Fletcher establishes Australian Broadband Advisory Council

Body to advise minister on the economic and social benefits of ubiquitous connectivity.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

An Australian Broadband Advisory Council has been created to advise the Minister for Communications on the economic and social benefits of ubiquitous connectivity.

The government said the council would advise on how NBN and 5G could be used; increasing the use of broadband by small businesses; potential implementation, communication, and outreach strategies; and whether any "financial and cultural/behavioural barriers" to using NBN and 5G exist, and how to reduce them.

Initial work by the council will focus on education and agriculture, with other working groups to be created as needed.

"The council will develop digital connectivity strategies for the agriculture, education, tourism, media and digital content, and health sectors," the terms of reference for the council state.

The terms also say the council will have regard to "the role of agencies such as the Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Data and Digital Council, the Digital Technology Taskforce, and relevant state and territory organisations". Additionally, the council will have regard of NBN's statement of expectations, but will not advise on NBN funding, or operational and commercial decisions of NBN or other carriers.

The 5G working group, which was announced in 2017, will become a sub-group of the council.

The council will be made up of seven members who will serve two-year terms. It will be chaired by Deena Shiff, the chair of Marley Spoon, with the membership to be comprised of Bronte Adams, director of Victorian Education and Research Network; CEO of Business SA Martin Haese; CEO of Fetch TV Scott Lorson; CEO of the National Film and Sound Archive Jan Müller; President of AgForce Queensland Farmers Georgina Somerset; and Zareh Nalbandian, CEO of Animal Logic.

The minimum is for the council to meet three times a year.

"We are just getting started with the benefits that fast broadband can provide, and Australia is uniquely placed with the NBN as backbone of the nation's digital economy," Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said.

"Having completed the initial volume build and with the network available to more than 11.7 million homes and business, the NBN is moving into its next phase, and the Broadband Advisory Council will help us to think broadly and boldly about the ways we can maximise the benefits of Australia's largest infrastructure project and leverage it to drive long-term economic and social benefits across all sectors of the economy."

Fletcher has previously stated that NBN and 5G would be complementary.

"With each successive generation of fixed and mobile technology we've seen an increase in the speed and the capacity that each can offer, but fixed in each generation has an advantage and can carry large amounts of data to specific locations cost-effectively," Fletcher said in November.

"There will be applications, many applications where 5G will be the better service, but there will be many where NBN will be better. I think overall this nation will do better off from having both."

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