The Coalition has welcomed an open letter from several senior telco executives criticising the cost and delivery methods of the Labor Government’s National Broadband Network.
The letter said the argument for a fibre-only NBN solution had “failed to convince” and there was no demonstrated need for speeds of up to 1Gbps.
Key Liberal Party MP and former Optus executive, Paul Fletcher, said the letter was a welcome sign that the industry lacked unanimity and did not entirely back the NBN.
“It’s helpful in terms of getting good public policy outcomes,” he said. “You’ve got experienced industry players saying this is the kind of model they think is the most cost-effective and the most appropriate for Government intervention to spur the adoption of broadband.
“They see it as logical to direct Government funding to the competitive fibre optic backbone, particularly for rural and remote areas…and that it’s logical to focus spending on wireless access networks.”
When asked if he thought the industry executives were biased because they’d benefit more from a competition-based national broadband solution, Fletcher said the input of business people did not reduce their
Fletcher didn’t deny the telcos would stand to benefit more if their suggestions were implemented. But he denied this would automatically detract from their points.
“Nobody comes to this debate without having a particular perspective,” he said. “The cheerleaders for Labor’s NBN include a lot of people who expect to get significant funding…if Labor’s model goes ahead.
“It’s a reality of public policy in this area that people come to it with different perspectives,” he added. “It’s important to understand what their perspectives are, but it doesn’t bar them from offering their view and if you did bar people with a commercial interest then it’d be a disaster because you’d be relying on the views of bureaucrats.”
But telco analyst, Paul Budde, dismissed the relevance of the letter’s authors and claimed most were either small players or biased.
“These are industry players so… they think about themselves,” he said. “Obviously, they have their own agenda regarding the future of their businesses and I think that’s part of it.
“I’m not saying it’s politically driven, but if you make an announcement at this point it becomes political.”
“The only real large scale operator [on the letter] is AAPT, which we know is also in disarray,” he said. “It’s not that these are the leading lights in the industry at the moment. They’re good people, but if [AAPT CEO] Paul Broad had it all right, why is his company in such a bad shape.”
A spokesperson for Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, responded to the letter by issuing a statement promoting the benefits of the NBN and providing quotes of support from major tech companies such as Telstra, Optus, Macquarie Telecom and Intel.
“Australia has fallen further and further behind the rest of the world since the Liberals and Nationals voted to privatise Telstra,” they said. “The importance of the NBN has been widely recognised by senior executives across the Australian telecommunications sector.