Opinion: The monopoly we had to have

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Opinion: The monopoly we had to have

News that the Terria consortium wants the NBN to be a separate entity owned by "we the people" is being construed by Telstra as nothing more than sour grapes because Terria isn’t going to get the gig.

Well, maybe that’s true. If you can’t win the war, sue for peace as soon as possible and a share of the reparations.

However, Terria conflicts of interest not withstanding, it really isn’t in anyone’s interest for any one private entity to own and control our nation’s broadband future. And we just aren’t big enough to have a half a dozen NBNs all competing with one another.

Heck, we can’t even manage to get three airlines up and competing properly, so it’s probably time to pay more attention to the way things are done in countries with similar populations to our own.

For too long we’ve based all our ideas of when things should be public and when they should be private on what happens in the USA and the UK, which both have massive numbers of people demanding services for which the business world can compete.

Of course we can afford to be choosy – no need to pick the first place with 20m souls and emulate them – plenty of tin-pot dictatorships satisfy that simple criteria. But there are plenty of European nations doing remarkably well with a sensible mixture of public and private investment in networks.

We do seem to like punching well above our weight on the international scene, particularly in the sporting arena, but surely that doesn’t mean we have to be over-achievers at everything on the global agenda.

Even the good ol’ USA has stopped short of some of our own headlong rushes into “private good, public bad and pillory anyone who argues against it” territory.

We’ve seen this up close and personal recently in NSW as the government imploded while trying to sell the power stations to … nobody really … the market for coal-fired electricity generators has shrunk to the size of a

Haldron particle in the face of rising tides and higher sales of sun block.
So how about ending the verbals between Telstra and the other telcos with some government leadership?

Sure, we have to pay to get network built, so pay for it we must, but let’s not let any single telco hold us to ransom with future bleating about return on investment, shareholders’ demands and executive bonuses.

This thing is far too important for that.

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