Back in the Netherlands in the early 1980s I wrote a marketing paper on ‘City Marketing’. In this report I argued that it was in the interest of local councils to make sure that its citizens would have access to the latest telecommunications services. They should as I indicated at that time, built a basic network using their streets, ducts, and electricity, sewerage and gas line infrastructure and lease capacity on these networks to the operators.
However, it was very difficult to argue that cities should take such risks, as they are not in the field of running businesses. However, if cities would have done this years ago a lot of the current problems such as under servicing, lack of competition, proprietary services and high prices could have been avoided.
I therefore applaud the initiative of the City of Melbourne to take some first tentative steps in this direction.
The City has indicated it is embarking on a radical plan to provide its own ducts for broadband data cables in a bid to force Telstra to cut the cost of bandwidth and help local businesses compete in the global economy.
The move, one of a range of options before the city and the Committee for Melbourne is a fresh challenge to the national carrier’s campaign to portray its broadband charges as internationally competitive.
Melbourne wants the CBD to keep pace with Melbourne’s Docklands precinct and wired cities in the region. The city could use its building fund to dig new telco conduits or clean up obsolete hydraulic-lift ducts.
The Committee for Melbourne set up a Task Force on Connecting Melbourne Globally last year, after LookSmart – Australia’s most successful Internet Company – moved from Melbourne to San Francisco.
A summary paper from a forum held in July, to be released soon, will argue that bandwidth – or data capacity – is essential for Melbourne’s prosperity but pricing is the major issue. The Productivity Commission found last year that Telstra’s digital leased-line charges were on par with some European countries but at least double compared with US and UK prices.
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