12 Jun 07
Telstra has warned John Howard not to “confiscate” the national broadband network proposal from mum-and-dad investors and hand it to Singapore, a country that executes its citizens.
Telstra’s American-born public policy head, Phil Burgess, yesterday urged against allowing rivals to build a high-speed broadband network.
The Prime Minister is expected to announce this week plans to fast-track high-speed broadband in cities to tackle Labor’s pledge to invest up to $4.7billion of public funds in a national network.
The Government will spend about $900million improving internet speeds in remote areas under the Broadband Connect program. Optus, which is owned by the Singapore-based Singtel, is expected to secure the lion’s share of the funding.
Cabinet has considered a plan to establish a panel of experts to examine options for a national broadband network, which could allow Optus to secure a slice of the action at the expense of Telstra.
“We’ve been aggressive because there is a move under way to confiscate something that is owned by 1.6million mum-and-dad investors and give it to a Singapore company,” Dr Burgess told The Australian. “We’re talking about turning over Australia’s only nationwide telecommunications network to a consortia run by the Singapore Government. That’s a government that executes people, number one, and doesn’t allow competition in its own country. It’s unbelievable.
“We’ve had a national broadband plan since August 2005. It’s been vetoed twice by the (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission). When people say we’re threatening not to do broadband, it just isn’t true. We need to have our costs accepted by the ACCC. We are not going to build it if we can’t get a commercial return on our investment.”
Labor said the Government was as sceptical about broadband as it had been about climate change. “Now, in the shadows of an election, they have suddenly decided they are going to get on the broadband bandwagon,” Opposition communications spokesman Stephen Conroy told the ABC’s Insiders program yesterday.
“I understand Telstra’s frustration at this Government. They have been talking to John Howard and (Communications Minister) Helen Coonan for nearly two years about wanting to put in place a high-speed fibre broadband network.