National broadband network becomes election campaign issue

Australian planned broadband network boosted to 1Gb/s

The ruling Australian Labor party has announced that the planned national broadband network has been upgraded to 1Gb/s at no additional cost.

However the future of NBN, as it’s known in Australia, is already in doubt with the opposition Liberal party saying they will scrap the AU$43 billion (£25 billion) scheme. The NBN has turned into a campaign issue ahead of a what is expected to be a close fought election when the country heads to the polls in just nine days time. 

The announcement came as prime minister Julia Gillard accompanied byl communications minister Stephen Conroy were on the island-state of Tasmania to launch the first section of the national fibre-optic network, immediately facing criticism of the timing of the announcement. However Conroy told the ABC that he had only been informed of the speed upgrade the night before.

"The NBN is probably the definitive issue of the campaign, especially for Tasmania where it has all begun and we are rolling out the cable first," Gillard said. "It is particularly important for Tasmania, especially where broadband has been lagging behind the rest of the country for so long."

The boost in performance to 1Gb/s is 10 times faster than the 100Mb/s previously planned and is a result of technological improvements which will not cost additional public funds, the Labor government said. 

The Internet and the planned super fast NBN broadband network are key campaign issues in the country, however the communication minister Stephen Conroy is also the main advocate of the highly controversial Australian content firewall which the Liberal government also said they would scrap.

The Liberal opposition leader Tony Abbott, and potential next Australian prime minister, said yesterday that a Liberal government would be happy to examine the R18 games classification issue. Australia presently has no R18 video games classification meaning that videogames with adult themes often need to be modified for the Australian market. 

"If what happens with video games is not roughly analogous to what happens in other areas, that seems silly," Abbott said. "Instinctively I’m with you," he added. The veto-wielding South Australian attorney general and fireband conservative Michael Atkinson ha previously refused to consider R18+ classification for games but having resigned earlier this year, the way was open for a change in the law favored by most states in Australia.

The NBN, however, remains the major election issue. Tony Abbott had earlier in the week been criticised for a "stumbling" performance in an interview showing very little understanding of the network, admitting "I’m no tech head".

Photo credit: Telstra

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