Net for rich men better than pork barrelling

There's been a bit of a row about the posher parts of Auckland getting ultra-fast broadband (UFB) before the poorer ones.

There's been a bit of a row about the posher parts of Auckland getting ultra-fast broadband (UFB) before the poorer ones.

As Chorus announced its nationwide roll-out, the New Zealand Herald noticed what areas would be getting it first, and drew some controversial parallels, which led to a poll of roughly two-thirds of Kiwis saying that the rich should not get preferential treatment.

But, as Chorus argues, rolling out broadband in these areas, including the industrial zones, makes sense.

These posher suburbs, we hear, are close to the central business district of Auckland; thus, the fibre can be rolled out very quickly to a high number of people, and these areas will likely see greater consumer demand.

While the New Zealand Government is chipping in $1.35 billion of the $3.5 billion project, it makes sense for the providers to try to get some cash back as soon as possible from their own $2 billion or so investment, so as not to undermine their own finances.

As Chorus CEO Mark Ratcliffe says, the roll-out schedule does not necessarily mean that the less-wealthy areas miss out.

But let's leave aside these considerations, as I have to point out another hole in the rich-vs.-poor argument.

The first place to get UFB was actually a school in Whangarei, a pleasant, though not exactly prosperous, city in Northland.

I can only guess that Whangarei came first because it was quickly agreed who would be running the roll-out there.

One must also reflect that it will be New Zealand's schools, hospitals and businesses that will be getting UFB predominantly before consumers, to maximise the benefits of UFB to the country.

You might recall my "Beefs about broadband pork" last year. I said then that a "'greedy', profit-maximising capitalist will show no favour to anyone. They will offer a product or service anytime, anyplace, anywhere, as long as there is a buck to be made." Government, on the other hand, has votes to think about.

I think that Chorus in New Zealand is to be congratulated for acting like a greedy, profit-maximising capitalist, especially given the claims last year in Australia that Prime Minister Julia Gillard was using the NBN to reward Independent MPs backing her government and voters in Labor marginal seats.

I doubt that this is best for the Australian economy or the NBN!