Sunday, November 25, 2007

A new era of IT focused policy

Firstly I am excited at Australia's change of government, especially with fellow Queenslanders Kevin Rudd as PM and Wayne Swan as Treasurer. I'm sure they will do an excellent job of managing the country and will prove that QLD can produce what it takes. I found that this article gave words to my thoughts.

Now one of the most interesting topics of this election that I found was that Information Technology became a key policy area for all parties. Sure in the last few elections it was there but it was always one of those background things that parties flaunted so they could look 'modern.' However this time IT was front and center.

Labor brings with it the proposal to roll out a national broadband network that will provide Fibre to the Neighborhood (FTTN) to 98% of the population, and provide broadband services to the remaining 2% via wireless and other alternatives. More information about the policy is available on the ALP website here.

As part of my usual blogging I will be covering the progression of this new broadband network. To provide an industry perspective by offering my opinions.

For starters I believe the catalyst for this initiative is the selling of Telstra without splitting it up. In my opinion it was wrong to sell Telstra as a single entity. The government should have split Telstra's retail and wholesale operations first and kept the infrastructure at the very least. This would have provided exactly what this new ALP policy is going to provide - a state owned communications infrastructure that is accessible to anyone for cost price plus future investments.

If you want a example of a similar exercise you need not look further than Queensland where the state government have maintained ownership of the electricity network and generators while privatising the retail operations.

So what's done is done and the government won't get Telstra back. So this leaves the task of producing an alternative communications infrastructure in the hope of removing Telstra's monopoly particularly in rural areas where the private sector can not easily move into.

Going into detail; a key term used by the ALP in this policy is "in partnership with the private sector" as this is crucial for the success of this project. There are many organisations that are interested in the removal of Telstra's monopoly - reducing wholesale rates for network access suits anyone who is trying to compete in a tight market. With this support the ALP gain the additional funds necessary to build out the network nation wide - it has been said that it could cost an extra $20 billion on top of the initial $4.7 billion (I'll find the source of that claim...).

However I believe the policy is lacking detail with regard to Australia's international connections. Our links to other continents are already reaching their peak capacity and to increase the available bandwidth throughout the country will only make matters worse. These links are certainly not cheap and to simply rely on supply and demand to upgrade them will shift the monopoly from the access and distribution back on to the core supply. Its akin to building a million homes and running power to them all and not bother building more power plants until the demand, thus price, is through the roof.

Interesting times ahead.

Links:
Broadband: an election issue (Whirlpool, 23rd November 2007)
Federal Labor Broadband Policy (ALP Website, 21st March 2007)


Posting profile pic here so I can link it :/
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