Australia’s declining ranking in Akamai’s latest internet speed report has caused the mess that is the NBN to once again rise to the surface of public debate. While the relevancy of the Akamai results must be taken with a grain of salt, there is no doubt that the the NBN should be one of the forefront issues of the upcoming election. It’s a debacle that should have both sides of politics disclose a plan for its repair.
The NBN was envisioned as a national network that would propel Australia into the internet age. It was designed to facilitate innovation, boost regional business and improve access to education. Instead, the costs of this politicised mess have blown out and the project has directly undermined the positive ideals that underpinned its conception. Not only has the politicisation of the project slowed the delivery of services to Australia’s most vulnerable, but it has directly contributed to the increasing budget deficit. A deficit that the federal government is looking to recover by cutting the services that support the very people we need to help access the 21st century economy.
Australia’s peak internet speeds have dropped from 30th to 60th in the world. If we want to remain a first world country that is able to prosper in the high competitive global marketplace, we need the technology infrastructure that allows us to compete. At an ISP level, the NBN is anticompetitive. It works for major telecommunications companies but it is difficult for other business to compete due to the high costs of connection to the points of interconnect. This results in high costs of end users and frustrates the realisation of an affordable, national network.
This unaffordability, combined with the subpar performance, is directly harming the engine room of the Australian economy – small business. Innovative disruption comes from small businesses who are able to utilise their flexibility to take advantage of new technologies. The government’s use of the word ‘innovation’ has been so empty for so long that it appears to have lost all meaning. They have lost sight of the fact that real innovation is what delivers economic prosperity. Innovation is the development of new products and methods of production, and It only occurs when the barriers to entry are low enough for people to have a go.
All Aussies who have an idea need to be in a position to commercialise it at some level. They should be in a position to enter the market. This means that we should be working towards providing all Australians with access to the best education, technology, and healthcare. These are all basic services that pay for themselves if done right and they are the services that government should be working tirelessly to deliver.