In a dramatic U-turn, it has been revealed that Telstra is seeking a AUD600 million (USD470 million) government subsidy to roll out what it describes as the biggest ‘geographically fixed broadband development in Australia’. Previously Telstra had said it wanted nothing to do with the government’s Broadband Connect infrastructure programme, designed to bring faster internet service to remote communities. Should it secure the funds, Telstra proposes to make broadband available to about 250,000 regional households that do not currently have access to ADSL services. It says the plan would see fixed broadband coverage expand from 91% to 95% of the population.
Telstra joins a long list of rival carriers, ISPs and other operators looking for a share of the AUD878 million the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has allotted for Broadband Connect. Optus and rural services provider Elders are also in the running for the AUD600 million subsidy. The companies said last year that if successful, they would deliver broadband to 700,000 premises for the first time. Regional pay-TV company Austar and broadband internet companies Unwired Group and Soul have also submitted a joint bid for Broadband Connect funding.