Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Australia - Oppositon questioned on proposal for cheaper alternative to national broadband network

[abc] The Tasmanian Premier has described Coalition plans to sell existing National Broadband Network infrastructure as a "ridiculous" move that will entrench Telstra's monopoly in the state.

The Coalition would scrap Labor's $43 billion NBN if it wins the election and instead spend just over $6 billion to encourage the private sector to extend broadband services.

Fibre optic cable already rolled out in Tasmania would be sold to the private sector.

The Liberal Party's Communications spokesman Tony Smith says its plan is cheaper and will be driven by competition.

"On Tasmania, what we've said is clearly we're winding up the NBN, but the fibre that's there and the infrastructure that's there, we'll be selling that to the private sector so they can run services."

The Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett has described the plan as economic vandalism that would cost jobs, stifle industries and rob Tasmanians of better services.

He says the plan is a "bitter betrayal" of regional Australia, particularly Tasmania; he believes it would be a giant step backwards for regional towns and would send Tasmania back to the technological dark ages.

"To sell those assets back, that we over 10 years as a State Government have worked for and are now working for with the Commonwealth Government... to sell that back to Telstra will further entrench for decades to come the Telstra monopoly here in Tasmania, and frankly right across regional Australia," Mr Bartlett said.

Backwards step

Consumer group Digital Tasmania is also unimpressed with the Federal Opposition's plan.

Spokesman Andrew Connor says private investment has already proven ineffective, and the plan is a backwards step.

"The whole reason for the NBN coming into being is because the private sector had failed to adequately service customers in Tasmania and across Australia," Mr Connor said.

"That's why we need a ubiquitous network that provides consistent and reliable connections across the country.

"[Instead] we're going to go from having fibre to 93 per cent of homes in Tasmania down to an unknown number, getting an unknown speed."

Half of the homes and businesses in the three Tasmanian towns involved in stage one of the NBN rollout have had the infrastructure connected.

Opposition NBN plan under attack

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