Monday, August 30, 2010

Australia - One of the key independents wants NBN roll-out to continue

[zdnet] Tasmanian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has placed the completion of the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Tasmania as one of his top priorities, in a list delivered ahead of meetings with both Labor Leader Julia Gillard and Liberal Leader Tony Abbott this week.

The new member for the Tasmanian seat of Denison included the completion of the NBN in Tasmania at the end of 2012 in a list of 20 items he believes are vital for the next government. Wilkie denies they're demands, but rather his "priorities". The negotiations over which major party will form a minority government with Wilkie, Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent MPs Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Bob Katter continue in Canberra today.

Oakeshott and Windsor have previously indicated that high-speed broadband was a priority for their electorates. Katter has indicated that he wants whatever is best for his electorate. The Greens has pledged support for the NBN.

However, if Wilkie does manage to negotiate the completion of the Tasmanian portion of the NBN with a Coalition government, which has vowed to stop the network roll-out, the isolated Tasmanian section might not be financially viable, according to comments Communications Minister Stephen Conroy made at a recent Australian Information Industry Association lunch. Conroy warned that due to the cross-subsidisation of the NBN across the country, it would be financially difficult for Tasmanian towns to remain hooked up to the service on their own.

As part of their negotiations, Oakeshott, Windsor and Katter will receive full briefings on the cost of the NBN and the Coalition's alternative broadband policy. Abbott has not ruled out any compromises on policy, stating he would be "pragmatic" in his negotiations with the independents, while Gillard has promised the kingmakers a meeting with NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley.

NBN Co has ceased hiring new employees while the negotiations continue.

Tassie NBN makes Wilkie wish list

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