Key Points:

Fast, affordable broadband-for-all is a common goal of all political parties in this election. All also recognise that Telecom is not going to deliver such a service anytime soon.

Except for Act, all parties favour the Government stepping in and investing in "fat pipe" fibre optic services to our homes in order to lift our dismal OECD ranking in broadband.

All also accept that the private sector should run this infrastructure and pay the rest of the cost.

Rolling out fast broadband-for-all is a big job - akin to building a new public utility.

How much it all costs - cutting trenches for new fibre optic cable or stringing it between poles - is anyone's guess.

National has the bold plan, promising to spend $1.5 billion over six years compared with Labour's $1 billion over 10 years. Labour and National also differ in how they will attract private sector investment.

Labour's scheme provides government grants and operates locally, by engaging with city and district councils and others, to create a patchwork of regional interconnected networks. Critics say it's a too slow approach.

National's is a public-private partnership inviting interested parties to join the Government with money and expertise to build a nationwide fibre network. While short on detail, National has stipulated the partnership must not give unfair advantage to existing providers and avoid duplicating fibre networks already in place.

Critics say the scheme is too "think big" and could lead to Telecom regaining monopoly control.

Labour's scheme operates through its Broadband Investment Fund - a $340 million pile of government money any group can contest to bring broadband to its region. So far, 19 applications have been received.

The Franklin District Council, for example, has applied for $1 million to roll out about 30km of fibre to some un-served parts of its district in conjunction with Counties Power, FX Networks and Compass Communications.

But it could also have just as easily teamed up with Chorus (the network arm of Telecom) - except that Chorus wanted ownership of the resulting "open access" network.

Both National's and Labour's schemes promote open access - essentially a network that's open for all competing service providers to use. But it's easier said than done.

Getting network providers to agree on just how open the wires are - whether access is available at the duct, for dark fibre, lit fibre, or backhaul - is a nightmare dispute.

Act, not known for promoting regulation, is the only party with a policy to break the impasse - regulated universal ducting so streets are dug up only once for essential services.

Act is also the only party not in favour of government investment. It says that getting "economic fundamentals right" will bring the private sector funds necessary for rapid broadband expansion.