The issue of Network Neutrality on the National Broadband Network (NBN) has raised its head again with Google Australia arguing that regulation or legislation was required to foster innovation on the NBN.
Speaking at CeBIT Australia 2010, Alan Noble, engineering director, at Google Australia and New Zealand said Net Neutrality was "tremendously important" and needed both public debate and commitment from the Federal Government.
"Our views are that the network - Internet - needs to be open - open access, devices of your choice, services of your choice... and there probably hasn't been enough discussion about the Net Neutrality issues in Australia yet," he said.
"Discussion has been about the physical infrastructure. I think it would be very unfortunate if we saw a situation develop where it was hard for innovation to flourish because the network was not neutral. If innovators had to seek the permission of the network operator to innovate, that would be a very sad day for Australia."
Dr David Skellern, CEO at National ICT Australia (NICTA) played down the Net Neutrality issue, warning of potential delays in the roll out of the NBN.
"A Layer 2 infrastructure is much more likely to be neutral, and we talk far too much about [Net Neutrality]. Various people have given it a lot of thought, and a lot of the discussion about these sorts of issues will ultimately - if we push them too far - lead to delays," he said.
"That doesn't mean we don't discuss them, but you can start to overplay the importance of the network itself. What we need to focus on is how we use it."
Dr Warren Harch, deputy chief defence scientist at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) added that the issue had received attention at various stages within Government, but that a "default position" of Neutral had to be accepted.
"Except that we haven't made that statement," Google's Noble rebutted. "In the US, the Government has come out and said it should be neutral. We have arrived at that conclusion from a regulatory or legislative standpoint here? No we have not."
NICTA's Skellern added that while statements should be made by the Federal Government on Net Neutrality, insisting on it now could lead to a 'bottleneck' in the NBN's roll out.
"I'm quite concerned that the way this has been approached from many quarters is that it is just going to lead to a slowdown," he said. "It will be the bottleneck to us getting the [NBN] out there."