Senator Simon Birmingham today called on Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to publicly confirm he will not unnecessarily delay signing off on a business plan to deliver a new high speed wireless broadband network to rural Australia.
Optus and Elders joint venture OPEL’s business plan for building its wholesale broadband network in regional and rural Australia has been with the Minister for several weeks now, with mounting speculation the Minister is delaying making a decision on its approval.
“Senator Conroy must deliver on his promise to honour all existing contractual obligations and confirm support for this regional network, or else explain why there appears to be delays in approving OPEL’s business plan,” Senator Birmingham said today.
OPEL’s network using ADSL2+ and WiMAX technology is due to be completed by June 2009 with the assistance of $958 million awarded by the former Liberal Government from the Broadband Connect infrastructure program.
“This network remains the only option for broadband services of good speed to be delivered to most of regional and rural Australia by the middle of next year,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Walking away from the OPEL contract would leave rural Australians high and dry, having to wait an indefinite period of time with no guarantee they will ever receive effective broadband services.
“The importance of fast and effective broadband for regional Australia continues to grow, with people increasingly reliant on it to do business in domestic and overseas markets and also gain access to key services such as healthcare and education.
“If Senator Conroy is serious about bringing high speed broadband to the whole of the nation he’ll keep to his word and honour the OPEL contract or else explain to regional and rural Australians why he’s simply put them on hold.”