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Libs: Conroy has no guarantees for bush broadband

The Labor government has kept quiet about the previous administration's Australian Broadband Guarantee as it prepares to axe the initiative in order to concentrate on the national FTTN rollout, according to Shadow Communications spokesperson, Bruce Billson.
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Written by Marcus Browne on

The Labor government has kept quiet about the previous administration's Australian Broadband Guarantee as it prepares to axe the initiative in order to concentrate on the national FTTN rollout, according to Shadow Communications spokesperson, Bruce Billson.

Bruce Billson MP, Liberal Party spokesperson for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, has called on the federal government to reveal its stance on the Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG) -- an initiative enacted by the previous government to ensure that adequate broadband services are available to rural and regional Australia.

"Labor's studied position of silence on this issue is quite worrying; we're already seeing that some service providers are getting less than encouraging responses from the government with regards to their ABG funding," said Billson.

The ABG program was established by the Howard government in early 2007 to counter "broadband blackspots" across the country -- including some in outer suburban areas -- and provide users with comparable services to those available in metropolitan areas. Under current scheduling, the initiative is due to expire on 30 July this year.

"The specific lack of reassurances from Senator Conroy on the future of this policy has been very strange indeed," said the Shadow Minister.

Billson told ZDNet.com.au today that Labor's tight-lipped stance on the ABG program is one of a series of policy moves "seemingly designed to put the bush at a further disadvantage" in terms of broadband access.

"The government's raid on the bush communications fund is also quite a worry," he said. "The fund itself is there to ensure that adequate services are provided to areas where it's not commercially viable otherwise."

The Victorian MP said Labor's actions have repeatedly ignored calls from industry saying funding isn't needed for areas of the market that are commercially viable, namely capital cities and other metropolitan areas. He said Labor appears to be "completely preoccupied with the fibre-to-the-node rollout".

He accused the federal government of "creating some sort of fiction" in the lead up to last year's election that "Australia was somehow in the Flintstone's age and they were going to shoot us into the Jetson's age with their broadband plans".

"At the moment it seems like a chance to grab some good headlines, much like Kevin Rudd trying to claim government credit for Telstra's simple decision to switch on the ADSL2+ network, which Labor didn't really have anything to do with," he said.

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