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FTTN plan delayed as Labor reveals fibre brains

Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy has revealed the panel that will evaluate tenders to build Australia's AU$4.7 billion fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network -- and that the rollout plan has been hit with a delay of several months.
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Written by Jo Best on

Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy has revealed who will evaluate tenders to build Australia's AU$4.7 billion fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) network -- and announced that the rollout will be delayed by several months.

The panel will be chaired by the Secretary of the Department, Patricia Scott. John Wylie, Lazard Carnegie Wylie CEO; Tony Mitchell, Allphones chairman; Laureate Professor Rod Tucker, University of Melbourne; Professor Emeritus of Communications, Reg Coutts, University of Adelaide; Tony Shaw, former Australian Communications Authority chairman and Dr Ken Henry AC, Treasury Secretary, will also join the panel.

The panel will be assisted by the Department itself, as well as other specialist advisors who will give support in technical, legal and other matters pertinent to the rollout.

The industry and members of the public are also asked to submit their comments to the panel on the "appropriate policy and regulatory framework" for the FTTN network, with submissions used to help develop the government's requests for proposals. The panel will receive the comments until the end of this month.

The panel will replace an equivalent appointed by the last government, which was dismantled after the election.

Senator Conroy said last year that the panel established by the Labor government would mean "starting again with our own [task force], and with someone who knows something about telecoms".

The government had initially hoped to award the network tender in June -- a deadline which has now been pushed back by several months.

"The government will formally call for innovative and competitive proposals to roll-out the new network with a view to having construction underway by the end of 2008," Conroy said today in a statement.

"Proponents will have time to develop their proposals and we expect the panel will then make their recommendation to government in September," he added.

Once proposals are received, the expert panel will help assess them against requirements.

In the meantime, the government has awarded an additional AU$95 million to the Australian Broadband Guarantee, which provides broadband access to remote users, and will shortly "call for comments on policy and funding initiatives to improve access to affordable broadband in these remote areas".

AAP contributed to this report

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