ICT industry welcomes broadband to political agenda

Labor pledges $4.7 billion investment

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has placed broadband squarely on the election agenda with the announcement that Labor will build a new high-speed network.

Labor has pledged to invest as much as $4.7 billion over five years to build the network with a private sector partner making a similar contribution.

Rudd said it would give Australians access to speeds 40 times faster than those available today.

However, to fund the network the Opposition will be forced to draw on the $2 billion Communications Fund, set up to improve telecommunications services in rural areas, as well as selling Telstra shares.

As part of the announcement Labor dumped its support for public ownership of Telstra admitting the Opposition had lost the fight.

Treasurer, Peter Costello, labelled the broadband plan "economic vandalism" and said it was the most irresponsible economic announcement of the last 11 years.

But Australia's IT industry was quick to welcome broadband debate by both sides of the political divide, as industry bodies have been actively lobbying for more broadband investment for the past decade.

The Australian Computer (ACS) CEO, Dennis Furini, said the important point is that equitable and affordable access to broadband is achieved.

"How that's achieved is of secondary importance in our view," he said.

"We are pleased that both sides of politics maintain a focus on broadband access as a critical national issue and we commend them for moving the issue of broadband infrastructure up the agenda."

Describing world class broadband infrastructure as an immediate national priority, Furini said the ACS is calling for 30 G/bps minimum to every household by 2015.

He said mobile communications and hardware convergence will create new user markets and a market for software and content: areas where Australian ICT is strong and provides leading solutions.

"However without a consistent, reliable, high speed national broadband infrastructure that employs the latest technologies, Australia's economic growth will suffer," Furini said.

He cited the benefits of broadband such as greater use of teleworking to provide increased flexibility and productivity.

"There should also be a focus on telecottaging - a form of teleworking that blends the advantages of working at home with the factors that home workers often miss, such as social interaction with their work colleagues.

"Telecottaging also offers employers significant economies in terms of infrastructure provision and worker amenities that home working does not accommodate," Furini said.

"The benefits of broadband to the nation are infinite."

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