What did the G9 leave out of its press release?

Australians have a right to know exactly what the G9 is planning.

Most reporters are naturally curious people -- we just love getting to the bottom of any story to find out what's really going on.

That's why the G9 group of telcos (Optus, AAPT, iiNet and so on) piqued my interest last week when they issued a press release detailing the formal lodgement of their draft proposal for a new nationwide fibre broadband network.

Most of the press release was pretty clean-cut -- this is who we are, this is what we want to do, etc etc etc. Like any good corporate statement it took a swipe at the industry giant -- in this case Telstra -- and painted the G9 as the nation's broadband saviour.

However your reporter was most disappointed to see that the G9 did not disclose its formal proposal in full to the media -- instead providing us with an edited package of "highlights". I contacted Optus, but the telco would not provide a copy of the draft document for publication.

This behaviour is reminiscent of Telstra's own actions when it took its own proposition last year to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The telco continually dropped hints about what its fibre plans were, but never provided the public with a full document showing what they exactly entailed. The telco has still not yet done so, after more than a year of debate on a national fibre broadband network.

For the G9 to keep its own proposal private is hypocritical, given several G9 member telcos have in the past lambasted Telstra's refusal to make its proposal public.

That the G9 would also choose to keep its undertaking to the competition regulator secret does not bode well for the Australian public. It suggests that there is information in that document that the G9 wishes to keep behind closed doors for the time being.

The fundamental problem with this approach is that if nearly every major telco in Australia is collaborating on an infrastructure build that will affect the whole nation, Australians have a right to know exactly what they are planning.

Of course, more information is expected to come to light if the ACCC follows through on its expected course and eventually asked for public comment on the G9 plan.

Until then, Australia can only sit and wait while nine major telcos, Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan and the competition regulator keep it under their hat.