Plans to implement a national broadband network (NBN) that will reach 93% of Australia’s population by 2020 cleared a key hurdle, as members of Australia’s Senate adopted legislation last Friday that requires dominant national carrier Telstra to structurally separate its wholesale and retail operations. Passage of the legislation clears the way for completion of a US$10.5 billion deal between the government and Telstra last June through which Telstra agreed to roll its infrastructure and customers into the NBN and to grant the government-owned NBN access to Telstra’s network infrastructure. The bill also advances the goals of the new minority Labor government led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who centered her campaign platform upon pledges to complete the US$35 billion network. (On Monday, lawmakers in Australia’s House of Representatives approved various minor amendments to the Telstra bill, assuring that the measure will be signed into law.) To make the NBN more palatable to independent legislators that had objected to the project’s cost, Gillard’s Labor government produced a revised version of the NBN business plan that pares down the cost of the network from its original estimated price of US$41 billion to US$35 billion. Citing statistics that show Australia “has the fifth mostexpensive broadband charges among OECD countries,” Communications Minister Stephen Controy predicted that the bill “will help bring prices down by allowing greater competition in the sector.” Notwithstanding Conroy’s sentiments, one independent senator threatened on Monday to block a related, pending bill on NBN access arrangements that is scheduled for debate early next year, noting that the legislation in question allows for a “special deal . . . that could see larger telcos being granted cheaper access than smaller players.”