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Aussies get gov-backed uber-broadband

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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has created a public private partnership to sort out the country's shonky broadband network.

Rudd promises to link 90 per cent of Aussie homes, schools and businesses with speeds of up to 100 megabits per second. The remaining ten per cent of premises will get wireless or satellite links with speeds of up to 12 megabits.

The government is establishing a company to build the fibre network which it expects to cost $43bn (£20.8bn) and take eight years to complete. It will provide jobs for 25,000 people a year on average.

The government will be the majority shareholder but intends to sell its stake within five years of the network being completed. The cash will come from the sale of consumer Aussie Investment Bonds (AIBs) and funds from the Building Australia Fund.

Rudd said slow broadband was holding Australia back. He compared a decent fibre network with the railway networks of the 19th century.

He reckons the project is Australia's largest ever "nation-building infrastructure project". Rudd had asked for private sector bids for the work but none were considered viable.

The first step will be negotiating with Tasmania which could start its fibre to the premises network as early as July. New builds will be required to provide fibre from July 2010.

Alongside this huge investment Rudd promised wholesale telecoms reform - the public has until 3 June to make its suggestions for changes.

Australia has always suffered from slow and expensive broadband. Some of this can be blamed on geography, although incumbent telco Telstra also cops some blame.

Rudd's statement is here.

Quite how this fits in with Australian attempts to trial firewall technology that would effectively censor the internet remains to be seen. ®

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