Putting all the spin to one side, what are the differences now between the broadband policies of the Government and the ALP? Precious little.
Both sides are now committed to an open tender process for building a fibre to the node network. This is the very thing that Telstra has been trying to avoid.
And, despite Communications Minister Helen Coonan trying to pretend otherwise, both sides are using public money to subsidise broadband. Labor proposes to build a network covering almost all of Australia in a public-private partnership, while the Government is hearing tenders for coverage of metropolitan Australia, and at the same time upping its subsidy to Broadband in regional and rural areas.
The reality is that this amounts to much the same thing. One way or another, public money must be used to connect rural and regional Australia, but providing high-speed optic fibre broadband is a profit making proposition without government subsidy in the cities.
Lastly, both the Government and the Opposition are prepared to consider altering the regulatory regime. The plans that emerge from this deserve the greatest of scrutiny and caution. So far as consumers are concerned, the regulations and their impacts on price and competition are the key issues.
Meanwhile, a public opinion poll has given us reason to have heart about the impact of Telstra’s bully-boy tactics, shameless spin and over-the-top rhetoric. The conclusion: Telstra is on the nose with most Australians, and there is only so much you can do with spin doctoring.
The research was released by Telstra’s competitors, the G9 group, so is hardly disinterested, but was conducted by Galaxy Research – the same polling company that put the spring back into John Howard’s step recently.
Based on a telephone survey of 1100 respondents, Galaxy found that three in ten (29%) of Australians believe Telstra is blocking high-speed broadband in Australia. Only 18% believe the Government is responsible for blocking it, and only 6% blame the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.