Tasmanian Premier Bartlett talks NBN

In today's Twisted Wire, Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett explains his vision for a broadband enabled Tasmania, that will "leapfrog every other nation on earth".
Written by Phil Dobbie, Contributor

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In today's Twisted Wire, Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett explains his vision for a broadband enabled Tasmania, that will "leapfrog every other nation on earth".

On this week's podcast you'll hear:

  • Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett
  • General manager Telecoms for Basslink, Michael Coates
  • iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby
  • Former Neighbourhood Cable CTO Garth Freeman

He says his government's foresight in keeping electricity in state hands provides the access to the infrastructure to make this possible, and that's why Tasmania is first cab off the rank with the new NBN.

Leapfrog is certainly the right term — until now, for a service provider, delivering broadband to Tasmanians has been an expensive exercise and that has certainly restricted competition and consumer choice. The expense came in the cost of backhaul from the Apple Isle across to the mainland. Although there were two links, they were both owned by Telstra.

The federal and state governments have announced that stage one of the NBN will roll out in Tasmania. A new entity, TNBN Co, will be a subsidiary of NBN Co, jointly owned by Aurora Energy. The state-owned Aurora Energy has now launched a tender for the supply of the thousands of kilometres of fibre-optic cable needed to offer fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) access to 200,000 Tasmanian households and businesses.

Clearly, it's all change in Tasmania, but is it all a bit of overkill? On its Now We Are Talking blog back in November 2008 Telstra said apple-islanders had nothing to worry about — they have invested heavily in the state, there are lots of ISPs making money, customers pay no more than anywhere else and 93 per cent of the population has access to ADSL.

That's not how the Tasmanian Government sees it. It has made strategic investments in fibre assets, all in the name of competition against the big T. In fact, by using Aurora Energy to administer the build of its local version of the NBN, I wonder whether the government is excluding the option for Telstra to offer to build a network using its own infrastructure.

The other big question is, why such hefty government involvement? It seems Telstra's monopoly across the Bass Strait was the main factor preventing a more aggressive competitive environment. That has surely been remedied by the launch of BassLink. We can now expect more ISPs to build their own DSLAM infrastructure in the state and, if regulation provided access to ducts and poles, wouldn't the private sector move in and build alternate networks without government involvement?

On the positive side of things, here's a state government that has grasped the significance of the opportunity provided by the new digital economy. Tasmania, with its clean air, fresh water and healthy country walks, could attract many great minds who can still be connected to the rest of the world.

By retaining its electricity utility in public hands the government is able to use infrastructure to facilitate its telecommunications build. Isn't this precisely what government should be doing — coordinating major infrastructure projects that will help build the economy?

It's another chapter in the National Broadband Network story, the build of Premier Bartlett's "living laboratory" that will become the envy of the world.

After listening to this week's program be sure to tell us in the Talkback section whether you are:

  1. Ready to move to Tasmania for fast broadband and a green lifestyle
  2. Off out to buy DSLAMs to grab some new business from the Apple Isle
  3. Wondering whether there is sufficient probity in the whole NBN process
  4. Still wondering whether the whole approach is commercially viable
  5. Glad to see some investment in new telecommunications infrastructure

Carousel image of David Bartlett: Credit Graeme Bartlett, CC3.0.

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