Telstra take Senator Helen Coonan to court

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Telstra take Senator Helen Coonan to court

It’s the battle of the titans, as Telstra commenced proceedings in the Federal Court against the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Helen Coonan, in relation to the Broadband Connect Program.

The Broadband Connect Program Guidelines offered "up to $600 million" of taxpayers' money to provide broadband to "underserved" rural and regional areas. Telstra submitted its proposal on that basis. Instead, almost $1 billion was ultimately awarded to the SingTel Optus and Elders consortium (OPEL) to largely duplicate existing services with little net benefit to rural Australians.

Geoff Booth, country wide group managing director at Telstra said Telstra could not stand by and quietly watch $1 billion of taxpayers' money being wasted under a process that has lacked transparency and fell short of its stated purpose.

"Let's shed some light on this behind-closed-doors process and see how the Minister arrived at this decision," Booth said. "Somewhere along the line the term 'under served' seems to have been redefined so that the program was no longer about providing a service to people who don't have one to giving people in some areas access to a second or even a third network."

Telstra has asked the Minister to explain why it was not given an opportunity to submit a revised proposal for almost $1 billion, and has asked the Minister to provide it with the documents underlying her decision. The Minister has refused to provide those documents.

The telco giant feels it has also been left with no alternative but to seek orders from the Federal Court compelling the Communications Minister Helen Coonan, to provide documents relating to how the decision was made.

At the time of press Senator Coonan hadn’t made any comments about the legal proceedings.

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