The National Broadband Network (NBN) is a bold and expensive process but the risk is well worth it, according to Bullseye chairman, Jim McKerlie.
He has over 20 years experience in business consulting in around the world specialising in technology development, business integration and the growth of new media opportunities. He was also involved in managing the competitive process for the award mobile telecommunications licences in a number of countries including Australia and Malaysia.
McKerlie stepped in as a guest speaker at the Australian Chambers Business Congress after AAPT CEO, Paul Broad, pulled out.
The NBN has been criticised for being a government-funded project despite plans to privatised it in the future. Having had experiences in the US where the healthcare and telecoms sector are both dominated by the private sector, McKerlie believed government money in such a giant infrastructure project is justifiable.
“Public interest and benefits in these kinds of projects are not something that will immediately attract commercial returns,” he said. “Public money, sometimes, is the best way to go and we can look at commercialising when it is mature.”
The Federal Government has also been attacked for spending $36 billion for a risky project without submitting the NBN to a cost-benefit analysis. It has, according to critics, perhaps been over-ambitious with its plan to connect 93 per cent of Australian households with a fibre-based broadband network.
The Government has taken a “build it and they will come” approach, rolling out the network then attracting customers onto the network to eventually produce a return.
“The Opposition is saying the proposal is like building a Bentley when we can only afford a Commodore,” McKerlie said. “The trouble with aiming to just build a commodore is you will probably end up with a Go-Cart.
“... I don’t think we can afford to end up with that.”
While NBN is indeed an audacious project, it will become a crucial part of becoming globally competitive. The Federal Government has aimed high with the $36 billion network with more than 20 countries around the world looking into building their own national high-speed broadband network, Australia can’t afford not to spend the money, according to McKerlie.
Even if we don’t reach the objectives laid out by the NBN, we will at least be on track to do so, he said.
McKerlie also lauded the National Digital Economy Strategy announced by Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, at CeBIT two days ago. The strategy laid out eight goals Australia would aim to achieve through the aid of high-speed broadband.
“It is particularly encouraging [to see the goals],” McKerlie said. “At least [Shadow Communications Minister] Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t disagree with them.”
Turnbull’s response to the Digital Economy Strategy claimed the goals set by the Government can be done without spending $36 billion on the NBN.
The Australian Chambers Business Congress concludes on Friday.