IT managers want action on broadband, not political debate

Pace of change painfully slow

Australian enterprises do not care which side of the political divide provides Australia with fast broadband, they just want it to happen now.

While Australia's ICT industry has welcomed debate by both major political parties, it has also escalated calls for immediate action by Liberal and Labor to make broadband a national priority.

Jonathan Kerr, eCommerce general manager of car insurance provider, Budget Direct, said slow broadband is costing Australia money and hampering the growth of online services.

For example, in the United Kingdom (UK) Kerr said 8mb of unlimited download connectivity can be purchased for less than $35 per month.

He said 'real broadband' in the UK is available to business at highly competitive rates.

"All businesses have to offer their products online if they expect to compete going forward. But online commerce in Australia is hampered," Kerr said.

"The telcos have been allowed to sell 512kb speed as real broadband while the rest of the developed world were experiencing the service quality of true broadband connectivity ranging anywhere between 1mb to 24mb lines.

"Lack of real broadband in Australia has slowed online commerce and ultimately helped traditional businesses maintain higher offline prices longer."

Kerr said in the UK more than 50 percent of car insurance policies are sold online which compares to 10 percent in Australia.

He said plans for the federal government to introduce broadband for the first tiime to rural areas under the Broadband Connect program cannot be described as 'high speed'.

"It isn't fast enough and the prices are not low enough to encourage broadband take-up," Kerr said.

"The best way to remedy the situation in Australia is through government intervention at an infrastructure level, backed up with a commitment to let open competition develop, for the supply of broadband at a retail level.

"Telstra has the capacity to do more but unless it is compelled to do so through genuine competition, the pace of change will remain painfully slow."

Over the weekend ICT Minister Helen Coonan said the government is set to announce the winning tender to provide broadband services to rural and regional areas under the $600 million Broadband Connect infrastructure program.

Coonan said it will be "announced shortly" and also confirmed that the new $162.5 million Australian Broadband Guarantee program will also be up and running this month.

The government will use the announcement to take some of the shine off the Opposition's announcement last week that it will invest $4.7 billion on a new high speed network that will give Australians access to speeds 40 times faster than those available today.

Earlier this month, Coonan used an address to the Australian Telecommunications User Group (ATUG) to outline the government's "decade of achievements" in liberalising the telecommunications market.

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