A close friend of mine, who is a media CEO with close contacts in the ALP, has been telling me for months that the Government should and would build the National Broadband Network itself. He then asked me to research the proposition.
We thought the parties that tendered for the NBN were unlikely to have the ability to fund the national roll out and that Telstra’s performance in stalling the release of ADSL2+, delaying their coaxial network upgrade, not building their own NBN and failing to satisfactorily tender for the Government’s was a device to protect market share and wasn’t in the national interest.
We came to the conclusion that the Australian Government should completely finance the roll out of the NBN to provide short term stimulus and job creation, competition, a national system, improved productivity and innovation, new industries and social benefits including:
- Spur job creation in the short term by rolling out a major national infrastructure project creating a multiplier effect on suppliers and an induced effect from the spending of the newly employed
- To make Australia internationally competitive
- With the leaders in countries such as South Korea and Japan and to take advantage of the broadband lessons learned in those countries.
- Despite being the world leader in computers and IT the US is a laggard in broadband similar to Australia but President Obama has already announced his support for the roll out of a high speed broadband system in the US. The ITIF in the US have published a report, The Digital Road to Recovery: A Stimulus Plan to Create Jobs, Boost Productivity and Revitalise America.
- In the UK NESTA has argued for a super-fast broadband and Lord Carter’s report titled Digital Britain to the UK Government to secure the UK’s place at the forefront of innovation, investment and quality in the digital and communications economies.
Undoubtedly, high speed broadband will lead to greater productivity and community services but the huge leap in faith is whether it means Australia will create new industries and become more internationally competitive.
I recently asked Senator Conroy whether he believed that high speed broadband could bring a similar quantum leap to the world as the steam engine or electricity and create whole new industries in which Australia could be a leader.
It looks as though the Rudd Government has taken that leap of faith.