Oz Minister Defends Broadband Progress

17 November 2006

CANBERRA: Media magnate Rupert Murdoch's stinging attack on his native land's broadband internet service has been roundly rebutted by communications minister Helen Coonan.

The veteran chairman of the News Corporation empire criticized online services as a "disgrace" and called on premier John Howard's administration and telco giant Telstra to invest A$12 billion ($9bn; €7bn; £4.8bn) in boosting download speeds.

Coonan, a fervent advocate of media reform, says the picture painted by Murdoch is not accurate. She claims 80% of households are able to access speeds of up to 8 megabits per second from 19 different providers.

She adds: "We've already spent about A$1 billion on upgrading communications and have another A$600m now on the table with a tender process in place to enable the difficult areas in rural and regional Australia to be served by broadband."

However, Murdoch's sentiments, which he delivered at a shareholders' meeting in Adelaide, have been backed by Mark Armstrong, head of Sydney's Network Insight Institute, a non-profit technology lobby group.

He says: "The excellent thing about Rupert Murdoch speaking out is that in the past 10 years hundreds of experts and numerous reports and executives have said the same thing and they have been brushed off."

He warns broadband could become a make or break election issue and adds: "This is a once in a century issue, it's like the building of the railway networks in the 1900s."

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff