Australia is set to face a record-breaking internet outage this weekend as a result of a new spectrum auction that could see billions of dollars of spectrum allocated to the private sector.
The state government’s internet outage plan will be a major headache for the Government, with more than 200,000 Australians already on their way to the GP surgery due to be impacted by the blackout.
Australia’s internet blackout plan will see an estimated $2 billion of funding allocated to private operators as part of the Federal Government’s internet infrastructure strategy, but the rollout is not expected to start until 2018, meaning the disruption will likely be longer than expected.
In a statement, the Communications Minister Greg Hunt said the Government was determined to protect its citizens from the risk of an internet outage.
“We are committed to investing in the infrastructure to protect Australians from internet outages and other internet disruption,” Mr Hunt said.
“The Government has a range of options in place to manage this potential disruption, including a range, in-principle, of spectrum auctions to ensure the nation’s internet providers can keep delivering the highest-quality, reliable and secure services.”
The blackout plan would see $2.8 billion of the $7.5 billion allocated for telecommunications companies under the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Act, but Mr Hunt’s department said it was still working out the best allocation.
It said there would be a mix of private and public sector providers participating in the auctions, including Bell, Optus, iiNet and Telstra.
“While we expect to make an announcement by the end of the month, the Government is making a commitment to work with industry partners to ensure that the Government’s investments are in line with the National Broadband Network and the National Communications Plan,” Mr Hun said.
“A number of industry participants have made clear they are keen to work through the issues with the Government to ensure this happens.”
Australia has been the world’s biggest market for telecoms, with a quarter of the country’s overall $23.5 trillion worth of communications activity, according to the Australian Industry Group.
The Federal Government announced on Monday it would invest $4.8 million in spectrum in the first auction, which is due to take place in mid-August.
The auction will see a combined spectrum auction worth about $11 billion.
In the previous auction, the Federal government allocated $4 billion, and the auction has since been delayed twice.
Under the current plan, the auction will be held from August 30 to September 3, with the final auction to be held in 2019.
The government’s announcement came just a day after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its long-awaited report on the proposed spectrum auction.
Its report said the spectrum auction could result in an “unprecedented and significant impact on competition in the telecommunications industry”.
“The Commission will continue to monitor the impact of the spectrum allocation on competition, innovation and consumer choice, and will consider its recommendations in the light of any impact on Australia’s telecommunications industry,” the ACCC said in a statement.
“In particular, it will examine the impact on the availability of high-quality and high-value communications services and the ability of telecommunications operators to offer them at reasonable prices to consumers.”
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