The private sector will never roll out broadband to the bush

It seems that the tradition of the National Party leader selling out the party’s constituents whenever it conflicts with Liberal Party policy is alive and well.

A National Party think tank came up with the stunningly obvious idea of using T3 proceeds to pay for bush broadband rollouts But John Anderson has nixed the idea – apparently he thinks the private sector can do it better.

Newsflash John: the private sector will not rollout broadband to the bush. There’s no money in it. With something like 95% of Australia’s population living in the large cities, and well over a third of those people not having broadband available, who is going to look at broadband for the bush?

Broadband (not satellite!) requires cables. Cables are expensive to rollout over long distances. Heck, Telstra barely managed to roll out phones in the bush, and they don’t really maintain them properly now (despite being obliged to by both the law and their majority shareholder, the Australian Federal Government). Why would they support broadband?

The private sector focuses on where the money is – that’s in the cities. Even if a private sector player decided to roll out broadband to the bush, they’d (rightly) charge through the nose for it – it would be more expensive.

If the government wants rural communities to remain viable, it is the responsibility of the government (and the citizens of those communities) to provide incentive to do so. Relying on the private sector won’t see it done. What’s really sad is that good telecommunications infrastructure would make it viable for tertiary industries to set up in the bush – about all they really need is good communications.

On a side note: whenever a member of the public service or the government says that the private sector can run things better, they are admitting that they think the public service management is incompetent.

Author: Robert Watkins

My name is Robert Watkins. I am a software developer and have been for over 20 years now. I currently work for people, but my opinions here are in no way endorsed by them (which is cool; their opinions aren’t endorsed by me either). My main professional interests are in Java development, using Agile methods, with a historical focus on building web based applications. I’m also a Mac-fan and love my iPhone, which I’m currently learning how to code for. I live and work in Brisbane, Australia, but I grew up in the Northern Territory, and still find Brisbane too cold (after 22 years here). I’m married, with two children and one cat. My politics are socialist in tendency, my religious affiliation is atheist (aka “none of the above”), my attitude is condescending and my moral standing is lying down.

2 thoughts on “The private sector will never roll out broadband to the bush”

  1. Broadband can be easily, reliably and cheaply delivered in many now poorly served regional areas via raio (‘wireless’)connections I don’t mean those fragile wireless LAN things, but fixed point to multi-point links. Many consumers have been given excellent broadband services like this but now in most places the small amount of dedicated radio spectrum has been used up and new customers are being denied.

    There is really plenty of spectrum in the adjacent band but it is not available because the big TV networks have reserved it by taking out a licence years ago when it was not in demand. They will only use this vacant spectrum in a particular place if they have a need to cover some newsworthy event there. Then they may use the frequencies to relay video back to their studios. I say ‘may’ because they have several alternative bands for this purpose’ as well as satellite termials which do the job better.

    In the meantime thousands of people are being deied access to a broadband connection.
    This is really a simple spectrum sharing problem which the clever spectrum engineers at the Australian Communications and Media Authority could solve very easily, but broadcasters ar very powerful and inclined to demand exclusive permanent access even if hey never actually use it.

  2. There is absolutely no technical reason why broadband can not be rolled out; the high latency of satellite links would be annoying, but far from a deal killer, and microwave repeaters can be used where latency is a problem (as you note). This has been done to a number of regional centers, as well.

    The problem is that there is no economic incentive to do for private sector to do it. By definition, the bush is a low population density environment. There just aren’t enough people in the bush for telcos to be bothered with, because there’s no money. Yes, certain industries shell out the bucks because they need to, but they’re the minority.

    The only group that has the economic power, and possible incentive, to provide ubiquitous broadband to the bush is the government. And the Nationals are the party that supposedly puts the interests of rural Australia first. That’s my point: John Anderson put the interests of rural Australia to one side here. As has Barnaby Joyce, but to be fair, he took a lot more persuading than the rest of the National senators.

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