Ziggy Switkowski reappointed as NBN chair

Meanwhile, the NBN has been touted by the government as boosting Australia-wide productivity.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian government has announced the reappointment of the chair of the National Broadband Network (NBN) company, Ziggy Switkowski, for three years.

The reappointment, announced in a joint statement between Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety, and the Arts, Paul Fletcher and Finance Minister Matthias Cormann, will be effective as of October 3.

"Dr Switkowski is one of Australia's most distinguished telecommunications executives and has done an outstanding job as chair of the NBN Co board since his appointment in 2013," the statement said.

"Dr Switkowski, along with Stephen Rue (and before him Bill Morrow), and the NBN Co executive team, has been instrumental in transforming NBN Co over the last six years and achieving a remarkable rate of growth in the rollout."

See also: Snake and ladders as Australian broadband realigns towards NBN

Switkowski was originally appointed as NBN chair six years ago, when the Coalition came into power at the end of 2013, after serving as CEO of both Telstra and Optus previously.

He was then reappointed to the role in October 2016 to serve for another three years.

Fletcher on Thursday used his address to CEDA's 40th State of the Nation to discuss the NBN, touting that the rollout was on track for 2020 completion and that once complete, the technology would boost productivity across the country.

"Boosting productivity is key to driving economic growth, lifting wages, and raising living standards," the minister said, adding there was a "clear link between infrastructure and productivity, in Australia and globally".

"Improved communications infrastructure similarly can deliver productivity benefits -- particularly because communications is a key input for other sectors."

Pointing to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Fletcher said that in 2016–17, around AU$766 billion of economic activity relied upon services from the communications sector.

The minister said one change that has made a big difference, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, is the use of using cloud-based applications.

"New cloud-based apps are offering much more efficient ways for small businesses to operate ... already we are seeing significant evidence that the rollout of the NBN is stimulating the take up of efficient new cloud-based ways of doing business," he said.

"Research also found that in regions connected to the NBN, the annual growth in digital economy jobs was 4.8%, versus -0.2% in non-NBN connected areas.  So there is a clear link between the NBN and take up of digital technology -- and there is in turn a clear link between the take up of digital technology and productivity improvements."

Fletcher said there are currently 10.2 million premises that are able to connect to the NBN, but only 5.8 million have done so. He boasted this year, in a typical week, that the NBN is enabling connections for more than 49,000 premises, and each week, nearly 40,000 premises are signing up for an NBN service.

Earlier on Thursday, NBN announced a new connectivity option, Network Extensions, that will allow organisations with infrastructure and devices that operate outside of residential or business premises locations to connect to the NBN through a retail service provider.

It will provide network services for traffic signals, traffic cameras, roadside emergency points, rail boom gates, street light controllers, certain types of CCTV, stand-alone ATMs, environmental sensors, and public transport infrastructure.

NBN also released its second pricing review consultation paper earlier this week, which proposed three new plans at the top end of its pricing structure, all with lower upload speeds than its existing plans at those tiers.


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