Experts: Government's NBN will disadvantage the bush

THE Federal Government may be patting itself on the back after the cost-analysis commissioned on the NBN rollout painted its plan in a favourable light, but for people in rural and regional Australia who are in most need of a fast internet connection, the report is unlikely to take pride of place on the mantle.

The cost-analysis shows that dumping the wireless and satellite technology used to keep those in the bush connected would put billions of dollars in government coffers and lower the bills of metropolitan users who are subsidising the cost of rural services.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that cutting these services to regional areas was not an option, adding that there would be some form of "subsidy".

But experts say the government's network would still disadvantage remote users.

"If we leave it to the market, people in the country will get short-changed because it is not economically beneficial to roll out expensive technology to the countryside," said Associate Professor Kai Riemer, an expert in digital technology at the University of Sydney Business School.

"Under this government model, regional and rural Australia will always be worse off. Yet it is these communities in the countryside that are in much more need of communication infrastructure because of their remote location.

"For things like video conferencing and working from home, if you are in the city you have the best communication infrastructure, but you also have offices where you can meet face to face, so the emphasis should definitely be on rolling out infrastructure to rural suburban areas over the inner-city areas that are already well supplied."

Professor Riemer says the cost-benefit analysis, which shows the Coalition's multi-technology NBN had a net cost of $6 billion compared with Labor's $24 billion super-fast optic fibre network, was deeply flawed because while we can extrapolate what it would cost us to implement the various options for the NBN, we have no way of knowing what the benefits would be.

"When you have a technology that is well understood and apply it to a business practice that is well understood then you can do an analysis but with the NBN especially fibre to the premise, the whole idea is that it will unlock innovation, that it will lead to change so the changes it would bring about and the new way of living and the associated benefits that would come with it are fundamentally unknowable, you can't even begin to imagine," he said.

"This cost-benefit analysis takes the timeframe up to 2040, so if you look back 25 years we end up in 1989 which is pre worldwide web. It would have been impossible then for anyone trying to imagine what the world would look like based on the internet and anyone trying to imagine the changes and benefits and way of living we have today based on all the services and products that come with the internet.

"So anyone who claims that they can do a cost-benefit analysis on what fibre to the premise can do is just kidding themselves."



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