Media experts believe the rollout of Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) is a vital requirement for the country to retain its competitive edge, but say the debate around it could be ignoring the changing nature of internet consumption here.
Ciar√°n Norris (pictured), chief digital officer at Mindshare, told B&T that Labor’s “fibre to the house” solution makes more sense, in terms of enabling a lot of the businesses his agency deals with – clients but also publishing and content developers/distributors – better serve customers as they increasingly use the internet to access all their content needs.
However, Norris warned that something being overlooked in the debate is how Australia is going to increase bandwidth for wireless internet access as the nation continues to change the way it consumes online content.
“It isn’t mentioned but something that’s potentially equally as important [as NBN] is the increasing number of people that are not accessing the internet though wired devices anymore,” said Norris.
“Absolutely I think the NBN is important, but equally important, and something that is going to become more important, is how we’re going to increase the bandwidth for wireless access, for smartphones and on-the-go devices, and city-wide Wi-Fi, these types of things also need to be considered,” he added.
“We’re trying to predict how people will use the internet in five and ten years’ times, and it’s changing."
Norris argued that if Australia doesn’t have the required bandwidth to manage consumer demand for content, “will we have a case where the companies that control wireless bandwidth start to say ‘Well, we’re not going to carry this style of content, or, we’re going to charge more for it' …. what will this mean for consumer choice? We need to be talking about net neutrality, as it applies to mobile web, as much as the NBN”.
“NBN is incredibly important but there are bigger issues that need to be considered which often get lost in ping-pong debate style debate of an election,” said Norris.
Peter Vogel, MEC’s chief executive, said bigger than the debate around which political party’s solution is more viable, it’s imperative that the capabilities the NBN mean that businesses – large and small – and households, actually benefit from it.
"NBN is a real requirement for Australia to be competitive,” said Vogel. “The country in general needs it. We are struggling with our competitiveness on an international level, whether it’s in manufacturing, mining, and across the board generally.
“Basically, if the NBN doesn’t deliver world-class, international connectivity and speed, then it’s again another competitiveness hurdle for us to overcome. And for me, that's the issue,” he added.