The Coalition’s 2007 OPEL broadband project would have been a better solution for rural broadband shortfalls than the National Broadband Network, according to Shadow Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
Some regional and remote areas have limited broadband access due to lack of competitive backhaul.
The $600 million OPEL project was to deliver wholesale wireless broadband services to those areas but it was scrapped in favour of the NBN by Labor when the party rose to power in the 2007 election.
The NBN promises to serve those areas with a mixture of satellite and fibre technologies.
“If the Coalition Government’s OPEL plan proposed in 2007 had gone ahead, services would already be much better in many of these areas,” Turnbull said.
The Shadow Communications Minister claimed OPEL was a cost-effective plan that would have delivered virtually the same benefits to rural Australia as the NBN to serve the ‘last seven per cent’ of the nation.
The difference rests in NBN Co’s refusal to hold tender for a fixed wireless network, opting to build it themselves.
Turnbull also criticised the Government’s decision to build the NBN internally, a point that has been attacked on numerous occasions by the Coalition.
“[A] free market and competition between firms is the best way of delivering us the things we want at the best price,” he said.
“Governments should seek to promote competition and where a Government is in business of providing services to the public it should not place any barriers in the way of private competition.”
While the NBN has been lauded as a Telstra monopoly killer by the Government and a number of ISPs, Turnbull was sceptical of the network's ability to address telco monopolies.
Former Treasurer, Peter Costello, took a swipe at the lack of cost-benefit analysis for the NBN.
The high cost of the network has been a hot topic but Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said earlier this week that the cost of the NBN needs to be “reverse engineered” to understand its full benefits.