Get Basslink Going

Final Update:
On July 6th, 2009 Basslink carried Internet traffic for the first time. Digital Tasmania congratulated the parties who made it happen. The link was officially opened by the Premier and Communications Minister on July 16th.

Earlier Update:
On November 10th, 2008 the Premier of Tasmania announced that Aurora Energy and Basslink had signed an agreement to each provide commercial services over the Basslink and on-island fibre optic cables. Equipment to light the cable is now being procured from Ericsson and indications are that it may be active by Mid 2009.

Tasmanians: is your internet slow and expensive?
When most Tasmanians hear the name Basslink, they automatically think of the electricity cable connecting our state to Victoria. Not many people realise however that along with this cable, a high bandwidth fibre optic cable was also laid from Tasmania to Victoria. A fibre optic cable or conduit was also laid alongside the 420km natural gas backbone pipeline spanning Tasmania.

The State Govenment has had these fibre optic cables at its disposal for upto 5 years that could connect all Tasmanian cities to the global Internet but has left them idle. These cables have been waiting to be switched on and connect to the rest of the world.

But they haven’t been, and it has cost Tasmanians dearly.

In 2003 the Tasmanian Government paid $23 million for fibre optic cables laid with the gas pipeline, dubbed TasGovNet.
Since then, the government allocated $7 million for further fibre optic work.
By 2021 a minimum of $30 million will have been paid for access to the fibre optic cable laid with the Basslink cable.

Which begs the $60 million dollar question: Why isn’t it working for Tasmanians yet?
Years of Government procrastination, bungling and missed opportunities have left Tasmania as an Internet backwater. Recently it was revealed in The Australian that the State Government failed to secure access to the Basslink fibre optic cable, despite having a contract to pay the owners of the cable a minimum of $30 million over the next 15 years.

Aurora, as the newly chosen operator of the fibre optic network, is now left to negotiate with the new owners of Basslink, CitySpring Infrastructure Trust, for access.

For the future of Tasmanian communications competition, it is vital that these links are made available. The State Government and Aurora must aggressively pursue negotiations with CitySpring and reach an agreement to fully commercialise Basslink and TasGovNet before the end of 2008.

Money for Nothing
This outrageous payment of “Money for Nothing” to CitySpring must end – Tasmanian taxpayers are rightly angry that $30 million of our money is being siphoned not only out of the state, but out of the country, to a company with no interest in seeing Tasmania prosper.

Respected Telecoms analyst Paul Budde estimated in 2003 that improved broadband represented an economic benefit in excess of $200 million per year to the state of Tasmania. 5 years of procrastination over this project amounts to the loss of a windfall in excess of $1 billion for the state.

Tasmanian home and business Internet users are getting a poor deal. A single set of infrastructure does not allow for real competition to flourish. Instead some major ISP’s have curtailed their services in Tasmania, some do not even provide broadband in Tasmania at all.

We encourage all Tasmanians to make their voices heard on this issue.