We already knew that the Coalition was opposed to the NBN, but today it spelled out its alternative vision: essentially, spending a lot less money and leaving the job of offering increased speeds to the commercial sector. Is that enough to ensure that we’ll get decent broadband in the future?
The policy does involve slightly more than that (see the link below), including the reintroduction of free PC filtering software for parents and improvements to fibre backhaul in some locations, but it does seem, as Nick over at Gizmodo put it, a whole heap of nothing when compared to the much more detailed NBN policy pursued by Labor (and backed by the Greens).
Its principle selling point appears to be the notion that government should not invest in infrastructure, certainly not to the tune of $43 billion, if commercial companies can be persuaded to take on that investment. The failure of competition to always provide adequate services (think Telstra blocking others from exchanges or Optus not offering cable to unit block residents) was notable by its absence.
The reaction so far has been pretty lukewarm and came in for a fair bit of bagging during today’s ICT debate. Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde provides a fairly representative and scathing analysis on his blog:
When it was in power the Opposition had ten years to come up with a proper broadband plan for Australia and they failed to do so. In 2004 their Minister for Communications, Richard Alston, argued that Australia didn’t need broadband. At that time the Coalition Government was unable to stop Telstra’s aggressive monopolistic behaviour under its previous CEO, and its lack of political vision and action on this matter became part of the reason for the Coalition losing the elections in 2007. Why do they think they will win the forthcoming election by leading the telecoms market back to those dark days?
What are your thoughts on the Coalition policy? Will it influence the way you vote? Share your thoughts in the comments.