AN ALLIANCE of telecommunications companies has attacked the Coalition's broadband policy, saying any alternative policy involving the continued use of the Telstra pay TV cable network would be ''doomed to fail''.
The Competitive Carriers' Coalition attacked the opposition's alternative broadband rollout plan after its communications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, said he would not prioritise areas covered by Telstra's existing HFC - or TV cable - if elected.
"These comments ignore the reality that such a proposal would mean that for 30 per cent of the population there would be no effective competitive broadband market," the chairman of the alliance, Matt Healy, said.
Carriers such as Vodafone and iiNet are worried about the prospect of having to deal with Telstra over the network access issue, which has been a long-standing bone of contention between Telstra and its smaller rivals.
However, Mr Turnbull denied the allegation that the Coalition would continue to use Telstra's HFC network indefinitely.
''I did not say we would never overbuild the Telstra HFC areas and our plans assume that in due course the national broadband network would be extended into them,'' he said.
He hit back at the carriers and said while their goal of replacing Telstra's network with a government-owned wholesale carrier was ''reasonable'', they should be mindful of taxpayers' money.
The cable can carry data faster than what is available over copper lines. However, it is unclear if Telstra would have to give competitors access to the cable under the Coalition's proposal or could keep its monopoly. Optus has a similar cable network that reaches about 2 million households in roughly the same areas.
In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia on Friday, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said if the Coalition scrapped the national broadband network ''in its current form'', then ''that's about $50 billion less that the Commonwealth will need to borrow''.
When asked to substantiate the figure, given that the Coalition has promised it will still build a national broadband network - albeit one using cheaper fibre-to-the-node technology - Mr Abbott's office declined to say how the claimed savings would be made.
with Jonathan Swan and Lucy Battersby