Former Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett has urged Australia's "patchwork" of state governments to "get politics out of the NBN", focusing instead the network's role in economic and community renewal in regional centres.
Speaking at the CeBIT conference in Sydney, Bartlett said that selling the potential of the NBN should not be left to Canberra.
"I'm not convinced a Sydney marketing or advertising company knows how to talk to the homes of Smithton or Armidale frankly on what the NBN means to them," he said.
"Running a centralised marketing campaign for the NBN won't engage homes. We have to engage them with local content and local stories.
"We've got to get our hands dirty."
Bartlett urged local community leaders such as mayors, local government general managers, and town/shire regional economic groups to create digital strategies ahead of NBN Co's arrival.
"The winners - those who get the most potential out of the NBN - will not be those [communities] who are cabled first," Bartlett said.
"The winners will be those who get prepared with a digital strategy, a broadband strategy, that underpins renewal in every aspect of their society.
"Even if the NBN doesn't arrive until 2014 now is the time for local leadership to emerge."
Bartlett said that with "everything against regional economies at the moment" - the loss of local manufacturing, a high Australian dollar, and natural disasters - that broadband offered "the brightest hope and light for renewal to occur".
He also said that local leaders could develop local "narratives" to market the NBN to communities, selling the concept beyond the mantra that it will give them "faster internet speeds".
"The NBN is so much more [than that]," he said.
"We need local leaders to emerge to tell the stories to craft the narrative, to dream much bigger dreams and articulate that there's a better place to live because broadband is on its way."
Bartlett also addressed some elements of the continued debate on the NBN, urging state, local and industry leaders not to allow it to get in the way of promoting the national network project.
"Of course there will continue to be - and should be - debate about a Government expenditure of this size. Governments should be accountable for those sorts of expenditure," he said.
"But let's not, in this debate... kill the goose that laid the golden egg through stupid uninformed debate about infrastructure and its rollout."
Bartlett singled out a talkback radio gaffe as a particular instance of the "terrible pathway we, as leaders in this area, must avoid the nation going down."