Last week, the owner of Australia’s largest internet exchange, Pipe Networks, announced its withdrawal from the Request for Proposal process for the Government’s broadband network.
The basis of Pipe Networks’s decision was explained in a presentation to the Communications Day Summit in April, when CEO Bevan Slattery outlined the company’s view that the Government’s costing of $8.7b (which originated with Telstra) for a Fibre-To-The-Node network was far short of its own estimated cost of close to $21b, and that Telstra was the only company with sufficient information to properly develop a proposal.
A number of costings for the FTTN network have emerged in recent months, but none as high as $21b. The Government’s commitment remains at $4.7b.
Despite Pipe Networks’ scepticism, the process has attracted considerable interest. Andrew Clark in the weekend AFR revealed that eight groups had lodged bonds to participate in the RFP process, including the new Acacia consortium which includes Solomon Lew and Doug Shears.
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Pipe Networks’s view is that any company other than Telstra and the G9 group (now called Terria, and represented by former NSW Treasurer Michael Egan) lacks sufficient information to participate effectively in the process and is doing so only for the purposes of profile-raising. At $5m to get in the door for the RFP process, however, that’s pretty expensive publicity.
Today Communications Minister Stephen Conroy also announced new part-time appointments to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Geoff Luther and Jennifer McNeill will commence on 1 July and both have been appointed for five years. Luther is a veteran of the old Australian Communications Authority with considerable expertise in radiocommunications issues and spectrum management. MacNeill was an ACCC Commissioner under the Howard Government and is currently a competition specialist in Canberra with DLA Phillips Fox. Both appointments were made under the Government’s new merit-based appointment requirements.
Rod Shogren and Johanna Plant have also been reappointed at ACMA for three and two years respectively.