The Coalition is planning a national telecommunications network reminiscent of the hybrid Fibre-to-the-Node-OPEL model briefly considered by communications minister, Stephen Conroy, in the wake of the 2007 federal election, insiders say.
Sources close to the coalition’s budding ICT policy say the cut-down alternative model to the $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) would green-light contractual fibre sites and scrap others in a bid to fill federal coffers and smear the Government’s fiscal management.
The exhumed $1.9 billion OPEL wireless network was a public-private joint venture with Optus and Elders passed by then Communications Minister Helen Coonan in the dying days before the 2007 federal election.
The coalition would also dump a possible structural separation of Telstra, and strengthen the regulatory powers of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), according to a source.
“The coalition is playing politics with the NBN, and is scoring points with embittered Telstra shareholders,” a source familiar with the coalition ICT policy said. “But that might backfire because we know the Government didn’t stuff Telstra’s share prices. Sol (former Telstra CEO) did.”
He said experienced ICT Liberal identities are shelving closet views favouring the NBN in order to toe party lines.
Liberal MP Paul Fletcher, also previous Optus regulatory chief and advisor to former communications minister, Richard Alston, is said to have played a key advisory role in the coalition ICT policy.
However Fletcher denied a large involvement, and said only that policy advisory is “open to everyone”. He said he has conducted “new candidate” duties within his North shore electorate.
Media reports claim the coalition is still weeks away from releasing its ICT policies.