Broadband for all

Broadband for all

National broadband has been a hot topic of discussion recently. Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Kevin Rudd, has promised to partner with the private sector and invest up to $4.7 billion in government money toward creating a new national Fibre to the Node (FttN) broadband network if elected. In response, prime minister John Howard replied by asking "why should we use that (money) to fund the provision of something that the private sector ought to provide in a normal market situation".

The private sector, unfortunately, is completely dominated by Telstra (now privatised by majority share after the Howard government sold off its T3 shares in November 2006), who some claim are "holding the country to ransom" by controlling the national infrastructure, with no future in sight for any competition to emerge. Telstra themselves were in a deadlock with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about unfavourable regulatory conditions in regard to the construction of a new national fibre network for over a year. The results of these talks were for Telstra to scrap their plans for a $4 billion national high-speed broadband network in late 2006 after reaching an impasse over the terms under which the network would be built and how to charge rivals for access. It has recently been revealed that Telstra has presented a new proposal to build a $400 million broadband network, but whether their requests are still considered too greedy remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the G9 -- a rival consortium to Telstra comprising Optus, AAPT, Internode, iiNet, Primus, Macquarie Telecom, Powertel, Soul and TransACT -- have come up with an alternative plan for a national fibre network that they say will help improve competition whilst giving Australia the broadband it needs. A formal proposal will be lodged to the ACCC soon.

So, back to Labor's plan. To help fund this five-year plan, they will draw on $2 billion of the existing communication fund (originally set up in 2005 to improve telecommunications services in rural, regional and remote Australia) with the rest coming from the sale of existing Telstra shares from the government Future Fund -- money put aside to cover the federal government's superannuation for public servants. By the end of this, the nation (98 per cent of us, at least) will have access to a 12Mbps broadband network.

The Federal Government has also recently introduced new national broadband plans -- the Australian Broadband Guarantee and Broadband Connect. At a cost of $162.5 million, the former aims to give subsidised access to users who cannot currently access broadband (with tender application results yet to be announced). Broadband Connect, on the other hand, is a $600 million program designed to give broadband access to rural and regional areas of Australia.

During a speech in March 2007, communications minister Helen Coonan said that "Australia now ranks number two in OECD tables for growth in take-up of broadband services, and with an insatiable appetite for both broadband and bandwidth, we cannot afford to leave consumers stranded without access."

Paul Budde of Paul Budde Communications -- an online Telecommunications research service -- says of the above plans, "All those plans are basically fine. However, every single one depends on a sound regulatory framework which needs to be based on operational, and eventually, structural separation of the infrastructure from the retail arm of Telstra."

It is certainly in Australia's best interests for Telstra to separate its retail and wholesale business units -- an idea that was, until recently, also endorsed by Labor. This would mean all telecommunications companies could compete on a level playing field enabling fair competition without dominance (from Telstra).

Budde continues; "The structural separation outcome is inevitable -- countries already on this path include New Zealand, Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy. If we don't join this development now we will again run at least five years behind the rest of the world during the next five to 10 years."

So where does this leave us, the consumer? It looks like, one way or another, Australia will indeed get its new national FttN broadband network at some point in the near future -- presuming all parties can come to a satisfactory agreement. But in saying that, it does also appear that Telstra will have to be involved in any future plans, as access to their copper wire network will be required to carry data from the nodes (located on street corners) to the individual premises.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jason Wilson

PC World
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?