A former NBN Tasmania board member believes the National Broadband Network (NBN) will make Tasmania less isolated from the rest of Australia and may even entice mainland residents to relocate to the state.
Mark Kelleher, secretary of the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts in Tasmania, says the state has long suffered from the “tyranny of distance” with residents feeling cut off from the rest of Australia.
However, with the introduction of the NBN, Kelleher says several opportunities are opening up for businesses in Tasmania as it will be the first state in Australia to be fully connected to the NBN by the end of 2015.
“Obviously, [from] the telecommunications side of things, you can’t send potatoes down the telephone line, but more and more the sorts of services and things people are interested in can be and are being accessed online,” he says.
“That’s a good opportunity to promote the fact that if you would like to live somewhere that has all the liveability aspects of Tasmania and you will still be very connected with the world, then why wouldn’t you come and live in Tasmania?
“If you’ve got a business that provides services that effectively are delivered via telecommunications, which more and more are, then why wouldn’t you establish and run that business from Tasmania?” he adds.
Kelleher has had a long involvement in business and telecommunications in Tasmania. He previously held financial and strategic roles at Telstra and worked as a project manager on the Basslink project to run an undersea fibre cable between Tasmania and Melbourne.
He was also a board member of NBN Tasmania, a subsidiary of NBN Co.
“The initial NBN Tasmania board was established to oversee the connection of the first three pilot towns of Scottsdale, Midway Point and Smithton,” he says. “Having completed that piece, I then moved off the [board].”
While the NBN Tasmanian board originally comprised three Tasmanian residents on the board, there is now just one remaining Tasmanian resident – Darren Alexander.
NBN marketing in Tasmania criticised
NBN Co has been criticised for a lack of marketing about the network in Tasmania. Andrew Connor, spokesperson for Digital Tasmania, says while there is some awareness of the network in the state, there is still some scepticism about the NBN due to the federal opposition spreading “misinformation” about the cost of the network and delays.
“Overwhelmingly we do support the NBN, but obviously the sales jobs can be improved and at times Digital Tasmania feels like it’s doing the sales job for the NBN down here. It feels like we’re doing the job of promoting the NBN in Tasmania or setting the record straight,” Connor says.
Kelleher says marketing the network is a matter of timing and promoting the NBN when there is no physical product that consumers can sign up for will not provide results.
“There’s no point going out and marketing something and creating a demand for something of which you can’t get a service yet,” he says.
“I think there could be more done, but again, it’s probably better to have that marketing activity going out when it’s a call to action and people can actually [get it], whereas going too early will probably just create some over expectations as to timing to getting connections.”
The Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts has taken on part of an NBN marketing role and is actively promoting the network and its benefits.
The department has a Digital Futures Strategy with four objectives, including developing the ICT sector in the state by engaging with businesses to develop NBN-capable applications and services and taking advantage of the early rollout of the network in Tasmania.
“So there’s a series of elements of that strategy where we’re running digital coach programs for small business to help them get online … for how they run their businesses, whether it be having websites, marketing approaches [or] e-commerce facilities at the small business end,” Kelleher says.
“As part of that strategy it then links into [an] investment attraction for promoting the opportunities there are for us in Tasmania.”