Broadband stabs an optic nerve as election looms

Broadband stabs an optic nerve as election looms

Australia gets WiMAX and fibre either way

Telstra took Coonan to court in August this year over an extra $342 million sweetener that it argued was surreptitiously poured into the deal behind the telco's back.

Big T claimed it would have forwarded a different proposal if it had known about the extra funds, and also expressed anger over the early termination of the tender deadline.

The court rejected the telco's demands to see the proposal papers in October.

Meanwhile, Conroy blasted the proposal, suggesting along with other industry players that hardware and spectrum limitations and geographic problems will cripple the network.

Conroy took a swing at the title holder, denouncing the network as "a dog product" and swore to crush the OPEL deal if Labor won government and the deal was not formalized.

He questioned the lack of guarantees imposed on the OPEL deal, including coverage and delivery, and pointed to existing wireless networks such as Telstra Next G which is subject to government conditions

The blow was easily defended as Coonan signed off the deal in September and announced network construction by June 2009.

A powerful counter punch knocked Conroy off balance as the minister locked-down the $2 million communications fund, effectively denying him his FttN nest egg of government coffers.

The bill restricted a Labor government to spending only the interest earned from the fund's investments - up to $400 million every three years.

Both fighters tried to punch holes through each other's infamous broadband coverage maps, with favourites including problems with WiMAX spectrum availability and geography for the OPEL network, and range limitations and soaring prices of up to $10 billion for the fibre-optic proposals.

But shadow Minister Conroy admitted the OPEL network he vehemently opposed could be used to deliver broadband to remote Australia, beyond the economic reach of Labor's FttN.

Have an opinion on this story? Click to e-mail Darren Pauli.

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