Despite being lambasted by much of the ICT industry, the Coalition’s broadband policy has some merit, according to the chief executive of Australia’s second largest ISP, iiNet.
Speaking to Computerworld Australia, Malone said the Coalition’s and Labor’s policies were best viewed as short and long fixes, respectively, and that both had their share of problems as well as benefits.
“The issue [with the Coalition’s plan] is that it is a short term solution, and that isn’t a bad thing,” Malone said. “People who are in ‘have-not’ areas, or blackspots, or in country towns where we can’t afford the backhaul prices that Telstra charges, the Coalition is a committing to address them in the next term.
“It means you’re getting short term solutions to people who presently don’t have any access. It may not have been sold as well as it could have been but it’s not a bad policy. It will deal with a lot of the short term issues."
According to Malone, the Coalition’s policy would also see more powers to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to set prices rather than arbitrate disputes, which was a positive, but also something that should have been done five years ago.
The chief executive added that despite Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott's personal admission to lacking a firm intellectual grasp on communications technology, the Liberals still had in-house savvy to draw upon.
"Without wanting to pick sides here, [Liberal MP and former Optus executive, Paul] Fletcher and [former Leader, Malcolm] Turnbull are two of the smartest guys in the industry and both are highly respected in the industry and they are both MPs in the Colaition," he said. "[The Coalition] certainly have people who understand the issues.
“My concern is that [the policy] doesn’t really tell us what five to 10 years looks like. It extends things for a year or two but it is just deferring the inevitable expenditure that needs to be made. What I’m looking for is where we go after that.”
Malone said the Government’s policy also had question marks hanging over it, chiefly, whether the investment in fibre to the home needed to be spent now, rather than in a few years’ time.
“What [the policy] does do for the whole industry,and consumers is give us a clear pathway to a high speed broadband feature,” he said.
“Far from being a ‘white elephant’, the NBN can provide an acceptable return for the Government,” he said in a speech to the Australian Computer Society (ACS) in Sydney.
“Taxpayers will get their $27 billion investment back with interest and they will get a network they can use for decades. This is, I believe, a much better option for the Australian public than giving billions of dollars of taxpayer funding to subsidise commercial companies to marginally improve today’s broadband networks.”
The NBN Co itself has had to defend itself from criticism by the Opposition that its staff were talentless.