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Industry blasts Coalition broadband policy

The telecommunications and information technology industry has widely criticised the Coalition's broadband policy announced yesterday, saying it was not clear enough and lacked vision.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

The telecommunications and information technology industry has widely criticised the Coalition's broadband policy announced yesterday, saying it was not clear enough and lacked vision.

The Liberal's $6 billion broadband policy would see the National Broadband Network (NBN) scrapped and sold off, and replaced with a competitive backbone backhaul network, wireless networks and broadband optimisation.

In a statement, Optus' director of government and corporate affairs Maha Krishnapillai welcomed the Coalition's plan to provide open access to backhaul for all vendors, noting it was also part of Labor's policy, but said that the bottleneck from the node to the home was an issue that still needed to be addressed.

"Ownership of the copper network, the only fixed access connection for the vast majority of Australians, has allowed Telstra to undermine competition and dominate the fixed-line sector to the detriment of consumers," he said. "It is not clear from the Coalition's policy how this bottleneck will be resolved, but we look forward to future constructive discussions with the Coalition on this matter."

Internet service provider Internode's managing director Simon Hackett slammed the Coalition's plan to optimise current copper networks, but was equally unsupportive of Labor's stance on the mandatory internet filter.

"I support the NBN because it represents the only time that Australians have stood to gain a new, future-proof fibre broadband network for the next 50 years. This is far preferable to just applying band-aids to the flaws of the existing copper line system (and the existing flawed regulatory regime)," he told ZDNet Australia.

"On the other hand, the misguided, flawed and deceptive mandatory internet censorship push, which would threaten the online freedom of Australians and create dangerous false impressions for parents, and all while achieving absolutely nothing toward its stated aims, is a policy that has passed its use-by date and should be abandoned immediately," Hackett added.

Digital Tasmania spokesperson Andrew Connor said the cancellation of the NBN would have a detrimental effect on Tasmania, where the NBN is already being switched on, and could lead to the re-monopolising of Telstra in the state.

"[It's] definitely a backwards step for Tasmania, we'd go from having 200,000 premises with 100Mbps [fibre-to-the-premise] by 2014 to those premises getting somewhere between 12 to 100Mbps by 2016," he said. "The Opposition's policy utilising wireless for customer access has little room for future growth and lower reliability. It's another band-aid broadband policy that delivers with yesterday's technologies not tomorrow's."

Australian Information Industry Association chief Ian Birks said that while discussion of building the broadband infrastructure in Australia was important, there needed to be more talk on what the infrastructure could be used for, something that was lacking in Coalition policy.

"On one level it's good now that we have two clear policies for broadband now, and it will be the electorate's choice," he said. "But fundamentally you need to be talking about at the same time what we're going to do to take advantage of that infrastructure and start developing those applications now."

"You've seen a bit of that from the current government with their commitment to e-health and their commitment to the smart-grid pilot," he added.

Telstra declined to comment, stating that it would work with whichever government is in power. Vodafone Hutchison Australia also declined to comment.

iiNet provided no statement except to link back to a July document explaining the benefits of the NBN entitled "NBN Services: What's in it for your Grandma?" (PDF).

(Front page image credit: Rock series image by Stefano Tambolo, CC2.0)

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