Is the Australian NBN a good or bad for the Australian economy? I we need an NBN but not the NBN Co.
As the election draws closer and the cost of the NBN continues to increase the debate over the national high-speed fiber network will continue to intensify. At the current costs of over billion the project should come under scrutiny, we need to make sure the government is spending our money well and more importantly we have the best digital infrastructure in place.
The national high-speed digital network is a piece of the nation build infrastructure that will lay the groundwork for future economic growth of Australia. We cannot reply on our ability to dig stuff out of the ground to provide our future wealth.
The great thing about the future services that will run on the NBN is that most of them have not yet been developed. I was involved in the early stages development mobile data services in the late 1990’s, over a decade on we now use our mobiles for a far greater array of services than was envisioned at the time. This will be the same of the fiber network.
If Australia wants to be a smart country we need to invest in our future and building digital infrastructure is but one element needed. We need to move debate from the cost, which will pay itself off in the future, to ensure we have the best infrastructure in place.
I would also like to see the debate move towards how can we roll out the network faster, do we need to the NBN Co to rollout all the fiber and how can we encourage more Australian services to run over the network?
Roll out the network faster
I live in an area where I can access the Optus coax cable network, so I am getting speeds of up to 100Mbps. I am pretty happy with current speeds, but this level of service is not available to all Australians.
The problem and blockages Telstra and Optus faced when they attempted to rollout their network was due to local council. I won’t get into my thought we have too many layers of government in Australia.
I understand that the NBN rollout is viable because these council rules have been squashed.
Private enterprise will invest in long-term projects were there is a viable market. If we provided businesses with the ability to rollout fiber in areas were there is demand we would see Australia gain full rollout of a network faster.
This situation would see private enterprise rollout a network where there is demand for services today and allow the government to focus on marginal and uneconomical areas of the country, like Tasmania.
Fiber to the node?
I disagree with the proposal by the Coalition that the network should only be rollout to the local node. It will be a fast and cheaper solution but would provide us with a compromised solution; it is like giving you a Ferrari but only allowing you to drive at 6k0mph.
We need to be bold and take a teaspoon of courage; lets rollout the network home.
I see there is a need for an NBN Co to provide access to the less viable areas of Australia.
The fact is we have a large land mass with a small population concentrated around our capital cities; therefore it is going to be economically marginal for some parts of the country to sustain a network without government support. These marginal areas is were the NBN Co should concentrate.
My single biggest fear about the NBN Co monopoly is that over time charges will start to increase the way we see power companies currently doing. The Government will be in deficit, it is too easy for them to add a couple extra dollars to the NBN access fees, a flood in Queensland – add a few extra dollars to the NBN access fees…
Be it the government or private sector owning the network we face monopoly issues, I have not been encouraged by legislation to date that these issues have been addressed.
What goes over the network?
We are a great nation for adopting technology, unfortunately most of this is other people’s technology. As we see the decline of the traditional media sector the emerging advertising spend is going to overseas companies, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.
I would prefer the Government diverts some of its spend on the network to encourage more people attend Universities, grow our technology industry and develop our arts sectors.
The real money will not come from moving data across the network; it will come from the creators of the content, programs and services at either end of the pipe.
Lets get back to becoming a nation that creates unique Australian content that provides a voice of our nation rather than a mass consumer of other countries content. We will be a better nation for it.
The future should be bright for a high-speed fiber network. Lets take off negative sunglasses off about the costs of the network and focus on ensuring we creating great Australian digital companies and reducing the negative monopolies tendencies.