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Conroy says Coalition should “come clean” on broadband policy

Communications minister says he is waiting for the release of the Coalition's fully costed broadband policy so that there can be a debate.

Communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy has called on the Coalition government to unveil its fully costed broadband policy during a doorstop interview today.

Opposition leader Tony Abbot said at the National Press Club conference in Canberra last month that the Coalition’s fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) policy “will deliver superfast broadband for a fraction of the price and in a fraction of the time required to deliver fibre to the front door”.

In response to shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull’s FTTN broadband plan that the Coalition has adopted, Conroy showed his scepticism about whether the opposition is willing to be transparent and open in revealing the cost of its policy.

“We keep hearing it’s going to be released but this is a big infrastructure project and they should do the decent thing and if they have a fully costed policy as they keep boasting then they should release it,” Conroy said.

“The cost of the fibre-to-the-node policy is relatively well known and it’s not hard to cost how many cabinets you need, how close those cabinets will be to individual homes. They are not a matter of needing the ‘NBN’s books open’ to answer those questions.

“[The Coalition] should come clean and release the broadband policy. I keep reading every week or two that they are going to release their broadband policy. We’ll, release it and let’s have a debate about it,” he said.

Conroy also cited Turnbull's speech in August 2011 to the National Press Club, saying that the Coalition doesn't intend to invest much in rolling out FTTN technology to the HFC footprint.

“There’s a lot of questions that Malcolm Turnbull just won’t answer," said Conroy. "A very simple one he said at the press club and you can see in the transcript, [is] that he wouldn’t build fibre-to-the-node in the HFC footprint. Is that still their policy? Because what they have got at the moment is a copper to the home policy. They are going to keep the copper in the ground and keep using copper.”

Last month Independent MP Rob Oakeshott warned the Coalition to consider the cost of maintaining the existing copper network or risk coming up with “false figures” when carrying out a cost-benefit analysis.

He also believes based on his own “rough figures” that the Coalition’s version of the NBN would only come out $5 billion cheaper than Labor’s $37.4 billion NBN.

Follow Rebecca Merrett on Twitter: @Rebecca_Merrett

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