Industry Group calls for NBN pricing and access regime

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Industry Group calls for NBN pricing and access regime

The Australian Industry Group has called on both the federal Government and industry to get pricing and access regimes for the national broadband network right the first time in order to derive maximum economic benefit.

Launching a new Ai Group/Deloitte CEO survey on high-speed broadband, group chief executive, Heather Ridout, called the NBN a ‘breakthrough investment that has the potential to transform our economy’.

“It is imperative that we get the pricing and access regimes for our National Broadband Network right,” said Ridout.

“These are deeply complex issues that provide challenges for Government and industry alike. What is clear, at this stage, is the need to ensure that the correct policy framework goes hand-in-hand with any deployment of fibre on the ground.”

Ridout also responded to recent reports of a potential NBN cost blowout, urging the government and bidding consortiums to carefully consider the effects of the economic crisis.

“We are reassured by the Government’s commitment to press ahead with investment in the national broadband network despite the turbulence in global financial markets,” said Ridout.

“This will clearly have an impact on the environment in which major infrastructure projects are delivered, affecting both the cost and availability of finance.

“At such a time, it is crucial to look afresh at ways in which public-private partnerships can be delivered. In short, the world has changed and we need to consider all the implications this will have for the roll-out of the National Broadband Network,” she said.

One of the key findings of the survey is what appears to be a direct correlation between building the NBN and a rise in local economic opportunity.

Faster broadband is expected to lead to large increases in financial activity for 36 percent of businesses surveyed, with a further 45 percent of companies expecting small increases, according to the survey.

“There is a particular desire for high speed broadband from regional businesses eager to seize the commercial opportunities arising from a high speed connection to the rest of Australia, and the rest of the world,” said Ridout.

However, it appears small businesses are unsure exactly how to seize on this opportunity.

“The report found that businesses of all sizes lacked the capability, and the skills, to maximise the gains from high speed broadband,” said Ridout.

“It is a particular issue for smaller firms with almost a third admitting they don’t have the skills necessary to seize opportunities provided by a national broadband network,” she said.

Businesses overwhelmingly indicated that they were likely to upgrade to high speed broadband, if it was made available. Reliability of service was the dominant factor influencing the extent of uptake, the survey said.

Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy welcomed the report at a separate media conference, and also responded to some of Ridout’s concerns.

“The NBN is not just about access — it is also about opportunity and securing our long-term prosperity,” said Conroy.

“We need to be working right now, to ensure Australia is best-positioned to make the most of our investments in broadband.”

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