The Federal Government's “build the technology and they will come” approach to the NBN is wrong, according to former Optus executive and Liberal MP, Paul Fletcher.
The keynote speaker at MediaConnect’s Kickstart 2012 event on the Gold Coast, Fletcher spoke in detail about why the current government’s rollout of the NBN is flawed.
One of the issues he highlighted with the current NBN scheme is that the Labour government is trying to force users to adopt the new technology.
“You can not mandate take up,” he said.
“Governments have a worse track record when it comes to this than the commercial sector.”
Despite the Labour government’s lofty goals and promises for the NBN, Fletcher and the Liberals have continued doubts about it.
He said despite the wide availability of fibre in Japan, it is ranked only 16th in the world when it comes to broadband penetration.
Additionally, the Netherlands is ranked higher with a low fibre take up.
Fletcher also warned that the “big bang” approach is counter intuitive.
“The Gillard-Rudd government is doing too much too fast,” he said.
“And incremental approach is better.”
The Liberals also feel that consumer behavior needs to be changed first instead of building next generation IT infrastructure.
“The Labor government’s goal is good, but will the software and hardware be used by those who it is targeted at?” Fletcher asked.
“They are too focused on the technology and not on behavioural change.”
Fletcher feels that the current government’s approach of throwing tax payer’s money at the technology and then waiting after it is adopted by consumers to see if it makes “good business sense” is wrong.
“The last thing you should do with public money is bet with it,” he said.
“Private companies tend to be better at investment into new technology than public ones are.”
The wholesale pricing plan of the NBN is also viewed by the Liberals as being against the best interest of consumers.
“What the government owns, it is conflicted about,” Fletcher said.
The Liberal MP also called for the government to be more transparent and let “information flow freely” so stakeholders could better follow the progress of the NBN.
The Liberals’ stand on rural areas is that they could be better serviced through subsidies for operators dealing in those areas, which the current government is not pursuing with the NBN.
“This is a sign that the Gillard-Rudd government has not learned from past mistakes,” he said.
“They have gotten themselves into an area they should not be in.”
While Fletcher feels that some of the current NBN policies work and others do not, the Liberals’ policies could do better because they are based on experience.
“Being government owned and a lack of clarity behind the NBN is the problem,” he said.