Government neglect blamed for broadband lag

Australian broadband penetration is continuing to lag behind the rest of the world, according to META group research.

The research suggests that this is due to a lack of government commitment, despite the release of its national broadband strategy in March this year.

The Federal Government's broadband strategy involves allocating $142.8 million over four years to implementation, coordination, supporting demand and funding regional areas.

“The strategy appears more as a high-level vision, lacking defined objectives, goals, and commitments,” META group analyst, Bjarne Munch, said.

“There was no definite strategy; no real level of commitment or definite set of objectives were expressed, such as greater financial benefit for businesses.”

Part of the funding will be put towards a national co-ordination mechanism, the National Broadband Strategy Implementation Group.

However, Munch asked: “How is such a group to come up with solutions when they have been given no objectives? I question the outcome of such a vision.”

The only real commitment was in the dollar figure, he said

“The allocation of $142.8 million is trivial compared to the $US25 billion allocated by the Korean government to Cyber Korea 21.”

Korea is currently seen as the world leader in terms of broadband penetration. It sits at 70 per cent in the country.

“The Korean government has formulated specific strategies, covering a broad range of broadband, from cable and wireless to fibre and DSL,” Munch said.

The success of the broadband market in Korea was kickstarted by low prices, and the current broadband price war would facilitate stronger growth in 2004, he said, but these prices must remain low.

This would help consumer market growth, however, without further government commitment to developing business-grade DSL, the industry risked stalling, Munch said.

“I am currently advising my clients not to take up broadband,” he said,” and I don’t believe you will see many large enterprises doing so as yet, either.”

Although Munch forecast that ADSL would overtake cable as the preferred consumer access by mid-2004, and that by 2005 there would be more than one million ADSL subscribers, this is still significantly less than in Korea.

“Without stronger government commitment, we do not believe Australia will even get close to matching Korea’s penetration within this decade,” he said.

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