Save broadband from the politicians

Summary:Internet access and infrastructure have rarely been -- how shall I put it? -- the sexiest of subjects. Yet in this election, it seems politicians are finally realising the power of technology both as a vote winner and a means of communicating with the increasingly tech-savvy electorate. Oh dear ...

commentary Internet access and infrastructure have rarely been -- how shall I put it? -- the sexiest of subjects. Yet in this election, it seems politicians are finally realising the power of technology both as a vote winner and a means of communicating with the increasingly tech-savvy electorate. Oh dear ...

After a protracted phoney war, John Howard has finally called the election. While voters will heave a sigh of relief at knowing there is an end in sight to the baby kissing and rhetoric, those with an interest in broadband will be on tenterhooks to see which way the coin will fall on Australia's infrastructure.

Helen Coonan

At a debate staged earlier this month between Communication Minister Helen Coonan and her shadow Labor counterpart Stephen Conroy, both were keen to shout about the importance of broadband in face of the upcoming vote.

Labor's broadband strategy has rotated around a fibre-to-the-node plan -- complete with figures borrowed from Telstra.

Can't Labor afford economists these days?

Despite the plan remaining very light on detail and disappointingly unambitious in terms of speed, it doesn't stop Conroy parroting the line about it being "Labor's most expensive election pledge".

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Coonan, meanwhile, apart from fending off court challenges from Telstra, launched her re-election campaign back in June with the announcement of a AU$1 billion funding boost for the OPEL group, and continued her attempts to curry favour with the electorate by hinting at splitting up Telstra and then withdrawing -- like a toddler dipping an experimental toe in a stone-cold sea and finding the temperature not conducive to a swim.

As Coonan herself has pointed out, Australian broadband has gone from geek speak to barbeque conversation stopper in recent years. I want to believe that politicians are paying tribute to the importance of high-speed infrastructure by making it part of their election pledges, but broadband is simply too important to be left to the whims and vagaries of elections.

Broadband is fast on its way to becoming as important to the Australian economy as rain -- and it's a vital plank of infrastructure that should have been sorted by government long before Australians were faced with the prospect of standing at the ballot box.

Meanwhile, both Rudd and Howard are attempting to showcase just how very down with technology they are by using YouTube to broadcast their video pledges.

Maybe one day all the voters they are trying to reach will have the broadband speeds necessary to watch them.

Topics: Broadband, Government, Government : AU, IT Employment, NBN, Networking, Wi-Fi

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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