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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

connecting the nation « Previous | |Next »
May 22, 2003

In earlier posts on broadband commentators (the sharpwitted Scott Wickstein and Alan Anderson) persuasively argued that a deregulatory approach to the take up and development of new telecommunication technology was the best one.

This overlooks the existence of government policy that shapes the freedom of the self-organizing market towards a knowledge economy. There is public policy at work here. The shaping or governance since the mid-1990s accords with the sentiments of the commentators as it is based on the introduction of a full and open competition to ensure that the telecommunications market delivers positive outcomes for consumers, including improved choice and lower prices.

But more is going on than this. We do have investment in infrastructure as in Networking the Nation; the National Communications Fund; and the Advanced Networks Program. The strategy is primarily to develop regional networks that would give regional communities access to broadband; rather than making Australia the most connected country in the world ; or ensuring that all Australian citizens have at least a 2Mbps, if not a 5Mbps, broadband service to the home by 2005.

In so shaping the future it would seem that Australian policy makers are not going to follow the pathway of France and Sweden. It is Korea, which has the highest penetration of broadband services in the world, which is planning to aim for 20 Mbps to every household. But France and Sweden are examples of state-directed capitalism whilst Korea represents Asian Capitalism

This kind of state-direction of capitalism is automatically rejected by the Anglo-American economists in Australia; they set their policy bearings on the US free market economic model. So the content of the goal of broadband being available to all Australians at fair and reasonable prices will be decided by market competition that will enciourage investment in infrastructure services content etc. Its all pretty much along the lines of what Scott and Alan said ought to happen.

However, we should not be fooled by this free market stuff. That may well be the work of the right policy hand. The left policy hand is a state-directed capitalism that is concerned to strenghten the social cohesion of regional and rural communities and provide support for community networks in these areas. Thats the practical politics of conservatism. This is done because the market is not really interested in rural and regional Australia.

The national approach to broadband---ie., national strategy---aims to create a dynamic communications environment. There is talk of Australia being a world leader but that is puff. By all accounts it appears that Australia is just going to take up the technology of broadband networks rather than position itself as a leader. Broadband is the key infrastructure of the knowledge economy---just like roads and rail were were a key infrastructure in an industrial economy. Broadband is a platform for all the innovation and transformation of the Australian economy that is talked about all the time.

It would also enable Australian scientists to particpate in advanced techology activities on the international stage----but we never heard about money for broadband infrastructure in the proposed Nelson university reforms as outlined in the Costello budget.

So the nation will become connected. The speeds will be slow. And we will pay a hefty price for it as consumers and in terms of Australia's capacity to participate and compete in the global economy.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:01 PM | | Comments (5)


I can't help wondering whether you were intending the adjective "sharpwitted" to apply to Alan as well as Scott.

look at their comments. Both of course. They have me working hard.

And where do Australian scientists live, pray tell?

I don't think there's too many of them in Coonalpyn or Cleve.

You'r not being paid by some fibreoptic company to lobby for this are you? Because they are the only people that would benefit from the 'free lunch' that you are advocating.

I'm not advocating a free lunch. I am arguing that there is a gap between the public policy concern about the knowledge economy as the pathway forward and what is happening on the ground.

Broadband is being used as an example. The policy is directed towards conectign the regions and not towards the infrastructure of the knowledge economy.

Do you really think it's wise for policymakers to be interfering in this sort of thing? You have to be confident that they know what they are doing to push a defined strategy at this stage of the game.

I certainly don't have any confidence in our policymakers to get it right so I prefer that they basically get out of the way.