To suggest that we not build a fibre-based network in Australia now because maybe some new, but not yet imagined, technology may turn up, displays a rather naïve view about how science and technology progresses.
It is like not investing in rail because we think automobile technology will radically improve sometime soon.
It is now time to say a few words about the benefits to Australia of a ubiquitous and standardised broadband platform.
Recent studies have noted the substantial annual benefits that flow from broadband in terms of GDP. One such study of a fibre access network estimated a US$160 billion economic benefit over 4 years. This same study estimated an annual increase in jobs of more than 210,000.
Productivity growth (labour, manufacturing and technology), national competitiveness and innovation are all a function of access to affordable broadband infrastructure.
Blending life between work and home is a modern reality and a key driver of employee retention is workplace flexibility, especially for women. The benefits to national income of boosting full-time female participation rank somewhere above those of tax reform and below those of promoting competition policy. A reasonably good ROI for broadband infrastructure.
Our society is both aging and living longer. Applications delivered over NBN infrastructure will enable more Australians to live in their own homes longer, with in-home monitoring and high definition video allowing the elderly to communicate regularly with family and health professionals.
In Korea, a country also facing challenges of an aging population, “Silver Cities” have been built to cater specifically for elderly residents with round-the-clock monitoring and embedded technology to improve quality of life.
Providing Australia’s homes with access to affordable broadband infrastructure could lead to a substantial reduction in the number of elderly Australians moving into low dependency aged care facilities.
For children at home with serious long term illnesses, high-speed broadband can allow the learning experience to continue.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I have much appreciated the opportunity to share with you my views on the NBN.
It is the first time to my knowledge that investment in broadband has become such a significant issue in a national election campaign anywhere in the world.
It is, I suppose, an indicator of just how important broadband is becoming in our lives.
We at NBN Co are very conscious of the fact that we are, on behalf of our Government shareholders, investing a very large sum of money.
It’s proper therefore that this nation-building proposal be subjected to the tough questions and to a very rigorous public debate.
I’m sure that was the case when the Overland Telegraph and the Copper Access Network were proposed.
They would have had their doubters and skeptics and I’m sure Charles Todd had to – from time to time - defend the Overland Telegraph.
However like all debates, this one is best conducted with the benefit of a few facts.
And that is what I have sought to do today - place on the record the facts which are driving NBN Co to the positions we are taking.
I’m sure Charles Todd would approve.