Australia’s opposition Coalition has unveiled its proposals for introducing high speed broadband services to the bulk of the population, having previously revealed that, should it come to power, the National Broadband Network (NBN) project would be scrapped. According to The Australian, the Coalition has said it would look to private operators to ensure 97% of the population had access to speeds of up to 100Mbps, with a minimum access rate of 12Mbps, by 2016, using a combination of technologies including hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), xDSL and wireless broadband. The scheme is expected to cost approximately AUD6.31 billion (USD5.75 billion) over a seven-year period, of which AUD2.75 billion would be spent on the construction of a fibre-optic backhaul network, with a further AUD750 million to be spent on upgrading existing exchanges to deliver improved services. In addition to government spending, the political opposition would also rely on investment totalling around AUD750 million from private players. In order to incentivise investment AUD1 billion would be set aside in grant funding for a rural and regional wireless network, with a further AUD1 billion for the construction of a wireless broadband network in metropolitan Australia. Satellite coverage for the 3% of the country unable to access internet services through any other means will benefit from an AUD 700 million investment.
In response to the proposals, Stephen Conroy, the current Communications Minister and one of the NBN’s major advocates claimed that the Coalition’s plans would ‘consign Australia to the digital dark ages’’, claiming that only AUD150 million of the total investment promised would be spent within the first four years of the opposition’s plan.