CeBIT 2010: Industry experts play down NBN cancellation impact

Life would go on for the education and research sectors if Federal Opposition plans to cancel the NBN are implemented

The impact of the Coalition's planned cancellation of the NBN on Australia's education and research sectors has been played down by industry experts.

Speaking at CeBIT Australia 2010, Professor Rod Tucker, director at the Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society (IBES) at the University of Melbourne and member of the NBN Expert Panel, said a cancellation would only temporrarily delay the advancement of broadband in Australia.

"If the Opposition was to take power and cancel the NBN our situation wouldn't change," he said, "Broadband is still coming - maybe it will be a bit longer - but there is still a great need to do the kinds if things we are doing [Cancelling the NBN] wouldn't stop us."

Chris Hancock, CEO of the Australian Academic Research Network (AARNet) said that a cancellation would not challenge the existence of AARNet or its role in pushing ahead with cutting edge broadband applications.

"From our perspective AARNet is going to be there no matter what..." he said. "Even though the Opposition's stance may be pushing wireless or remote blackspots or whatever their positioning is going to be coming up to the election, I think it's really improtant that the research and science community are after things like high throughput of data and real time collaboration.

"Those things will still be driven very strongly from an Australian research and education perspective."

Professor Reg Coutts, Director, ACS Telecommunications Board and an NBN Expert Panel member was more cautious when commenting on the impact no NBN.

"This is an NBN conference, not a Hypotheticals. We'll cope with the reality when the reality happens," he said. "The wave of broadband is global, it's not just up to what Australia is doing. [Cancelling the NBN] will just slow us down for a while."

As reported by Computerworld Australia Federal Opposition Treasurer, Joe Hockey, flagged the cancellation of the NBN earlier in May as a move to balance the budget.

During the month, Labor backbench senator, Kate Lundy, described the Opposition’s stance on the NBN as “absolutely appalling” and “schizophrenic”.

Despite his reticence to comment on the potential cancellation of the NBN, Coutts talked up the NBN to the CeBIT audience, pressing it to remember that the NBN project was just over 12 months into an eight to 10 year process.

"When you hear people saying that 'the government hasn't done this' or the government hasn't got that detail right' ... God, this is the biggest change this country has seen since Charles Todd did the overland telegraph in the 19th century," he said. "It is a huge change and we are just at the start.

"We are not building an NBN for smartphones. The purpose of an NBN is not so we can have more iPhones and iPads. This a is a piece of national infrastructure."

Coutts also weighed in on the wireless-fibre NBN debate arguing that the two technologies would complement each other.

"Mobile broadband is absolutely fantastic, it is doing what I thought it was going to do, and it absolutely needs an NBN. There will be an overlap between mobile broadband and the NBN, but one will stimulate the other," he said. "They are Siamese twins."