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

political frustrations « Previous | |Next »
June 18, 2007

Gee the Coalition has just discovered high spreed broadband. Ministers are tripping all over themselves to sell their wonderful policy as they stumble over unfamiliar words like 'wireless connection', (WiMax) and 'fibre-to-the-node'; and then struggle to connect that to the claim that the incompetent, hypocritical ALP will destroy all that is good and decent and take the country to ruin with their broadband policy. It's confected tabloid outrage in overdrive mode (ALP raids the Super Fund, rob our soldiers and police of their superannuation, sob sob, doesn't rely on government being a partner etc etc).

Alan Moir

The heavy hitting Liberal message is not getting through as the ALP lead in the polls remains and it has dipped only slightly. Though The Australian carries on about 'Howard closing the gap' (Dennis Shanahan calls it a comeback for the Coalition and a polling breather) the Coalition is now sounding frustrated and worried in Question Time. The tone of desperation is still there despite the public mask of no worries, we've been here before, and we came out winners.

I guess that comedy form of political theatre doesn't work that well. It's not just the policy or the politics that counts as it's performance on the issues that counts.

Broadband in Australia is a disgrace, and the substance of debate in Australia over broadband has been close to a farce. The Government has been desperate to counter Labor's plans for a high-speed broadband network, which it says would be jointly owned by the taxpayer and the private sector, which might or might not be Telstra. The Coalition has now effectively neutralized broadband as an election issue, and probably just begun to understand the need for high-speed national strategy and infrastructure.

Government announced Opel, a joint venture between Optus and Elders, had been awarded $958 million from the Broadband Connect Infrastructure Program to build a wireless internet network in regional Australia. In addition, Opel will contribute about $900 million of its own funds to the network. So the Coalition is subsidizing the mix of ADSL + wireless broadband to the bush. It's a cheaper option to the ALP one, and it appears to give a two tier broadband system --one for the cities and one for regional Australia.

Whilst Wi-Fi hot spots --as we have in Adelaide with Internode --provide wireless Internet access over distances of up to 100 feet, Wi-Max networks cover distances up to 30 miles. This means you browse the Internet on a laptop computer without physically connecting the laptop to a wall jack. Wi-Max has the potential to provide broadband access in rural areas that are too far from exchanges to provide wired or Wi-Fi access. It is appropriate in areas where people live too far from an exchange to get broadband, or the terrain is too hilly to lay cables. In that situation, Wi-Max, with its base station (1321) does something that DSL can't and it has an upgrade pathway.

Once Intel incorporates Wi-Max into laptops and PCs in the same way it currently builds in Centrino for Wi-Fi connectivity, then the cost comes down. So WiMax has the potential to deliver increased broadband competition, lower prices, and more freedom. That's a combination worth some consideration for regional Australia.

The announcement of the taskforce or panel to set the framework for a tender to build an urban fibre-to-the-node network that came without any timelines Canberra has recognized that that the network will have to be monopoly infrastructure, requiring legislation to prevent the building of competitive infrastructure. This means that there will be uncertainty about the eventual outcome, and this is likely to persist for a considerable period if anyone but Telstra wins the tender after the election.

It is highly unlikely that the Government subsequently destroy the profitability of Telstra's core business by allowing a competitor a legislated monopoly that displaces the copper network. So the two-year impasse over the construction of the network continues. However, Telstra will now be under pressure to put forward a proposal with access prices and terms acceptable to the Government and the ACCC.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:56 PM |