Yay, NBN!

It’s about time. We’re finally going to get a National Broadband Network (NBN). The Rudd government has “bitten the bullet” after making promises of delivering the NBN through the last election.

It’s been fraught with controversy however with Telstra, Australia’s ex nationalised telecommunications company until the last few years has had a stranglehold on the market, being excluded from the bidding due to a non-compliant bid. Good riddance I said. Telstra has been “servicing” the Australian public for many years. Yeah right. In a recent statement by the Telstra chairman (Donald McGauchie) he said that Telstra was “committed to ensuring the best interests of our shareholders, employees and customers,…”

And that’s the whole problem with Telstra really, they’ve been focused on shareholders (mentioned first) to the detriment of the customers (mentioned last – read Australian public). You would think that if you’re serving your customers well then you’re inherently going to benefit shareholders. I suppose the commercial versus public responsibility equation doesn’t always add up. It definitely doesn’t in Australia where we have one of the lowest population densities in the world. It’s expensive to provide service to those people that are not in the metropolitan areas.

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a Telstra or a public vs. private rant. I for one (actually one of quite a few in Australia) am excited at the opportunities increasing Australia’s digital capabilities will bring. I do agree with the Australian Computer Society (ACS) though – the pipes are not enough! We need initiatives to build the value services that can use that bandwidth.

It will also be very interesting to see what comes of the pricing for using the network in the future. There’s already reports that it may be as high as $100/month which is way too high. My view is that it’s too early to tell.

Having grown up in a remote area, I’ve seen the limited investment that commercial organisations will make. There must be a reason for paying taxes though, so I think everyone should have the opportunity to have access to what is really becoming another utility for every household.

I’m a little divided as to who should own the NBN in the long term though. Public Private Partnerships don’t have the best track record in Australia. I think that a National Broadband Network is Infrastructure and should remain in public hands due to the commercial sacrifices that will ultimately be made. On the other hand, the government is not in the business of running telecommunications companies. I guess I’ll just reserve judgement and get on the bandwagon when something goes wrong.

Anyway, check out the official announcement on the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Ecomony here. This is momentous! I hope they follow through…