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'I changed Australia': Sol Trujillo
Sol Trujillo's scorn for the Rudd Government's $43 billion national broadband plan on the sidelines of a technology conference in the US prompted a rebuke from Australia's consul-general to New York, Phil Scanlan, and dismay among others who regard the project as cutting edge.

The Australian (WSJ)
Sunday, May 24, 2009

Apart from changing Telstra he claims to have also "changed Australia".

Australia is featuring prominently at the annual Future in Review conference -- a gathering of some of the leading players in the internet and technology industries around the globe -- because of the interest in the national broadband plan.

But in a 30-minute discussion in San Diego yesterday before delegates on his experience as a telecommunications chief executive, the former Telstra CEO railed against government intervention in the markets and studiously avoided mention of the national broadband network.

"I can give you thousands of examples in our industry ... because I have worked around the world, where governments have built, owned and controlled things and that is generally where you don't see innovation," he told the conference.

A day earlier, in an interview with The Australian, Mr Trujillo barely hid his scorn for the NBN, doubting it would get off the ground and implying it was a political stunt.

Mr Scanlan, who is attending the conference and who, before he took up the New York post earlier this year, had been privately championing a new national optic fibre network, said the plan was no bluff.

"The response here at the conference has demonstrated that there is a real belief that the Australian Government is committed in substance to seeing this through, and already there has been a range of interest expressed in exploring opportunities," he told The Australian.

"A telecommunication company pales in comparison to nation building and this (the NBN) will be key to industries driving innovation."  Under the plan, more than 90 per cent of premises around Australia will have access to fibre optic cable, creating a super fast internet network able to transfer massive files in an instant, superseding the copper wire networks run by Telstra.

However, many question the business case for the network.

Internet pioneer Larry Smarr, a physicist at the University of California, San Diego, who has advocated a fibre rollout in Australia, said: "We are at the end of the age of copper.  All countries with copper are struggling to make the jump from one to the other."

He lauded the Rudd Government's plan as "breathtaking".

Mr Trujillo, in a keynote conversation with Professor Smarr yesterday, was keen to champion his own success at taking big bets as Telstra chief executive, namely on new mobile networks.  He claimed he not only "fundamentally changed how the company operated but I would argue changed Australia".

Professor Smarr noted how the telecommunications industry often historically included a mix of government involvement.

"I am ... a very firm believer in markets and letting markets work," Mr Trujillo countered.,25197,25520972-15306,00.html