Australia's peak technology industry representative body has told Australian businesses to start preparing for the onset of the National Broadband Network (NBN) or risk being left behind in the wake of yesterday's release of NBN Co's corporate plan outlining the next several decades' work ahead for the project.
The plan reveals that no less than 1.7 million premises will be connected up to the NBN over the next three years — with the majority receiving fibre, rather than satellite or wireless broadband.
According to the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), which represents technology giants like IBM and Microsoft, as well as smaller local players, businesses should act now to future-proof revenue and ensure competitiveness in the new digital economy being planned.
"With this plan on the ground, we can begin the serious work of establishing an environment that will deliver the benefits promised by world-class broadband infrastructure," said AIIA chief executive Ian Birks in a statement yesterday. "Those benefits will be driven by growth in every sector of the economy."
The AIIA claimed there were "immediate returns on offer" for "every business" that would only become more powerful with ubiquitous high-speed broadband.
"On the other hand, businesses that delay risk becoming dinosaurs in a digital age," the group said.
The AIIA was also pleased to see what it said was a commitment to equal pricing for regional and metro areas in the NBN Co business plan. And it noted the 70 per cent NBN take-up estimate was a good target.
"A key value of ubiquitous broadband will be achieving critical mass — having whole communities connected and using the infrastructure. This in turn, drives momentum, innovation and demand for smart applications that will benefit both communities and the economy," said Birks.
Yesterday Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy emphasised that the business plan expected the NBN project to be financially viable in its own right, without taking into account any ancillary productivity benefits to the economy.
Birks acknowledged this, but said it needed to be clear that economic growth was the rationale which supported building the NBN. "It's about making more money for business. An effective digital economy in Australia will depend on our ability to innovate and create new opportunities through new business models, applications and technologies," he said.