I’ve held off from commenting this last week on Labor’s announcement that it’s going to dip into the Future Fund to roll out a Nation Wide Next Gen Broadband network (12mps). My first thoughts were that it would nearly be enough to win my vote (that and the fact the Liberals are running an agrarian socialist in Forrest), but like any announcement the devil is always in the detail. The detail, or in this case that f*ckng great big 800 ton Gorilla is Telstra, who were wrongly allowed to keep the last mile to the home network. Rather than let me explain it, let me quote Adam Turner at ITWire.com.au, who must have been reading my thoughts:
“Allowing the country’s largest communications provider to also own the country’s communications infrastructure has been an unmitigated disaster which has seen Australia fall further and further behind the rest of the world. Telstra should have been broken in two before it was privatised, with the nation’s communications infrastructure spun off into a separate company so all communications providers could compete on a level playing field. Instead Telstra uses its ownership of the infrastructure to throw its weight around and hold the country to ransom until it gets its own way”.
Exactly. Labor’s plan, and even the look at me response plan by the Liberal Government has to get past Telstra. Question though, is it to late to force structural separation, or even better, for the Government to retake the last mile copper to home network from Telstra? Think about it, the Government still owns 17% of the company, held by the Future Fund. It also holds the legislative powers to cripple Telstra should it want to. Telstra complains that the copper network is expensive and doesn’t pay for itself, so why couldn’t the Government swap the network for the remaining 17% of it’s shares? If Telstra failed to comply the Government could nationalise the service (ok, admittedly a bad move) or they could cripple Telstra by extending USO (universal service obligations) to 100% of the country with guaranteed service delivery levels that would make keeping the network by Telstra a massive drain on profits, whilst actually delivering a better standard of service to all Australians (a win-win really). If Labor came out and promised this tomorrow (and dropped their ISP level censorship policy) I might even go a spend a couple of hours handing out for them at the polling booth come election day, and that from a 12 year member of the Liberal Party and former Liberal staffer. Here’s hoping, certainly the ALP is making all the right noises for the IT vote.