Govt's $250M won't fix bush broadband

Fed's bush broadband push still falls short

The bush will only get marginally better broadband despite the government's $250 million splurge to lay more fibre cable.

Communications minister Stephen Conroy announced last Thursday that $250 million will be spent to entice competition into crucial broadband backhaul services previously dominated by Telstra.

Additional backhaul will allow cash-strapped Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide faster broadband technologies such as ADSL2+ to regional areas which have been left with Internet access that is more expensive and slower than comparable metropolitan services.

Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said governments have previously failed to act despite being aware of the lack of competition in regional broadband services.

“The governments have acknowledged for the last five or six years that there is a problem with backhaul,” Budde said.

“Whatever the plan, something need to be done.... but part of the problem is knowing where the black spots are because Telstra has not been forthcoming in the coverage details.”

iPrimus CEO Ravi Bhatia said the $250 million will not solve the backhaul problem but is a productive first step.

“It's a start. It should cover the major regional areas, but a lot more work has to be done,” Bhatia said.

“It shows that the government is serious about rolling out the NBN [National Broadband Network].”

Shadow communications minister Nick Minchin said the government is wrong to suggest the backhaul will be part of the NBN.

“Whichever way the government wants to spin this, the need to address backhaul black-spots is a separate issue from its NBN ambitions and also long overdue,” Minchin said in a statement.

He said the government may cannibalise its NBN capital return if it divides network traffic between competing networks.

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Darren Pauli

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