Conroy confirms expert broadband panel

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Conroy confirms expert broadband panel

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has named an expert panel to advise the Government on its proposed $8 billion national fibre-based broadband network.

The Government, which plans to use $4.7 billion of taxpayer funds and another $3 billion from private parties to build its $8 billion national network, formed the National Broadband Network Panel of Experts (‘the Panel') to help assess proposals for the infrastructure build.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will also be on hand to provide advice on pricing and competition issues.

The Panel will be chaired by Secretary of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Patricia Scott, who will sit alongside six telecommunication industry, academic and corporate experts. It replaces a 13-member panel installed by the Howard government for similar proposals.

“The Panel will bring a fine blend of technical, regulatory, business, investment and policy skills and experience to the process,” Conroy said. “The Government will formally call for innovative and competitive proposals to roll-out the new network with a view to having construction underway by the end of 2008.”

The six industry and corporate experts making up the Panel include; John Wylie, Lazard Carnegie Wylie CEO; Tony Mitchell, Allphones Chairman; Laureate Professor Rod Tucker, University of Melbourne; Professor Emeritus of Communications Reg Coutts, University of Adelaide; Tony Shaw, former Australian Communications Authority Chairman; and Dr Ken Henry AC, Treasury Secretary.

Although Conroy failed to mention a tender timeline for private companies to submit proposals for the proposed network, it is expected that a call to tender will be issued by the end of this month after the Panel settles in.

“The Government will be inviting submissions from interested parties on the appropriate policy and regulatory framework for the future,” Conroy said. “The competitive assessment process will be open and transparent, with opportunities for industry and community input.”

Conroy also took the opportunity to announce an additional $95 million in funding for the Australian Broadband Guarantee program to help Australians in remote communities receive metro-comparable broadband.

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