I read with interest yesterday’s announcement of Broadband Connect 2, the Federal Governments latest state supported rollout of broadband Australia wide. Most interesting was Labor’s feeble attempts at a response. Seriously, the best they could come up with was “the Government is following us”? These people want to run the country?
First, Broadband Connect 2 follows on from the brilliant Broadband Connect program. Disclaimer here that I was previously a staffer, but I’ll run on my track record here of being cynical about most things the Government does, Broadband Connect on the other hand really was a brilliant program. It gave towns throughout Western Australia and the nation access to base level broadband where by they’d probably still be waiting for it, and yes, that includes the estate I live on, my 2mb Cable came free for the first 3 months, free modem and I pay well under comparable Telstra ADSL rates for the service.
Broadband Connect 2 will build on the momentum of the original program by subsidizing the roll out of a national next level Broadband network. Notably, and this is probably being overlooked in a lot of the news about the program, this will include WiMax. As far as I know this would be the first time a Federal Government worldwide has investment this sort of money into WiMax, which makes the program fairly special in itself. Some criticism is being leveled at the speeds, 12mps minimum to the bush, but I’ve got to say that’s a whole lot more quicker than the 2mps I’ve got now (and yes, for all intensive purposes I live in the bush). Sure, it’s not world beating speeds, but it’s a step in the right direction and as Coonan points out in her media release, it’s the starting point, once the infrastructure is in place this can be ramped up.
As a supporter of free markets I do have some concerns about Government pumping this sort of money into the private sector, although having said that it’s the only real way to get decent broadband delivered outside of the capital cities. It’s also a darn site better than Labor’s policy of raiding the Future Fund to build a Government owned network. Of course, the Government should never have sold the Telstra Copper network, but you cant change history.
Overall though, the Government plan is in some ways the better of two evils, the right plan given the budget surplus and the need to bring Australia into the 21st century on Broadband speeds. If history is a guidance it will also be as highly successful as the original Broadband Connect was before it.