So John Key has announced that a National-led government would spend “up to” $1.5 billion on fibre optic cable to the home. Well that’s a good thing right? Even I can appreciate the importance of Kiwi homes and businesses getting access to high speed broadband (even if it is solely for the use of my children’s school projects!).
Here’s what a couple of the commenators in the field have had to say. First Peter Griffin from the Herald:
Ask the National Party what it plans to do in the area of telecommunications and broadband as I did of Bill English last May and you usually don’t get an answer of much substance.
That’s changed today with John Key’s announcement that a National Government would invest up to $1.5 billion towards building an open-access, FTTP (fibre to the premises) network in New Zealand.
In fact, it’s the opposite of what English was saying less than a year ago.
“We’ll have a good look at the [Australian Labor Party’s] proposition but we’re a bit concerned to see local bodies or central Government investing in these networks,” said English, when I asked him whether National would consider a publicly-funded fibre network along the lines the Australian Government is working on. “They need to be very careful that they’re not crowding out private investment,” added English.
A year has obviously changed a lot. The broadband debate has stepped up a notch and National’s play here with a sizeable amount of funding shows how seriously it now considers broadband to improving our productivity and growing the economy.
Chris Keall from PC World said:
During the recent Australian election, Labour leader Kevin Rudd promised major government money to boost broadband by laying more fibre-optic cable around cities and suburbs (some $A5 billion worth). The encumbent John Howard promised a relatively more modest $A2 billion path to faster internet, based around tweaking major cities’ existing DSL networks.
John Key’s announcement today that a National-led government would spend “up to” $1.5 billion on fibre optic cable to the home, in an as yet undefined public-private partnership, reminds me strongly of Rudd’s broadband play. Key says the total project, including around $3 billion in private funding, would take six to 10 years.
Encumbent IT Minister David Cunliffe has done a lot, from the historic unbundling of the local loop to pending operational separation of Telecom to recently nudging the state-owned Kordia to build a second fibre optic cable to Australia in partnership with Pipe (lousy internal broadband aside, the Telecom-owned Southern Cross Cable – our only major link to the outside world – is NZ’s major fast-internet choke-point). Broadband has got cheaper, but for many homes the benefits of unbundling and other policies won’t trickle down until after the election. Key is correct to identify slow internet as a major BBQ conversation topic and election issue.
So I guess that puts the ball back in David Cunliffe’s court as to what Labour’s plans will be.
If Mr Key took Cunliffe up on his challenge for a debate on National’s plan perhaps we could actually get some answers.
Though if Mr Key’s busy perhaps Mr English could take his place – it’d also be interesting to hear an explaination for his change of heart…