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OZ opposition vows to scrap govt broadband plan

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CIOL Bureau
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CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA: Australia's opposition will scrap a $38 billion high-speed broadband network if it wins an Aug. 21 election, but its cheaper alternative risks alienating voters suffering slow Internet in marginal rural seats.

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The conservative opposition's plan, announced on Tuesday and already criticized by Internet industry groups, does not include the Labor government's A$11 billion deal with dominant phone company Telstra Corp. to use its infrastructure.

Australia's slow and expensive Internet service has been criticized by business as a hindrance to economic development and is a sensitive issue amongst voters frustrated with domestic Internet services.

The Liberal-National opposition proposed a broadband network, at a maximum cost of A$6.3 billion over seven years, which will cover 97 percent of homes through a mix of satellite, fibre-optic and wireless technology.

The proposal would not force Telstra to split its retail arm from its national network. Telstra said it would not be compensated if its deal was scrapped by a new conservative government.

"Instead of creating a new inefficient government run monopoly, the coalition's plan will stimulate a vibrant, private sector-based broadband market," said opposition communications spokesman Tony Smith, who will be communications minister if the conservative opposition wins power on Aug. 21.

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