[LINK] Labor commits to $4.5b high-speed Internet network

Stewart Fist stewart_fist at optusnet.com.au
Fri Mar 23 13:36:53 AEDT 2007

The key question is whether the government can maintain its control over
what will become the monopoly fibre infrastructure without being tempted to
exploit their control by overcharging, or by giving special deals to various
favoured companies in return for other services.  Or later (perhaps) by
flogging it off (as both sides did/would-have-done with Telstra) for some
quick pork-barrelling cash at some later date.

Given the stupid position we are now in with a privatised monopoly
infrastructure owner in the obstreperous Telstra, that this is probably the
best of the bad options.  At least it gets something moving.  And so far, it
doesn't look as if Telestra can monopolise it.

I need to wait to see the details of the proposed private-public-partnership
before I will begin to cheer, however.

Labor is (pointedly) not promising it won't privatise the fibre network at a
later date -- nor are they saying this will be a monopoly national network,
which will remain government controlled and regulated.

So something needs also to be done about the ownership of street ducting,
because this is the key to separation of service and the provision of
competitive infrastructure.

I'd like to see street ducting and power-poles put under local government
control, like suburban roads - with the main inter-exchange trunk-pipes
placed under state government control.

That's the only way to get real competitive access, if they are going to
allow multiple infrastructure suppliers.  And this is possibly the way it
might go.  Everything is far too vague to come to any conclusions, other
than to say that Labor has a proposal which is better than the non-proposals
of the Liberals.

However. The unnecessary duplication of primary infrastructure now appears
to be accepted by both sides of politics.

Stewart Fist, writer, journalist, film-maker
70 Middle Harbour Road, LINDFIELD, 2070, NSW, Australia
Ph +61 (2) 9416 7458

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