Labor’s NBN set to resume with priority on rural areas

Labor’s negotiations with the independents in the last couple weeks have led to some changes in the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) from here on in.

At last Labor has won the 76 seats needed to form a minority government. With Labor’s proposed NBN a ‘key issue’ for three of the independents, eyes have now turned to Prime Minister Julia Gillard to find out what happens next with the broadband scheme.

A deal with the independents has resulted in a massive win for rural communities. There will be a focus on prioritising rural areas for high-speed broadband. In a press conference yesterday, Julia Gillard confirmed the priority on rural Australia for the NBN scheme, and said that the government will ensure the NBN will have standardised wholesale prices throughout Australia.

Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy has said: "We'll be talking to the team at the National Broadband Network Company over the next few days about how we can redesign the roll-out timetable." Mr Conroy has also stated that the standardised wholesale prices would be enabled through a “cross-subsidy.” This will mean that those living in metro areas may need to pay more than people living in rural areas.
Independent monitoring groups will also be established to keep an eye on the delivery of the NBN. The monitoring groups are likely to be situated in the University of New England and the Australian National University.

Tony Windsor told ABC’s AM program this morning: “ part of the arrangement too we've got access to the department, the minister, the Prime Minister in relation to how these things are panning out and there'll be, you know, some sort of audit process as well," Windsor added. "And then the ultimate weapon I guess is the, if the government doesn't perform as they've suggested they will, there's the no-confidence motion".

The deal between Labor and the independents is now under scrutiny, with city-dwellers wondering why they should wait longer and pay more for the fast broadband service.

Coalition leader Tony Abbott has also cautioned Labor that the Opposition will be “hyper-vigilant” in monitoring the rollout of the NBN. Abbott predicted the spending on the NBN to “turn out to be school halls on steroids.”

Abbott has argued that the $43 billion dollars should not be spent without a full cost-benefit analysis. Abbott has previously been criticised for struggling on the basics of the Coalition’s own broadband strategy.

NBN Co released a statement yesterday welcoming Labor’s win. The company said it will work to “restore deferred processes, including the recruitment of staff.”