Australia - National Broadband Network - Policies and Regulations
The process that led to the NBN began in around 2005 and became a key government policy in 2007. Its visionary aspect attracted the attention of many governments around the world, including the Obama Administration and the European Union. It was also a catalyst for the creation of the United Nations Commission for Broadband.
The project has made progress ever since, often against significant odds, but it received a significant setback with the abandonment of the provision of a national fibre-to the premises (FttP) network. Extensive discussions had taken place between the government and the industry from 2007 to 2009 and these had resulted in the original FttP plan, which was favoured by all parties at that time..
During a heavily politicised period between 2010 and 2013 NBN Co was forced to operate in an environment where it suffered many constraints and experienced constant diversions of management time and energy into non-productive, often ideology-based, activity. During that time the then Opposition threatened to kill the NBN'. However this policy was gradually softened and when the Coalition won the election in 2013 the new government announced the continuation of the NBN, but with some significant changes.
Unfortunately the current government has not taken these social and economic benefits into account and decided that a cheaper version of the NBN was needed. This was based simply on providing faster broadband, without recognising the transformative nature of what a full nationwide FttP network could mean for the Australian economy.
At the end of 2014 amended contracts were signed with Telstra and accompanying regulatory changes were introduced changes that were needed for the so-called multi-technology-mix' version of the NBN, which will use the existing copper and HFC infrastructure, rather than an all-fibre infrastructure. For the medium term this will be as good as it will get.
After the 2016 elections it became clear that the current format of the NBN was as good as it gets. Shortly after that the industry started to seriously question the regulatory environment around the NBN. The smaller players are in danger of being squeezed out of the market through unaffordable wholesale arrangements and the users are not receiving the benefits of high speed broadband in an affordable format. The ACCC reacted to this by launching a fresh competition study.
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