While neither side of politics said much about our increasingly-maligned National Broadband Network during the recent election period, the fact is Australia is falling behind in the race to leverage the benefits – economic and social – of an emerging digitally-enabled future.
“It’s the economy, stupid” is the slogan attributed to James Carville, who was Bill Clinton‘s 1992 US presidential campaign strategist. It was about creating a clear message about the candidate’s plans for the country.
In 2015, newly appointed prime minister Malcolm Turnbull similarly coined the term “innovation nation” to describe what he saw as a pressing need to make Australia more innovative and agile – and an issue that would differentiate his approach to government. Turnbull’s problem was that two years earlier, under pressure from his predecessor Tony Abbott, he had laid down tracks leading in the opposite direction.
As I’ve been arguing for some time now we need a bipartisan rescue plan if we are to reap the substantial benefits flowing from a digitally-enabled global economy.
Today I cancelled my order for the NBN. I had initially accepted an offer to switch over from my current provider before making some inquiries about the service I might expect. Turns out my HFC (cable) connection is being replaced.
When I checked with several RSP’s (NBN Co retailers) the best they could offer me was a plan on 50 Mbps – with the possibility that I might be bumped up to 75 Mbps, dependng on tests carried out after installation. I currenty have a regular and uninterupted download speed of 115+ Mbps. Why would I switch?
There are numerous regional centres across Australia crying out for economic development and keen to encourage businesses and the people they employ to move there, voluntarily of course. Both would benefit from a lower cost of living, cheaper housing and so on.
It’s not about how many people live in our country, or where they come from we should be thinking about. It’s where we’ll all live in the future that matters. And it’s about how we leverage modern technologies to make living outside a handful of overcrowded and increasingly dysfunctional capital cities more viable.
PREFACE: Sadly, not that much has changed for a large number of NBN customers in rural and regional Australia since I wrote this article, especially those stuck with the FTTN version using old copper wires..