The National Digital Economy Strategy goal of moving Australia up the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rankings for broadband penetration does not have to be met by the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN), according to Liberal MP Paul Fletcher.
In the June 2010 OECD statistics, released in December last year, Australia ranked 18th in the list of OECD countries for fixed-line broadband uptake. At the launch of the National Digital Economy Strategy in Sydney last month, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said that raising Australia to within the top five of this ranking by 2020 was one of the main goals of the strategy.
However, Fletcher, a former executive with telco giant Optus, has pointed out that two of the countries — the Netherlands and Denmark — ranked in the top of the OECD list are not there because of a fibre-to-the-home service.
"Of the 37.8 services per 100 in the Netherlands, how many were fibre? Only 0.9! The majority (22 of the 37.8) were DSL, and the balance were cable," he said in an email yesterday. "Denmark ranks second on the OECD's penetration list. But again, a closer examination shows that only a small share of its services are fibre: 4.4 per 100, compared to 22.3 DSL and the balance cable."
While Fletcher also picked up on the fact that despite Japan's high fibre percentage (14.6 per cent), its OECD ranking was near Australia's at 16th, he failed to note that the fourth-ranked OECD country was Korea, with a penetration rate of 34.4 per cent, with 17 per cent being delivered via fibre.
Fletcher said the statistics showed that embarking on the $35.9 billion NBN project may not necessarily lead to high penetration of broadband services.
"If our policy objective is to have as many Australians as possible using broadband services, the data suggests that spending big on a national fibre network offers no certainty of meeting that objective," he said.