what had changed in Telstra's copper network in the last decade for Thodey to believe it would be good for another century.

His comments come as last week, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said Thodey was talking up the copper network ahead of the negotiations that he may face with a future Coalition government after the September election.

Under the Coalition's alternative broadband policy, the National Broadband Network (NBN) would be scaled back to a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network in many areas, utilising the existing copper line between the node and each premises.

The union has used Thodey's comments to call back to Telstra's use of plastic bags to protect copper lines from water, and show other examples of the alleged dire state of Telstra's infrastructure.

Warren's comments are frequently quoted by NBN advocates as proof that Telstra's copper network would not be up to the standard required for faster broadband. However, the full context of the quote reveals that at that time, Telstra was not completely sold on the idea of a Telstra-funded national fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) network, either.

"I think it is fair to say that everyone is thinking, 'What's the next network?' and a lot of parties are trying to put down bets. Telstra is obviously asking: 'Which bet do we put down? Is it wireless? Is it satellite? Is it fibre to the home? Is it whatever?'," he said at the time.

"For us, it is rather like:'What is the technology that can be economically spread out as far as possible?' That is a big question for us. The second question is: 'How do we make sure we can recoup our investment and not have it effectively confiscated by access seekers?'"