The Government’s commitment to a new era of publicly-owned information infrastructure is historic and a radical shift in communications policy. But there are some significant issues to worry about.
- The NBN tender process, which has cost participants and taxpayers millions of dollars, has yielded nothing. It was a poor plan, undercosted and underfunded, and attached to an absurdly tight timeframe. But it was driven by Labor’s fear that to be seen promoting a full publicly-owned broadband model would let the Howard Government portray it as being economically irresponsible.
- Where will the private sector money — up to 49% of $43b over eight years — come from when we are still working our way through a global credit crisis? Why not be more honest and admit that taxpayers will be coughing up most of the money?
- We’ll be stuck with this fibre for a very long time. Let’s hope the government has picked a winner and FTTP broadband remains a viable and successful delivery mechanism well into the next decade.
- Who will ensure this new company doesn’t become another Telstra? Not the modern, anti-competitive Telstra, but the old, publicly-owned Telstra for which customers were a distant second in priority and engineers and bureaucrats made the key decisions about what was needed and what wasn’t needed.
This is a huge gamble with more than a Whitlamite whiff of big government about it. If it goes wrong, it is unlikely anyone in the current Government will still be around to take the blame.