The thing that I have learned over the last 48 hours is this: if you even hint that giving money to broadband might not be a good idea, you are the equivalent of the devil. Well, maybe that is strong but I have been called a short-sighted economics professor, a ‘rightie‘ and, this is the best one, ‘an internet monkey.’
Anyhow, I thought I should recap on my position(s), since it is the aggregate of many posts:
1. (I love broadband) As regular readers know, I love broadband and can’t live without it. It gives me a ton of private benefits and I am a ‘lead adopter’ of it as with all similar technologies.
2. (Not everyone loves it as much as I do) That said, I am happy to recognise that those benefits are not for everyone and are mostly private. That means that government intervention to promote more than basic broadband is not warranted.
3. (One solution does not fit all) Even if it was warranted, it is not clear that its benefits are equal across the entire Australian population requiring a national rollout or universal service obligation.
4. (Users are not the main winners) Even if you wanted to roll it out to the entire Australian population, the beneficiaries are unlikely to be consumers but instead content providers and if consumers do benefit, they are likely the more wealthy. So what you have hear is the poorer members of society subsidising the rich; which, last time I looked, was an undesirable goal for a government policy.
5. (Better ways of doing it) Even if you were determined to subsidise a national network, there are better ways to do it than a competitive tender for national provision and a public-private partnership. In terms of ranking policy options mine would go (1) User-level subsidies for high speed connections; (2) funds for local government tenders for neighbourhood networks; (3) a stringent access regime on copper pairs; (4) handing over ownership of the copper-pairs to establishments (which might be possible by State governments); (5) a government-owned national network; (6) a public-private partnership with a stringent access regime; and (1000000000) whatever Telstra currently thinks it will get from a Labor government.
Hopefully that clears it up. What I would like to know, however, is how to reconcile Telstra’s love for Labor’s plan with analyst views that it would be the clear loser!