Universal access and broadband

April 13, 2009 — 5 Comments

We haven’t heard farmers complain for a while. Like clockwork though:

ABC: Rural areas ‘need broadband the most’

The Central Darling Shire Council’s general manager, Tim Hazel, says it is not fair Wilcannia will miss out on the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network.

The federal Minister for Communication, Stephen Conroy, says the $43 billion network will benefit regional communities but has admitted the scheme will only be available to towns with a population of 1,000 or more people.

Mr Hazel says smaller rural communities should be offered the same services as cities and larger rural centres.

“The smaller and more rural and remote towns probably need these types of services even more than our city counterparts or our regional counterparts,” he said.

Actually, why should they be offered the same services?

If you choose to live in the middle of no where, should you really expect that you’ll get all the same services as someone in a city with millions of people get?

Lets be clear on one point though: they’re not getting it because they don’t vote Labor (mostly.) Broadband went out to small communities under Howard because most of the regional/ remote seats were Liberal or National Party seats; it was always seen as helping keep the voters on side.

I do remember under Broadband Connect 1 a community of 50 people getting ADSL for example (Malloy Island, near Augusta WA).

And that might be the better solution here, a new Broadband Connect scheme that subsidizes regional connections in areas not covered under NBN. The Government could then cap the cost so the spend is the same as City areas;

Consider that under BC1, the subsidy was around $1200-$2500 per connection. NBN is slated at around $5k per connection. Rudd could say private operators get $5k/ connection if they provide access to areas not covered by NBN at a certain min spec (say 50mbps instead of 100mbps.)

The bigger question though comes back to whether we treat highspeed access as a social right for all like we consider a telephone connection.

That’s a political call more than anything.