NBN politics hindered business investment in broadband

Uncertainty over the future of the National Broadband Network over the last three years has stopped businesses from investing in broadband, according to the CSIRO.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

At the launch of a report into Australia's broadband challenges, developed by the CSIRO and the Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation, the CSIRO has said that politics and uncertainty around the National Broadband Network (NBN) have resulted in some businesses delaying investment in IT for broadband.

The report found that Australians by and large are not prepared for the delivery of high-speed broadband, and, according to research leader Claire Mason, uncertainty around the project's future is to blame.

"Australian businesses, government organisations, and individuals are not ready for broadband. They cited the confusion that surrounded the delivery of broadband in Australia," she said.

Tim Williams, from advocacy group Committee for Sydney — who has previously put together similar broadband reports for the likes of Cisco and Huawei — agreed, saying that the politicisation of the NBN project over the last four years has been "disastrous" for businesses.

"The last government is to be commended hugely for doing the NBN, but was rubbish at selling the virtues of the NBN. It was tragic," he said.

"Certainty is the really big issue for business. The uncertainty surrounding the delivery of the NBN was disastrous for people planning. It was hugely disruptive."

As new Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull spent the last three years campaigning against the expense and the slowness of the rollout of the AU$37.4 billion fibre-to-the-premises NBN, Williams said that this stopped businesses from investing.

"The politicisation of the NBN slowed everything down," he said.

Williams said it was difficult for the former government to showcase the benefits of the NBN, particularly with getting hostile state Liberal governments on board with promoting it. Now that it is "Malcolm's NBN", he said they would be more willing to work with the federal government on the NBN.

"I think the challenge now that we've got a new government, and they are now delivering Malcolm's NBN, is that Malcolm himself ... needs to get out there and convince [governments]," he said.

"We now need to capture the imagination of politicians in the country and the business support organisations. Now that the politics has been settled in a sense and the technology is getting clearer, it must be simpler for this to become a cross-government agenda above party politics."

He said that New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell should become the "champion of digital" in the NSW government.

The release of the CSIRO's report comes in the week when a heavily redacted version of NBN Co's strategic review is expected to be released to the public, and just two weeks out from the release of a Department of Communications study into broadband availability in Australia.

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