Friday, October 15, 2010


Both New Zealand and Australia are working on rolling out national ultra-fast broadband networks, so it's interesting to compare the similarities and differences in the strategies being adopted by two similar countries.

As Kiwis, we really ought to hope that our political overlords aren't planning on following the Aussie example -- or those who don't want or need broadband could be paying a hefty price for opting out.

If our Aussie cobbers don't want an NBN connection and live in Tasmania, they will indeed have to opt out because being "connected" will be the default. What's more, if Aussies do opt out, it will likely cost them a whopping $300 to be connected to the NBN at a later date.

Australian states are also revising their trespass laws so that workers can access sections and dwellings for the purpose of establishing NBN connections without having to gain the owner's permission first.

Another problem is that those who choose not to connect to the Australian NBN when it's launched will eventually find that they have no option, once the existing copper network is decommissioned.

Here in NZ, things aren't nearly as clear.

Our UFB plans are still somewhat liquid but, given the cost of creating such a huge network, it's likely our politicians will give equal consideration to "imposing" it on consumers, whether they want it or not.

The risk that both Australia and NZ (if it follows the same path) face is that when faced with the prospect of connecting to the NBN or being disconnected completely, a growing number may opt for the latter.

Those who don't need high-speed broadband may decide that it's simpler just to rely on mobile technology for their communications.

And that's if some local authorities don't scuttle the national initiative first -- as seems to be the case in Brisbane, where the council has decided that the NBN will take too long to reach its city. They're planning their own $600m network using fibre laid in stormwater drains.

Here in NZ, where the timeframe for implementation is even more tenuous, it's quite possible that in highly populated areas, other independent providers may choose to create their own small broadband networks in advance of the UFB network.

The only thing that is totally clear from observations of Australasia's attempts at implementing nation-wide high-speed broadband networks is that nobody's really too sure exactly how they're going to achieve the goals they've set for themselves.

And, however it's done, there will be costs involved and those costs will be passed on to consumers. If you're Australian, that'll be whether you like it or not.

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