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DBCDE official: NBN a $43bn question mark

A senior Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy staffer today said the government did not have answers to the growing list of questions surrounding the National Broadband Network.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

A senior Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy staffer today said the government did not have answers to the growing list of questions surrounding the National Broadband Network.

"The future NBN-enabled world is a pretty exciting world to look forward to but at this stage it is, for me, a growing list of question to which we don't necessarily have all the answers," Richard Windeyer, acting first assistant secretary for the department's NBN Strategy division said during a speech at the Telecoms World conference in Sydney today.

Questions include how the NBN rollout should proceed, how consumers will use the network, what business models will emerge once it's rolled out and what the NBN's so-called "killer application" will be. One certainty however, according to Windeyer, was that demand for high speed broadband would increase. Evidence for this is the impact Google's You Tube had on demand for capacity.

Highlighting the daunting task ahead, Windeyer said the government needed to design policy for an environment which could look very different to the current telco landscape. "How [do you] deliver policy outcomes when the actors may change and their customer relationships with the particular actors may change?" he asked.

Questions arising over the NBN however are not new within the department. Windeyer likened current discussions to unanswered questions raised by the convergence if the internet, telephony and television.

"The question is really trying to work out who is going to pay whom for what? Now I don't know the answer to that question. I don't know who the who is and whom the whom is and what the what is. But understanding how that works through makes a real difference in beginning to work out how you regulate services over this new network, and how you deliver consumer policy outcomes over those network," he said.

Many of the answers are expected to come once the government's NBN implementation study is complete, however that won't be for at least another eight months. Windeyer said the study had been "kicked off in earnest", but was when asked later unable to provide any detail on what aspects of the study had been commenced.

What the government does want, according to Windeyer, is "flexibility" in the network and regulatory environment.

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