After months of planning, shadow communications minister Tony Smith today is expected to announce today, the Coalition’s alternative plan for the $43 Billion dollar National Broadband Network.
Liberal Party insiders that include the likes of Malcolm Turnbull a former shareholder of OZEmail and Former Optus executive Paul Fletcher believe that there is a need for a fast new network the big difference is that the Liberal’s believe that private enterprise should build the network and not the Federal Government.
Smith is due to debate Communications and Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy and the Greens’ spokesman Scott Ludlam at the National Press Club in Canberra today. He is expected to announce the long-delayed policy shortly before that event.
Privately Abbott has said that he is favour of a fast network however he believes that a network can be build at a considerable lower cost than the $43 Billion is being proposed by the Labour controlled Federal Government.
Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb last week told ABC Radio: “We’re not against the NBN, in fact we will shortly announce our alternative, but we are against returning telecommunications to be under government ownership.”
And shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has thrown out several hints that the Coalition is planning a bigger push for wireless communications. That’s unlikely to see a revival of the Howard Government’s OpEl plan for rural WiMax services, with WiMax now being seen as a sidelined technology – while widespread use of the alternative LTE platform must await the freeing up of the necessary spectrum.
Major expansion of wireless communication in rural areas would also still need the deployment of thousands of kilometres of fibre cable to link mobile towers.
Another major plank in the Coalition’s yet-to-be announced policy is what it plans to do about Telstra, which has agreed in principle to structural separation should Labour win and its NBN legislation pass.
There are also question marks over Tony Smith’s own future, should the Coalition win the election. He has been near-invisible in the shadow ministry, frequently deferring to more senior operators like Andrew Robb when policy matters have emerged.
Former Optus executive Paul Fletcher, who last year replaced Brendan Nelson in the blue ribbon seat of Bradfield, is seen in some quarters as a possible replacement.