Rural broadband solution could be key to forming government
A fast and affordable broadband service for regional Australia could be the key to forming the next government, as both Labor and the Coalition negotiate their way to power.
After Saturday's stalemate a handful of independent rural MPs could potentially tip the balance of power, depending on which party they decide to back.
Both parties are wooing independent MPs Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter, whose constituencies could all potentially benefit from the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Mr Windsor's constituency includes Armidale, which is one of the first mainland sites in Australia chosen for initial NBN rollout, while construction for the NBN has already begun in Townsville, part of Mr Katter's electorate.
Mr Oakeshott welcomed July's announcement that Coff's Harbour would be included in the next phase of the NBN rollout.
While the three MPs clearly want a regional broadband solution, it is still unclear which party will win their support.
Stephen Conroy, Minister for Communications, told ABC News Radio the regional MPs are more likely to go for Labor's NBN, as the Liberal's plan would lock in a "digital divide in regional Australia".
But a senior Liberal Senator, Nick Minchin, has suggested the regional MPs will find the Coalition's $6 billion broadband plan more attractive, as it is "economically responsible".
The Greens have already committed to the NBN, which would suggest the party's newly elected member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, will support Labor's broadband vision.
However, the final outcome of the election – and the future of the NBN – may rest on which party can provide the best outcome for regional Australians.