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Inquiry invites National Broadband Network submissions.



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Wed, 9th July 2008

INQUIRY INVITES NATIONAL BROADBAND NETWORK SUBMISSIONS

The Hon Bruce Billson MP Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

I would strongly encourage the telecommunications industry, analysts, consumer advocates, broadband users, service providers and others with views or concerns about Labor's proposed National Broadband Network project to make submissions to a Senate Select Inquiry.

The Federal Opposition initiated the bi-partisan inquiry in response to widespread concerns about the pathway the Government has embarked on.

The Government is clearly struggling to convert its vague election sound bites about delivering fibre to the node broadband to 98 per cent of the population at a minimum speed of 12 megabits per second, within five years, into a sound public policy outcome.

Most disturbingly, the Government is bumbling along seemingly oblivious to legitimate concerns about cost-blow-outs and regulatory uncertainty, as well as consumer anxiety about what will be delivered and at what price. Despite this the Minister is still promising to commence construction by the end of 2008.

On 24 June, The Age (More delay on network bid) ominously reported that: Labor's election pledge to appoint a national broadband network builder by the end of the year is in tatters because of another extension of the bid deadline and a trebling of the expected construction costs.

Proper scrutiny of Labor's proposal is critical considering the government's willingness to spend up to $4.7 billion of taxpayers money on something it cannot even adequately articulate.

What Labor might consider to be an acceptable political outcome could in fact have a long-term detrimental impact on the telecommunications industry, the national interest and the consumer interest. Clearly a profound market intervention of this kind must be canvassed in an open and transparent way.

I am optimistic that the Senate inquiry can make a positive contribution in this light, at a time when the Government's own processes are noteworthy for their lack of clarity, perhaps best symbolised by the extreme gag restrictions placed on potential bidders.

Submissions are being accepted until 15 August 2008 and can be lodged at

broadband.sen@aph.gov.au.

The final reporting date is 30 March 2009. For further information visit www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/broadband_ctte/index.htm or phone (02) 6277 3370