Norlink doubts remain

By ALEX EASTON

'Cloud' over $1.5m grant, says MP LIFE is not getting any easier for Keith Davidson.

The day after Mr Davidson fended off claims his company, Regional Telecom ? formerly known as Norlink ? had collapsed, the Federal Labor MP who started the furore in Federal Parliament on Wednesday, Kelvin Thomson, said a cloud still hung over a $1.5 million Federal grant given to the company.

Mr Thomson, Labor's spokesman on public accountability, yesterday dismissed Mr Davidson's claim that the company was healthy, saying its 1500 Internet customers was a 'modest return' for the money given to it.

He conceded he had not looked in detail at Regional Telecom since it came out of voluntary administration on Tuesday, but said what he did know did not lessen his interest in the company.

"Based on the evidence in front of me so far, I'm concerned about what tax-payers' money has gone into it," Mr Thomson said.

Mr Davidson said Regional Telecom was ready and able to take on more customers and said it would already have them if not for the supplier dispute that led to it going into voluntary administration in the first place.

Mr Davidson said the dispute, which began in 2001, initially slowed the spread of its wireless broadband network and made it harder to win customers.

The real return on the money was the ability to provide broadband Internet to places unable to access it through Telstra's copperwire network. One such place was Wollongbar, which would be added to the wireless network before the end of the year, he said.



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