NBN full steam, regional areas prioritised

Summary:The roll-out of Labor's $43 billion National Broadband Network project is set to resume following the announcement earlier today that Labor had secured the requisite number of votes to form a minority government with three independents and one Greens MP.

The roll-out of Labor's $43 billion National Broadband Network project is set to resume following the announcement earlier today that Labor had secured the requisite number of votes to form a minority government with three independents and one Greens MP.

In announcing that they would side with Labor earlier today, both independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott highlighted securing high-speed broadband as an important deciding factor.

The government will ensure its National Broadband Network will have uniform wholesale prices across the country, while regional Australia also will be given priority as the network rolls out, newly reelected Prime Minister Julia Gillard said today in a press conference.

NBN Co's welcomed Labor's win.

"We will now work to restore deferred processes, including the recruitment of staff," NBN Co said in a statement. "Everyone at NBN Co is looking forward to working with business, government, the community and our customers to deliver a high-speed broadband future for all Australians."

The company said it would meet with its "shareholder ministers" to discuss the future policy directions.

With the project set to continue now, research director at analyst house Ovum, David Kennedy said that by the time the next election rolled around, the NBN should be in full speed.

"We would expect substantial fibre roll-outs to occur around the country over the next three years," he said. "They have eight years to roll out connections to about 10 million households. Now obviously there will be a ramp-up phase, but by the end of that parliament would we would expect them to be going at full speed."

Kennedy said that Labor's policy was much better for the industry and that the Australian civil works companies that would be tendered to actually roll the network out would also benefit from the go-ahead of the NBN.

"Under Labor's policy, where we're clearly heading is a structurally separated industry," Kennedy added. "While both of them agree on the need to tighten competition rules on Telstra, they don't agree about whether — Telstra in particular and the industry in general — should be structurally separated. Labor would take us strongly in that direction."

"I think it would be business as usual it seems," Kennedy finished. "They would simply proceed with the plan that's been unfolding over the last year or so."

The Coalition has repeatedly slammed Labor's policy as the "white elephant" during the election campaign. But the claim was rejected by the other side of the political fence, including NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley, who will now maintain his position alongside the other NBN Co staff.

"Far from being a 'white elephant', the NBN can provide an acceptable return for the government," Quigley said in a speech several weeks ago, where he openly slammed the Coalition's broadband policy. "Taxpayers will get their $27 billion investment back with interest and they will get a network they can use for decades. This is, I believe, a much better option for the Australian public than giving billions of dollars of taxpayer funding to subsidise commercial companies to marginally improve today's broadband networks."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated at the official launch of the NBN in Tasmania recently that 27,000 future jobs will be created during the roll-out of the NBN. With the Gillard government domination over the Coalition, those jobs, along with the 700 people currently working on the NBN rollout, now have the chance to flourish.

Other technology policies

Other Labor technology policies such as its $466.7 million e-health health identifier project and its telemedicine tie-in to the NBN will also now go ahead. However, Ovum analysts Jens Butler and Kevin Noonan noted in a research note recently that things would be tight in other areas.

"There is no doubt that funding will be tight for government agencies over the next three years. The Labor Party has signaled it will be removing funds for a number of strategic improvement initiatives", they wrote, listing them as:

  • Government IT managers will see the loss of the Gershon Reinvestment Fund for delivering underlying improvements to the whole of government IT.
  • Both the Public Service Commission and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet will lose funding for strategic government projects.
  • Labor will continue with the public service Efficiency Dividend pegged at the higher rate of 1.25 per cent. Currently it is due to fall back to 1 per cent in 2011.

AAP contributed to this article

Topics: Networking, Government : AU, NBN


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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