The NBN's final countdown

The Federal Government is demanding that final bids for Australia's national broadband network (NBN) be lodged by tomorrow, Wednesday 26 November.

The last few weeks have been interesting times. Telstra, once considered a shoe-in for the job, has threatened not to bid if the Government doesn't budge with its insistence on separating the company's wholesale and retail businesses.

There seems little chance of Telstra agreeing to this though, as chief executive Sol Trujillo recently labelled the proposed separation as "stupid" and said that "shareholders should shoot management" if they ever agreed to such a proposal.

Further adding some drama to the occasion was the Telstra board recently approving Trujillo's $13.4 million salary package — not bad work if you can get it, eh?

The NBN process was shaken up even further yesterday, when Canadian company Axia Netmedia confirmed it would also be lodging a bid. The company claims it has built a similar network in the province of Alberta, in Canada.

The other major player is the Optus-led Terria consortium — Telstra's main rivals in the bidding war.

Telstra critics claim the company is intending to monopolise the broadband market by gaining complete control of telecommunications in Australia. They would then be able to continue to offer exorbitantly expensive prices. Well, someone has to pay Sol's salary, right?

At the other end of the scale, the Terria consortium has come under some scrutiny for attempting to show that they are bidding in the public interest, rather than their own self-interest. And really, who can blame anyone for being slightly suspicious when a businessperson declares they are acting in the public interest?

A more pressing issue is time. One of the Rudd Governments main election promises was to have the NBN reach 98 per cent of the population, offer a minimum speed of 12Mbps and be built within five years. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, it's already behind schedule — the tender process for bids was originally supposed to be completed back in June.

Here were are almost at Christmas, and the "bidding war" is still going.

Is anyone surprised?

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World
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