Broadband farce rolls on

Events over the last week have done little to please those of us hoping for a lift in the quality of debate over broadband in Australia.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan has gone a fair way towards undermining her own credibility after twice raising the prospect of significant changes to the broadband landscape – first in relation to the structural separation of Telstra, then on the possibility of government funding for a fibre to the home network – and then quickly backing down.

And now legal action commenced by Telstra in relation to the win by an Optus/Elders consortium of a tender to construct a regional broadband network has been given short shrift by the Federal Court.

Federal Court Judge Peter Graham yesterday tossed Telstra’s case out of court, criticising the company for providing only inadequate evidence from an executive “well down the ladder” in the company.

Most tellingly, Justice Graham said there was “some doubt” about the legitimacy of Telstra’s decision to bring the case in the first place and ordered the company to pay the Government’s costs for the case.

A decent broadband network is a vital piece of infrastructure for the growth of many Australian businesses, especially in the innovative SME sector, but you wouldn’t know it from the way key participants in the policy debate have conducted themselves. Australia’s business community deserves better.

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