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Oz government to put dark fibre net on the auction block

Selling off an ICON

By Richard Chirgwin, 11 May 2015

The Australian government's dark fibre network, ICON, is one of the many assets slated for sale under tonight's federal budget announcements.

ICON – the Intra Government Communications Network – has a total of 150,000 km of dark fibre linking 400 sites in Canberra, and is used by 88 agencies. The Department of Finance says the network is suitable to carry information up to PROTECTED rating (meaning it's good for cabinet documents without separate encryption).

As well as data links, the network distributes Parliamentary Television to its clients, and provides links for the Government Administrative Voice Network (GAVIN).

As a successful, low-cost provider of bandwidth (currently estimated to carry 2 Tbps around Canberra), ICON is resented by private sector telcos, who always love a government contract as an anchor client for network expansion.

According to The Canberra Times, the network has saved government as much as AU$2 billion over the nearly 25 years of its existence.

Now, along with Australian Rail Track, ASIC's registry services, and Australian Hearing (which provides government-funded hearing services including access to Cochlear implants), ICON is likely to be hived off to the private sector.

It's not known whether the proposal covers only the dark fibre, or if any of the supporting infrastructure is considered saleable.

The website of finance minister Mathias Cormann also details plans to:

  • Abolish the CSIRO's Environment Strategic Advisory Committee, with its functions to be reallocated to a flagship advisory committee; and
  • The CSIRO's Marine National Facility Steering Committee is being downgraded to a subcommittee. ®

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