Aussies Plan $31 Billion Broadband Network

CANBERRA, Australia — While proposals for the "Great Aussie Firewall" and lists of banned sites are still being debated, the Australian government is planning to create a high-speed national broadband network at the cost of $43 billion Australian ($30.6 U.S.).

Tuesday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called the project "the single biggest infrastructure decision in Australia's history."

The government wants to get 90 percent of homes and business up to 100Mbps speeds with fiber-optic connections, with far-slower 12Mbps wireless or satellite for the remaining 10 percent, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

As much as 49 percent of the funds will come from the private sector, while the government will initially invest $4.7 billion Australian and an additional $20 billion will come from a national infrastructure fund and the sale of bonds.

Rudd said the plan will take seven to eight years to fully implement and the government will sell off its majority shareholder portion after five years.

Rudd added that the proposal is expected to bring 37,000 jobs during its peak of creating the network.

''Years of failed policy have left Australia as a broadband backwater," said the prime minister. Initial construction is scheduled to begin in Tasmania in the middle of the year.

Meanwhile, telecom Telstra, which was shut out of bidding — even Rudd claimed it was unprepared to take on the project, despite being a major company — is expected to fight the government in court for the right to take part in building the network.

Adult Internet companies could certainly benefit from a nationwide broadband system Down Under, but the final outcome of that Aussie firewall and government censorship agendas will surely also come into play.