Speedy broadband slow to reach rural Australia
The government's $4.7 billion broadband extravaganza looks set to not be the quick fix solution Australian internet users have been praying for. Already six months behind schedule, the broadband grand plan had promised to solve our problems of slow internet connection speeds and limited coverage. While the main cities of Australia have been using frustratingly slow broadband speeds by international standards for some time now, while regional Australia still largely remains unconnected, relying on dial-up. For those trying to run businesses based in rural areas, Western world-standard broadband is a necessity.
Australian residents living in Metropolitan areas could be connecting as early as April next year, while it is estimated to take up to five years to plug in the entire nation. The goal of the grand plan is to deliver high-speed internet to 98% of the population of Australia, with the construction of network cables.
Communication Minister Steve Conroy's department is currently reviewing the network information provided yesterday by Australia's major broadband providers. Once the analysis is completed and Conroy passes information on the prospective bidders, they will have 12 weeks before submissions are due to finalise their proposals. Bidders include Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Primus and NextGen. The winning bidder is due to be announced in early April 2009, and it is possible that the first metropolitan users will be connecting before the end of that month.
A representative of Senator Conroy stated, "The Government has a live, commercial selection process under way for the national broadband network and it is therefore inappropriate to speculate on the potential outcome of the request for proposals. It has always been the Government's position that the provision of appropriate network information to proponents is important for the success of the national broadband network process and that this should be done as soon as possible."
If Telstra wins the bid, they will have the urban and most densely populated areas connected quickly. The rural regions of Australia however, who have been waiting the longest for decent broadband connectivity and feel left in the dark, will not be prioritised. Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde says that Telstra could switch on the network within a week of winning, but would deliver 12Mbps to all metro areas in 2009 regardless of their proposal being selected.
"In 2009, with or without the network, Telstra will still deliver 12Mbps to all metro areas. If the Government decides to go with Telstra there will be no competition and under-serviced areas will suffer," Mr Budde said. "Telstra is not interested in pursuing the spirit of the network, which is about open access and broadband for under-serviced areas." The range and speed of connectivity will all depend of who wins the bidding.