New Aussie gov't to expand b'band


Australia's new Labor government is expected to move quickly on an AUS$4.7 billion ($4 billion) investment in a high-speed national broadband network in the wake of Saturday's stunning general election victory Saturday.

A key plank in the campaign of Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd was his plan for a national broadband network that will reach 98% of Australians and be built with public and private funds totaling AUS$8 billion ($7 billion).

Media companies have criticized the low penetration and slow speed of Australia's current broadband network.

"Australia's current broadband infrastructure doesn't support new media in the true sense," Labor communications spokesman Ste-phen Conroy said in an interview prior to the election.

Conroy also said that Labor will set a firm date for the switch-off of Australia's analog TV broadcasts.

Conroy, widely tipped to take on the communications portfolio, also will inherit the outgoing government's reform of media ownership rules and changes to the tax structures covering Australia's film and TV industry production funding. No changes are expected to those laws.

However, the TV sector is calling for some certainty on the allocation of funds for a new free-to-air digital kids TV channel. The outgoing government said earlier this month it will give the Australian Broadcasting Corp. AUS$83 million for such a channel. Labor has yet to match that funding promise.