Time for leadership on broadband

commentary Australia's broadband market is entering an extremely competitive "land-grab" phase as providers try to secure as big a slice of the pie as possible, market researcher International Data Corp (IDC) reckons.However, while the jostle for subscribers by providers is centred largely in already-serviced areas, the vexed issue of access to broadband continues to stir up the Internet community -- particularly those in rural and regional Australia.

commentary Australia's broadband market is entering an extremely competitive "land-grab" phase as providers try to secure as big a slice of the pie as possible, market researcher International Data Corp (IDC) reckons.

However, while the jostle for subscribers by providers is centred largely in already-serviced areas, the vexed issue of access to broadband continues to stir up the Internet community -- particularly those in rural and regional Australia.

While many solely blame Telstra for failing in a perceived obligation to deliver broadband services to regional Australia in particular, IDC's telecommunications analyst Landry Fevre is not one of them.

Fevre instead lays the blame squarely at the feet of the government, arguing there is no organisation in Australia drawing a line in the sand and committing the country to meet set levels of broadband penetration by set times.

Investment by Telstra in broadband, he says, must make commercial sense for the carrier. But, as Fevre notes, widespread access to high-speed Internet is a crucial policy responsibility for the federal government rather than something that can be left to market forces.

For the country to properly exploit opportunities made available by high technology, high speed Internet must be made available to as many Australians as possible. It should be delivered to all but the most remote locations at a capped cost.

While the government has encouraged broadband takeup via its various programs and strategies, and state and local governments are unveiling their own projects, much more decisive action is required.

National Party head John Anderson's floating of the idea of using some of the proceeds from the sale of the remainder of Telstra to fund any shortfall in telecommunications infrastructure highlights the tensions the issue is creating in the bush.

It's time the government took responsibility and showed the leadership required to ensure the country does not fall even further behind its competitors in delivering broadband access.

Iain Ferguson is News Editor of ZDNet Australia.