As we have said before, it is great to have the Opposition back in the debate about Australia’s broadband future.
During the SBS Insight discussion in which I took part Malcolm Turnbull repeatedly stated that ‘we all are in favour of fast broadband’. This was the same message that Helen Coonan, then Liberal Minister for Communication, gave us back in 2007; it is a pity that this message has not been reiterated between then and now.
Fortunately broadband is now coming back onto the Opposition’s agenda, in a positive way, and that is great news indeed.
But the world did not stand still in those intermediate years. The government and the industry have been working together and for the first time in decades the industry can present a united front on the NBN. Telstra and 95% of the industry (there are a few exceptions – notably AAPT) have been and still are collaborating in an effort to achieve the best outcome.
The first industry group to do this was actually established with the blessing of Helen Coonan, back in 2006, when she announced the $1 billion wholesale network initiative. This group, now known as the Digital Economy Industry Work Group, worked with her on some of the strategic issues related to this plan.
That industry initiative also had the broad support of Stephen Conroy, then Shadow Minister for Communication. At the time of the election the industry indicated that it could work with both parties on the strategic issues concerning broadband policies for Australia.
Unfortunately, after the election the Coalition – now in Opposition – turned its back on what is now known as the NBN and refused to be involved in the industry discussions that were taking place. I joined in with other industry groups in repeatedly asking the Opposition to participate in constructive discussions with the industry. I provided them with lists of issues that I believed needed improvement (including more information on the social and economic benefits that the NBN could deliver) and invited them to address those issues – all to no avail.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for national broadband plans. There are different ways to get there, all based on the unique political, social, economic and geographic situation of each country.
But at a certain point the procrastination should stop and a plan needs to be developed. The NBN is the result of the broad cooperation that exists between nearly all the parties involved in this national infrastructure plan.
Could there have been alternative approaches? Yes, of course. But today we have the NBN, and thanks to this we now have a cooperative Telstra.
So do we now want to undo all of that?
I have mentioned DEIWG, but after the strategic work had been done it was the Communications Alliance that sat down and started to work on the nitty gritty of the implementation plans. As with DEIWG, literally hundreds of volunteers from the industry put their heads together within that organisation to come up with the best solutions.
Malcolm Turnbull now asks whether there are better solutions. Communications Alliance is a very open organisation, so if the Opposition had better ideas why didn’t they put them forward during the last three years when all of this was being discussed in minute detail?
It is rather arrogant of the Opposition to now say throw it all away – we have better solutions. It would be a massive waste of the valuable resources that the industry has put into this process. Malcolm also indicated that he didn’t want to delay the NBN, but how can you not delay the NBN by basically asking for a total review?
The last thing the industry wants now is to have to start that process all over again. One of the main reasons we began it in the first place, in 2005/2006, was that we were falling behind our trading partners – due to a lack of national broadband policies under the previous Coalition government. Nobody in the industry wants to spend another three years on yet another plan.
For more information see:
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Changing the media model
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Competition and Regulations
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Deployment Strategies
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Early Projects
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Government’s Trans-Sector Conference
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Industry at crossroads
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Market Forecasts 2015, 2020
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Municipal Networks
- Australia – National Broadband Network – NBN Co and Infrastructure
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Overview and Analysis
- Australia – National Broadband Network – Telstra
- Australia – National Broadband Network based on Trans-sector model
- Australia – National Broadband Network Trans-sector projects
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