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Fiber optics get political in Australia as opposition party vows to scale down national broadband plan

Sean Hollister
08.10.10
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When Australia goes to the polls on August 21st, citizens will vote for more than men and the traditional issues they represent -- the ballots cast will directly impact the country's national broadband plan. Where Australia's ruling Labor party had pledged A$43 billion for an up-to-100Mbps fiber optic network fed directly to 90 99 percent of homes (and agreed to pay A$11 billion to Telstra) over the next seven to eight years, the opposing Liberal-National coalition says if elected, it will scrap that notion in favor of a cheaper A$6.3 billion plan. That money would create a fiber-optic backbone by 2017 but actually connects homes with hybrid fiber-coaxial connections, DSL and about A$2 billion worth of wireless, with a minimum promised speed of 12Mbps. The coalition says these services would cover 97 percent of Australians, with satellite coverage for the final 3 percent, and that those networks receiving funds from the project and connecting to the backbone would have to compete based on pricing (set by the country's Competition and Consumer Commission) and pledge open access. Having never lived in Australia ourselves, we don't know what's best, but we're pretty sure we wouldn't be satisfied with the 12Mbps end of the Liberal-National stick.

Update: Labor plan is to bring 100Mbps to 99 percent of the population, not 90 percent as originally stated.

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