Turnbull bemoans high cost of Telstra-NBN deal

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Turnbull bemoans high cost of Telstra-NBN deal

Coalition keeps the fight for fibre-to-the-node.

Australian internet users were the big losers from today's NBN Co deal with Telstra, according to opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull, as it condemns them to pay high broadband prices.

The $11 billion deal with Telstra paved the way for accelerated rollout of the national fibre network.

But Turnbull said the deal served only Telstra and the Government's interests.

"The deal will have damaging consequences for consumers – that is, every Australian that purchases broadband or telephony services during the next decade," Turnbull said.

"The NBN Co corporate plan makes it clear that broadband prices will be high and stay high."

In addition, the sell-off of Telstra and Optus' HFC networks would remove the only networks that could have competed with NBN Co's services to keep prices low, he said.

Turnbull continued to push the Coalition's line that options should have been built into the Telstra deal to give NBN Co access to copper should a "future Government" decide to can FTTP in favour of an FTTN architecture.

The suggestion didn't find favour with the Greens.

"Today we heard the opposition communications spokesperson claimed that if elected, the Coalition will leave those parts of the NBN already existing intact, but that the remainder of the network would be a hodgepodge of Fibre to the Node (FTTN), wireless and Fibre to the Premises – a flawed model which was roundly rejected in the 2010 election campaign," Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said.

"This suggestion has nothing to do with communications reform".

Ludlam said the Opposition had been delaying the NBN for a year, "hysterically predicting doomsday scenarios for the sector."

He said constructive input on telecommunications reform from the Opposition would be welcome but none had eventuated.

Hard to roll back

Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde said the deal was structured in such a way that it would be difficult for a Coalition Government, if elected, to roll it back.

"In our eyes the future of the NBN looks now secured," Budde said. "The Opposition Shadow Minister Malcolm Turnbull has already indicated that he is not going to turn the clock back, but he of course is still planning changes if they would win the next elections.

"It will be difficult for any government to renege on the broadband services that are now staring to emerge in the first release sites around the country, once people started to get a better understanding what this will mean for them, few people in regional or rural areas will accept a second class solution for them, simply because that is cheaper."

Ovum consulting director Nigel Pugh said that while there had "always been an overhang to the deal with regards to a change of government", the analyst firm's "initial reading of the cessation clauses don't position this deal as a poison pill if there is a change of government at the next election."

The Australian Information Industry Association welcomed the deal, with the proviso that it renewed the "imperative [of business] to act quickly to seize the opportunities it presents."

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