ICT Minister Senator Helen Coonan promises 99 percent of the population will have access to fast, affordable broadband by June 2009, as part of a new legislative initiative called Australia Connected.
OPEL, a new joint venture between Optus and Elders, had been awarded a total of $958 million as part of the initiative, to deliver a mix of fibre optic, ADSL2+ and wireless broadband platforms to rural and regional areas.
“OPEL will use a new 12 Mbps state of the art wireless (WiMAX) technology ensuring that regional Australia gets a network that will be world’s best practice.
“In addition to WiMAX, a further 426 exchanges, representing more than three million premises, will be enabled with very fast ADSL2+ broadband for the first time. The switch on of the 426 exchanges to ADSL2+ will commence immediately across 426 outer metropolitan, regional and rural areas,” Senator Coonan said.
In parallel with the deployment of this new network, Coonan also announced a new commercial fibre optic rollout via a competitive bids process and subsequent enabling legislation.
“To facilitate this process, the Government will establish an Expert Taskforce to ensure an open and transparent process for assessment of bids to build a fibre-to-the-node network,” she said.
The Government will also provide a broadband subsidy of $2750 per household to Australians living in the most remote areas, a consumer help centre called BroadbandNow, and will preserve the $2billion Communications Fund for future regional network upgrades.
“Unlike Labor’s poorly detailed and economically risk plan, this new super fast national network is fully costed, Australia-wide and will reach many Australian homes and small businesses within a matter of months,” Senator Coonan said.
But according to the opposition, the Federal Government’s broadband plan is simply a quick fix before the election, whereas Labor’s plan will deliver “true broadband” to 98 per cent of Australians, at minimum speeds 40 times faster than they currently get.