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Tuesday, 30 March 2010 10:02

Coalition would halt NBN construction


The Coalition will take a fully-costed alternative broadband plan for Australia to the next election that is cheaper and makes greater use of mobile technologies. And it says it will not complete the construction of the Rudd Government's $43 billion National Broadband Network.

While a future Abbott Government would honour existing contracts already signed under the NBN, it was unlikely to roll-out the ubiquitous fibre to all homes and premises across Australia, a spokesman for shadow communications spokesman Tony Smith said.

Mr Smith was canvassing the industry on alternatives to the government plan, and would unveil a costed alternative - focusing primarily on rural and regional Australia - in the lead up to the election.

Confirming a story in today's Australian newspaper, the spokesman said the Coalition was looking at alternative delivery models to fibre that would be cheaper and faster to build.

Mr Smith told The Australian he favoured a non-interventionist approach to cities and metropolitan areas, with the Coalition's focus instead in rural and regional areas.

No details of the Coalition's plans have been released, but they appear to be a throw-back to the $1.9 billion Opel roll-out signed in the final term of the Howard Government.

The Opel plan, which was to have been constructed by an Optus/Elders joint venture, targeted rural and regional areas exclusively, favoring WiFi technology, but with some fibre backhaul included.

The Opel contract was dumped by the new Rudd Government, which said the partners could not deliver on its promises either for coverage or speeds.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy immediately attacked the Coalition over the plan to shelve construction of the NBN.

"Tony Smith has signalled that a Coalition government would stop the NBN rollout and revert to the failed broadband policies of the Howard government," Senator Conroy said.

"The Opposition has no credibility when it comes to broadband.  In its 11 and a half years in government the Coalition had 18 failed broadband plans which left Australia languishing behind other OECD nations on broadband take-up, quality and prices.

"Tony Smith and his colleagues need to reveal who will miss out under their proposal - which home, business, school or hospital would not receive the genuinely high speed broadband services they need in the 21st century," Senator Conroy said.

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