The Federal Government has unveiled its plans to implement a national broadband network that will provide “to the premises” connections of up to 100 times faster than current broadband speeds to over 90% of Australian, households, schools and businesses.
At a press conference this morning, Kevin Rudd hailed the announcement as the “largest infrastructure decision in Australia’s history” after deciding not to award the national broadband network contract to a company.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the Government would lead the development of a national fibre-to-the-home broadband network up to “100 times faster than what many people use now”.
“Years of failed policy have left Australia as a broadband backwater,” he said.
“This new super fast national broadband network is the single largest national building project in Australia’s history.”
Mr Rudd said the Government would seek investment from the private sector to build the network.
Construction would begin in the middle of the year and take “seven to eight years”, he said.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the decision was “a historic moment for Australia’s telecommunications sector”.
Mr Rudd described the $43 billion fibre-to-the-home scheme as the single largest infrastructure project in the country’s history and said it would create 25,000 jobs a year during construction, with 37,000 in the busiest year of construction.
Mr Rudd said the scheme was essential to boost long-term economic growth and set a path for the country’s economic recovery.
“It is the most ambitious, far-reaching, and long-term nation-building infrastructure project ever undertaken by an Australian government,” he said.
“Like the building of the Snowy Hydro, the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, this a historic act of nation-buidling.”
The Government would hold a majority share in the company, which will also be part-owned by the private sector, and will invest $43 billion into the project over eight years.
The Government will then gradually sell its share of the company five years after the project is completed.
Mr Rudd said the company would inject a “new competitive force” into the telecommunications market.
“Today we draw a line under a decade of policy area and neglect,” he said.
“This solves once and for all the core problem created when the previous prime minister privatised Telstra a decade ago without ever resolving the conflict of a private monopoly owning the network infrastructure and dominating the retail market.”
Mr Rudd said the broadband tender process was being scrapped because none of the submitted bids offered value for money to the taxpayer, but said anyone was open to invest in the new company.
Telstra was dropped from the bidding process last December after the Government rejected its proposal.
The Government had originally said in 2007 the tender process would be finalised by mid-2008, with construction to begin by the end of last year.
In the wake of dismal polling results for Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition, the universal accolades for the way in which the Rudd Government has responded to the Global Financial Crisis – and Rudd’s popularity approaching record levels for an Australian Prime Minister – this announcement will come as a severe kick in the guts for the Opposition, who, by all accounts have failed miserably during the course of their 12 year tenure to implement a word-class and low cost broadband solution.