NBN Co Corporate Plan, an essential step: Industry

The industry has sounded off on the plan, noting its significance to building business confidence in the development of the digital economy

The release of the NBN Co Corporate Plan is an essential step toward the development of Australia’s digital economy and the development of new business models, according to the Australia Information Industry Association (AIIA).

The plan, released on Monday 20 December, indicated a basic feed from the National Broadband Network (NBN) will cost telecommunications wholesalers $24 a month, and be both viable and affordable.

AIIA chief executive, Ian Birks, said the release of the document was a step toward building business confidence in the digital economy.

“It will allow the business community to gain a clearer understanding of emerging opportunities and form the basis for much stronger engagement between the business and technology sectors,” Birks said in a statement.

According to Birks, the plan forecasts positive operational earnings by 2018 and a positive net income by 2021, but does not take into account the broader productivity and social benefits of ubiquitous broadband.

“We need to be clear: Economic growth is the rationale that supports building this network,” he said.

“It’s about making more money for business. An effective digital economy in Australia will depend on our ability to innovate and create new opportunities through new business models, applications and technologies.”

Birks says business sector engagement is now the leading priority in developing the digital economy and that businesses should act now to “future-proof” revenue and ensure competitiveness.

“With this plan on the ground, we can begin the serious work of establishing an environment that will deliver the benefits promised by world-class broadband infrastructure,” he said. “Those benefits will be driven by growth in every sector of the economy.”

The AIIA also welcomed the continued commitment to equal pricing for metropolitan and regional Australia in the plan.

“Broadband services are not only about access, but participation,” Birks said. “High participation rates must be the goal for Australia if we are to increase GDP [gross domestic product] on the back of this investment. The 70 per cent take-up rate identified in this business plan is a good target.”

“Uniform wholesale pricing is the right strategy to support this outcome and develop a competitive retail market. We should also be seriously examining a coordinated, national approach to making NBN connectivity an opt-out process for those who do not wish to access the service.”

Communication Alliance chief executive, John Stanton, said the release of the full plan provides much needed further detail about how the National Broadband Network (NBN) will come to fruition over the coming years.

“Like any Corporate Plan, the NBN Co document contains many assumptions and variables that can affect the success of the project, but is nonetheless a solid platform for the network roll-out,” Stanton said in a statement.

“The plan highlights that developments in the applications layer will be crucial to the financial viability of the network in its early years, and to the ability of individual Australians and the economy as a whole to derive full benefit from the capabilities of the NBN.”

According to Stanton, the government and industry must continue working on applications to drive e-Government service take-up.

Specifically, he noted the government’s commitment to consulting with stakeholders on the question of mandatory battery backup for the network termination unit (NTU) at customer’s premises. The organisation is urging for an ‘opt in’ program to allow customers who need and want the service to receive it, as opposed to a mandatory service, which the Stanton says is “poor policy”.

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) also welcomed the plan, labelling it a “necessary step” in the project’s development.

IIA chief executive, Peter Coroneos, told Computerworld Australia the government had delivered the plan at the request of the Opposition and that it remained a political issue.

“I think the whole industry will now be watching for Malcolm Turnbull’s response, whether they’ll support the project or whether they’ll find some other grounds,” he said.

“This plan has been strongly anticipated and provides the foundation for a much clearer, ongoing dialogue between industry and government, as well as delivering essential clarity on pricing and access issues,” Birks said.

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